If there’s anything I’m known for in the office other than being the resident grad, and my sparkling personality, it’s my journal. Whenever I move office, I get at least a couple of comments on it a day, because it sits open on my desk, it’s orange and I guess people are intrigued by my tiny handwriting. So, I figured, if it’s interesting enough for office folk to ask about it, it might just about be interesting enough to share with you guys.

First off, I would like to say that I’m not sure if what I do is technically a bullet journal, is there an official definition? Can someone let me know? But it does keep me organised and make me feel much more together than I actually am which is all I can ask it to do.

My journal has been through many incarnations and permutations as my life and career have changed. Initially, it was inspired by the homework planner I had to carry around in school. Then it was just a book of lists. Then back to being a day by day to do list in a diary. Then it was my attempt to make something like the journals I saw on studyblrs. Then after all of that, it came out as something that worked for me. Something that included all of the things I needed my lists, my habits, my key dates, in a format that worked for me still day by day but in an undated notebook on dotted paper, that looked how I wanted it to neat and practical but still attractive.

It’s an ongoing process still though, and I’m sure that as my life changes so will the journal I use to organise it.

I think journals are just so personal that I didn’t really want to do a top tips style post because the only tip I have is try things out and make a journal that works for you. So instead, I thought I’d share a few of the bits and pieces that make my journal my own and why I choose to do them in the way that I do.

TOOLS

RHODIA WEB NOTEBOOK WITH DOT GRID PAPER IN ORANGE

I previously used various incarnation of Moleskine, squared, diary, A5, pocket, but as soon as I used my first Rhodia Notebook I wasn’t going back. First, let’s discuss the paper.  It’s so smooth. There’s n no bleed through, there’s no feathering. It is a pleasure to write on. Second, dot grid paper is the only way to go. It allows you to line up your writing whilst giving you plenty of freedom and still leaving the page mainly free compared to squared pages. Third, it’s orange! The soft touch hard cover wears really well, and is always easy to spot in the office. It’s also worth noting the elastic fastener, ribbon and back pocket are all properly sturdy as well. In the past, they lasted me around 6 months, but with the style I’m using I think it’s going to be more like 9 months to a year. It’s safe to say I’m a little bit in love with this notebook, even now that I’m on my 5th I think.

PILOT V BALL 0.5 IN BLACK

There’s nothing too special about this pen. It just writes really nicely. It’s smooth and comes out with a good even deep black line. 0.5 is the perfect width for the size of my handwriting and the size of the dot grid.

POST-IT NOTES

I like to include any lists e.g. shopping or packing lists, any schedules, or any other miscellany on post it notes. It separates them from the main body of my journal and means they can be moved around or taken out in the case of my shopping list. I keep a stash of yellow square post its in the back pocket of my notebook. But I try and change the colour up as much as I can because it’s probably the only fun element to my journal. I am particularly partial to the light pink rectangular ones for schedules or longer lists.

COLOURED NOTE BLOCK

The calendar that’s stuck into the front cover of my journal is a new addition. I realised I was struggling to joy down dates further in the future than a week and I was having to turn to digital solutions, so I decided to make a little calendar. I like having a centralised monthly spread rather than waiting every month to draw a new one out. Mine is made out of 12 pages of one of those coloured note blocks and I love it. It’s just big enough to include everything and just small enough not to intrude on my journal. I am toying with the idea of including a calendar in my first few pages of my next journal though.

 

WHAT’S INSIDE?

WEEKLY SPREAD

Every week I do a weekly spread with, surprisingly enough, a list of the things that I have to do that week. This takes up the whole left-hand side of the page. The right-hand side also includes a bar tracker for my habits (exercise, writing in my journal, and making something), a list of the blog posts I want to work on that week, my overarching work goals, and a little notes section. I give my week view a full page of its own because my to do list normally takes the full height of the page.

