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The 20 Best Notebooks for Designers

By on May 2, 2016 in Inspiration
The 20 Best Notebooks for Designers

Although most of us spend our days hammering away at a keyboard and clicking our mouse furiously, there’s something to be said for going back to our roots with pen, pencil, and paper. It's the tactile feel of a writing implement gliding across quality paper that helps bring ideas to life in a clean and simple way. And sure, you could grab some printer paper out of the drawer and use that, but wouldn’t you like something clean and simple designed for what you do?

With that in mind, we found 20 notebooks made for designers. These are the best ones on the market today that work for you and what you do, and they range from the inexpensive to the pricey, so there’s one for every budget.

Moleskine Smart Notebook, Creative Cloud connected

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If you’re looking for a notebook with a mouthful of a name, start with the Moleskine Smart Notebook, Creative Cloud connected. And what makes a Smart Notebook so smart? Draw anything on the book’s blank pages, then, using the Moleskine, a Creative Cloud connected app for your iPhone, take a picture of the page. The app processes the images as a JPG and SVG, and syncs them with your Creative Cloud account so you can edit them in Illustrator or Photoshop. It may sound like magic, but it’s not, it’s just super cool.

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines Link

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Leuchtturm1917 makes quality notebooks for sure, but the Whitelines Link system takes them up to the next level. The paper is a light gray color with white lines, and you draw or write on it like any other notebook. When you’re done, open up the Whitelines Link app on your iPhone or Android device, take a picture, and the resulting image is free of all grays and lines. It’s like you’ve captured your text from a notebook without having any distracting black lines in your way. Plus, you can send your sketches to Evernote, Dropbox, or your email quickly by either using the app, or checking off a box on the bottom of the page before you take your picture.

Leuchtturm1917 Master Classic

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I will freely admit that the Leuchtturm1917 line of notebooks are my personal favorites for a few reasons. First, they’re paginated and include a table of contents, which makes it easy to refer to find your stuff later on. You can buy them in multiple colors and four standard page types: lined, blank, grid, and dots. Plus, the paper feels smooth to write or sketch on, which always makes using it a joy. But the real kicker? You can buy a Pen Loop for your notebook, too, ensuring that your favorite writing tool is always handy.

Moleskine Batman Limited Edition Collection

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Look, there’s nothing about these particular Moleskine notebooks that make them better for designers. Yes, they use the same quality paper as traditional Moleskine notebooks, and they’re available in blank or ruled, but … COME ON, this is BATMAN we’re talking about here, right? Each book’s cover features art from either Jim Lee or Frank Miller, both of whom are legendary Batman artists. And then on the inside, there are special images as well, plus you get some Batman stickers. Plus, like any comic book related item, it’s a limited edition, so make sure to order yours soon. And you can’t have #2767 because that one’s mine.

Field Notes

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If you want a notebook made for a designer, consider getting ones made by a designer. Aaron Draplin, über-fan of Futura Bold, built Field Notes because no one else made the style of classic book that men used to carry in the 20th century. They’re easily pocketable at 3.5 X 5.5 inches, and feature 48 graphed, ruled, or plain pages. You buy them in three packs for $9.95, but the real kicker are the limited editions. For the same price, you can get your three pack in variations that change over the seasons, and will never return again. These become collector’s items, which is why they’re offered with a subscription, too.

Livescribe Notebook

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If you use a Livescribe pen, then it’s likely you’ll want (or already have) a Livescribe notebook by Moleskine. These books are just like any other Moleskine notebook, but on the bottom of each page are three controls for Livescribe+ features. Need to know what those controls are? Just look on the two bookmarks included with the book, and you’re on your way. For $30 plus the price of the pen it’s not a cheap way to jot down your thoughts, but if you’re a fan of the system, it’s arguably your best way.

Word. Notebooks

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I first found these notebooks a few years back while looking for something simple that I could use for my to-do lists. See, they use this interesting system for jotting things down, which makes it clear when things are done, in progress, or need to be done. They’re built and sold just like Field Notes brand, but those little circles on the side of each page do make things quite efficient.

Cool Hunting Notebooks

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So … this one is kind of self explanatory, right? It’s a notebook that says, as loud and proud as it can, that you have a to-do list and you’ve got stuff to accomplish. I’ve got a pair of these myself, and they’re just clean, simple notebooks with a basic cover. There’s nothing fancy about them but the cover — and yet, that’s enough, right?

