One of my favorite spreads.

The sketchbook that changed me

I’ve always been the type of designer that doesn’t want to care much about her sketchbook. That “her precious” is not so precious. I tried to play it cool for so long. Until I followed my sudden urge of needing a bigger space to sketch and took a trip to Blick’s. There it was: big, spacious, with white pages ready to be filled in, with a pale, nonintrusive beige, soft cover.

I bought it with the only intention of practicing to sketch before jumping into wire-framing. Little did I know it would change the way I work.

I found a pen that worked for my hand and my expectations. Something simple, not expensive, with black ink.

When I opened the brand new sketchbook I began to write in this all caps style that I’ve never tried before. When I had to use it again, I thought to myself “I should keep writing like that, it looks nice”. Writing in this style all the time was hard, it slowed me down, which took me to think in-depth about what I was writing.

Soon it became the place for my stream of consciousness writing, to-do lists, wireframes, and notes I took in school.

The busiest week and the most uninspiring list.

A few months in, it looked like a laundry list of things to do and only a few sketches. I was immediately discouraged and overwhelmed with it, so I decided to change the lists to become intention-driven tasks. These would now be a handful of items I wanted to accomplish within a given week, not the things I had to do regardless if I wrote them or not. I stopped overloading myself with lists and started sketching more.

After making it more personal and relevant to myself, I felt inspired to spend more time on it. I bought a gray marker and made wireframes with some shadows or callouts. My sketches started to look like the pictures people post on Dribbble as part of their design process.

Research I did for a healthcare project; I retained all the data thanks to the labor-intensive note taking.

People started commenting on how pretty my notes were and how organized I was. I blushed and denied it all. Some people told me the story of their sketchbook and how it was not working for them. They showed me their to-do lists and explained to me that they were not getting things done. They asked me for advice and wondered how could their sketchbook look like mine.

The advice that came out of my mouth at that moment was so specific:

1 . Buy a notebook that inspires you.

2. Buy a pen that you like.

3. Treat it with care, but not so much.

4. And most importantly: a sketchbook is not a place where you judge yourself on how much you get done.

I am on my second sketchbook now, it’s bright pink and bold, waiting to be filled in again, just like the other one.