What I learned from blank paper

by admin    June 14, 2013

As the party wound down and I prepared to make my exit, I found myself faced with a decision...blank, ruled, or grid.

Matchstic BlogI was recently at a little shindig hosted by a design colleague, and the party favors were customized sets of every designers favorite creative brainstorming tool: a pencil(!) and Aaron Draplin‘s iconic Field Notes Memo Book. As the party wound down and I prepared to make my exit, I found myself faced with a decision. My generous host asked if I preferred my Field Notes with blank, ruled, or gridded sheets.

“Ruled!” (Of course, right!?) Always ruled. Or grid if there aren’t any ruled left.

As I reached my grubby paws out to claim my prize, another colleague was perplexed by my answer. “But…you’re a designer!” he said. He was surprised I didn’t select the blank sheet paper. This spawned a fascinating conversation where everyone shared their preference of blank, ruled, or grid – and more importantly, why.

I’m a graphic designer. I presume some of our blog readers would put themselves into the same or a similar category, and have experienced a lifetime of friends, family, and even perfect strangers assuming since you’re “artsy,” you must therefore also be scattered, emotionally-driven, and introspective (or crazy), not to mention Bohemian, …and they might imagine your home to be cluttered with dirty paintbrushes and stubs of oil crayons.

I chose ruled paper though. Mostly because that is how I am wired (I make oh…let’s say about 40 lists before I draw a single sketch), but also because art and design are two different things. In my work as a designer, organization and structure are just as important as meaning and beauty. And in my work as production designer, order and precision rule the day. It is my job and my hunger to hunt down any technical discrepancies or style inconsistencies that could potentially make or break a beautiful, well thought-out design.

So if you were faced with the decision I was, which Field Notes would you have gone home with? Blank (or “all whitespace!”), ruled, or grid? And more importantly, why?

I believe we have each been “wired” a certain way for a reason, and each person has been gifted with a certain set of strengths. There is a reason I naturally gravitate to ruled paper. At Matchstic we examine the strengths of each team member and work toward refining and utilizing those strengths for the benefit of the entire team. Everyone brings something different and valuable to the table. Could your choice of paper serve as a daily reminder to focus on where your strengths lie? Do you use Field Notes, Moleskin, Filofax, Evernote, Quattro, or some other sketching or note taking device? Do you prefer a pencil and eraser to a Sharpie? Or maybe you’re like me, and you like neon red Gelly Roll pens and KnockKnock Paper Mousepads. Think about each of these choices you make, what you naturally gravitate to, and what strengths might drive that choice and that pull. It could say a lot about what you bring to the table on your own team.

3 thoughts on “What I learned from blank paper”

  1. I always choose the blank books. I take crazy notes and make a ton of lists, but I also naturally have good handwriting and can write in the a straight line. It’s nice to have the freedom to write or draw at whatever size I want without having to conform to the provided lines. Another question I ask fellow pocket sized notebook carriers is: Do you fill the notebook up page by page or jump around? I used to go page to page until I felt like I had less pressure just opening up to a blank page and starting a new thought.

    1. Ciara: I bet you have amazing handwriting! I will admit, I love watching how mine varies depending on mood and even the paper and pen I’m using. I tried a blank sheet notepad for my New Years resolutions lists, once and had more fun color coding and pushing myself to be playful rather than strictly lining things up. I love the idea of those box sets of Field Notes, but haven’t gotten to a place yet where I could be comfortable with a dozen partially-filled notebooks! — Liz

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