Baron Fig

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You might have heard of the Baron Fig notebook from their successful Kickstarter campaign, or maybe just because it’s a cool notebook. You can buy it in blank, ruled, or dot grid, it opens flat, and it clocks in at 192 pages. Plus, it’s a good looking notebook, with a clean cover and quality paper.

Piccadilly

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A lot of these notebooks follow the same basic format, and the Piccadilly is no different in that respect. However, it does come in a multitude of different colors that most don’t have available, like a sweet Mint and a nice looking Coral. But they also sell other interesting pieces like Inspiration Journals and sketchbooks, too.

UI Stencils Everyday Carry Kit

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If you work with UX design all the time, here’s a handy idea to get things handled. The EDC UX Kit comes with a Pocket Stencil that’s packed with cool symbols and gestures. Then there’s the 48-page notebook (a three-pack, no less) that has iPhone designs laid out in the background. And, of course, there’s a Zebra Pencil and a pair of stickers, because everybody loves stickers.

Web Design Sketchbook

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The Web Design Sketchbook breaks the norm by giving you a lightly gridded paper with a glossy cover that stands out from the rest. Inside you can fill the pages with tons of ideas for your next big website, or whatever other cool things you want to do. If you want your notebook to be a step above the opposition, you might want to start here first.

Rhodia Webnotebook

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Alright, now this one is fancy. The Rhoda Webnotebook line comes in both A5 and A6 sizes, but here’s the twist: A5 comes in both portrait and landscape orientation. That’s right, layout your website on 96 sheets of pH neutral, acid-free, ivory paper, at 8 1/4 inches wide. That’s better than turning your old notebook on its side, right?

Rite in the Rain Bound Book

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Ever want to do some work outside? Maybe get inspired by nature? The Bound Book by Rite in the Rain may look like other notebooks, but this one was created to be durable in outdoor conditions. That means that if the cover gets wet, no worries, you’re fine. Paper on the inside get wet? No worries, keep on working, it’ll hold up to your pencil. It may have been designed for the logging industry, but if you want durable, this is your huckleberry.

Mod Notebooks

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So now this one is an interesting concept. The Mod Notebook is like most of the others on here, in that it has a rubber band closure, opens flat and all that. But when you’re done with it, ship it off to Mod and they’ll scan and digitize the entire thing in 5 days. Then, all of your notes are stored in the Mod app (although you can also sync them with Evernote, Dropbox and OneNote), ready for you to access anytime you have your computer, phone or tablet on hand.

Steve Jobs “Pirate” Limited Edition Dot Grid Book

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Dotgrid.co makes notebooks that feature pages using a dot grid system, which is one of my personal favorites. This particular book is spiral bound, and features a quote from Steve Jobs circa 1982/7 (depending on where you cite your sources) — “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.” Why not be inspired by one of the best while you put down your best work?

Web Book

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Although bound books claim to lay flat, not all of them acutally do. That’s part of why I like this Web Book by Gridbooks. It’s spiral bound, so of course it lays flat, which comes in handy since you’ll likely be using it as you sit at your computer. It consists of 32 pages with a dot grid that you can divide into columns, and since it’s spiral bound, you can lay it sideways to plan in landscape mode.

CIAK Pitti

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The CIAK line is sold by Florentina, which sells leather products and accessories, so you’ve likely got a good idea of where we’re going with this one. It’s go a soft feel outer cover, sits at 5X7, and also has a rubber band to keep it shut, but this one is horizontal. Fancy, right? Yup, sure is. And it’s also expensive, since not only do they not list a price, but the minimum opening order at Florentina is $300. But if you want your ideas to be in the most luxurious place, this is your book.

Smythson “Make It Happen” Notebook

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Here’s another pricey entry, but not quite as high end as the CIAK. Made with a lambskin cover and featuring 128 gilt-edged, Featherweight paper, this is a nice notebook to have. But better yet, it’s the stuff on the cover that makes you feel special, as it reads, “Make it happen.” Oh, and if you’re not a fan of pink, it’s also offered in blue and yellow.

Evernote Sketchbook with Smart Stickers

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We’ll end this list with yet another Moleskine, but this one is different. If you use Evernote — and lots of people do — then this is your notebook. Write what you want, then use one of the included stickers to tag your page. Take a picture of the page with the Evernote app on your iPhone or Android device, and the content goes right into your Evernote account. It’s pretty magical stuff, particularly if you’re an Evernote user. And if you want something that will fit in your pocket, they do sell smaller sizes as well.

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8 Comments

  1. One can never have too many notebooks! Though, I almost need a separate room just for them ;)

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