Tips for Keeping A Designer's Workbook, Pt. I

Sketchbooks aren’t just for the drawing majors, and art journals can be for more than documenting your dreams with watercolor washes. For graphic designers, the workbook can be a very powerful tool for growth.  Don’t think you have talent?  Watch yourself grow it just by keeping a book.  

There are no rules for keeping a book, except for one: stick with it.  Some people work in their books daily. I work in mine a bit sporadically, averaging a few entries a week with some weeks featuring nothing. However, it works because I’ve found my balance—I know that I can be a little sporadic and still produce three books a year, each averaging 130 pages each. So don’t worry about pushing yourself to meet a strict standard or a schedule, just make sure you are connecting with your work on a mostly regular basis. Practice really does make perfect.

This first post will help you choose a book to work in, and the second post will help get you started with various things to try in your new book.  So let's get started.

No one can tell you what size is best for you, but there are a few things to consider before making that purchase.  Firstly, if you are going to draw (and I recommend it, even if you're not a drawing major), then a bigger book is usually better for beginners.  Bigger books let you move loose and free, creating those gorgeous sensuous lines.  Try something like an 11x14 inch.  Secondly, consider where you are storing your books, from the size of your shelves to the size of your backpack or carry bag.  The larger 11x14 inch rarely fits in most people's bags or backpacks, so an 8.5X11 inch is a good compromise. And thirdly, think about what you will include in your book--if it is just for pasting cool things you found on the internet, then 8.5x11 inch makes for easy pasting.  If it is only for logo thumbs, then try 5x7 inch.

Like size, binding will be determined on how you are storing or transporting your book.  Spiral bounds are flat to work in, but they snag inside bags and are very smudge prone and therefore not the best choice for students especially.  Hardbound is durable and dependable, but you'll lose the ease of use from a spiral bound.

For a designer's workbook, a thicker, multi-medium paper is the best choice, as it will hold up to pasting, ink drawing, and some wet media. In short, they give you freedom to explore many things without falling apart or letting designs bleed through to the next page.  However, if you are only going to work in one medium, such as only graphite, then you can select a book with paper made just for that one medium. There are also different colors of paper from white, to cream, to toned.  I use a warm toned book as I find the color relaxing and love that I can draw with white highlights.  Also take a note of the paper texture: smooth is great for graphic design concepts that you want to scan and digitize, but rough textured paper can lend interesting effects.  Lastly, check if the book has perforated pages.  These are great for tearing out and scanning pages but they are also not as durable (think about those backpacks). Decide what you want, what you are comfortable with and go from there.


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