DAILY SPREAD

I can normally fit two daily spreads per side now that I’m at work every day and my personal to do list isn’t as long. This means I get more use out my journal and my pages look fuller. Just as in the weekly spread, the left-hand column is a to do list. The right-hand column is habit tracking with tick boxes for my weekly habits plus making sure I eat enough veggies and drink enough water. Underneath my habits, I like to include a work to do list. I have a separate notebook for all of my rough work notes that I take in meetings or when I’m planning out presentations, so that work to do isn’t normally too long. I usually have to put some kind of notes in the middle as well as I think of ideas or other things to add in.

DECORATION

When it comes to decoration I don’t really have any. I box my dates and hand rule a line between days as you can see, and there are icons for my habits but otherwise I don’t really decorate my bullet journal. I love seeing beautiful BuJos where people illustrate their weeks and include stickers and washi tape, but that’s just not for me. My journal is just about sorting my head out and keeping things neat and simple.

A little while ago I wrote about the fact that I hadn’t properly used a sketchbook in quite a few years. The idea of it just made me too anxious. After an education where every page was marked and every rough work highly calculated, the idea of just having a sketchbook seemed much too daunting, especially being surrounded by images of gorgeous artist sketchbooks on social media.

I felt so far away from being able to produce a sketchbook I was happy with that I just didn’t try.

But I knew I was missing out on something. I had enough notes and thumbnail sketches on random bits of paper that I knew I could probably do with somewhere to keep my ideas. I also had a real desire to start making, physically making, more with my hands again.

Skip forward a few months, I’m now on my second sketchbook and using mine every day. It has truly become an invaluable resource for me, and a space to play in.

So how did I get here? And how can you overcome sketchbook anxiety?

DON’T BUY A NICE SKETCHBOOK

The sketchbook I started in was a funny shape, was a bit battered, and cost me about £3 because it wasn’t the prettiest on the shelf. Normally something like that might have bothered me – I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to crack the spines on their books. But, in this case, it was perfect. Having an already beaten up sketchbook meant that I didn’t feel precious about it. There was no investment to ruin. I’ve just started a side sketchbook for a single project I’m working on made up of scrap paper I have just stapled together. Start with something you don’t mind getting messy in, it gives you so much more freedom.

RUIN THE FIRST PAGE

On that same note, mess up your first page. Or, don’t even start on the first page. There’s this weird anxiety over getting the first page right in any new book, that I think comes from being little and trying to write your name as neatly as possible on the front cover of exercise books. When you just get past the first page you set up the book as a place for experimentation. Paint your first page all one colour. Do a little scribble in the middle. Write the date or say hello. Just do something silly that doesn’t have to be neat.

TRY A DIFFERENT MEDIUM

Another way to free up your anxiety over having to produce something great is using a new medium. In my sketchbook, I decided just work with watercolours, something I hadn’t done since I was in school. I also painted freeform abstract pieces. This completely took the pressure off anything I created being ‘good’ and instead made it about the process of learning and painting, and just got me into the habit of creating. Using a new medium is also just a great creative practice for changing up how you think about and approach a work.

MAKE IT ABOUT PROCESS

As I mentioned above, I focused on the actual process of painting. How it felt to put colour on the page, and I was led by my hands. I wasn’t too worried about the outcome, instead I just focused on doing, on painting. The outcomes I produced did get better, but purely because I became more confident in what my hands could do and just trusted the process. Your sketchbook is thinking space more than anything else.

DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY

Another important element of making my sketchbook about process was committing to make something every day. It didn’t matter what I made as long as it was something. Once I got into the habit of setting aside 20 mins to make something (this did take a little while) I found myself looking forward to using my sketchbook, and once it was half way filled actually feeling good about it. Then it became about having some thinking time, or a chance to work through a problem away from the computer. Doing a tiny bit every day adds up, and it’s so much harder to abandon a sketchbook once you’re ¾ through.

DON’T SHOW ANYONE

There’s a lot of pressure to share everything you do on social media, but sometimes having something that’s just for yourself can make it even better. By not sharing my sketchbooks (until now) I felt far less pressure to produce work that would align with the rest of my finished outcomes and I got to have something that was just mine.

WORK OUT WHAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED IT FOR

Everyone’s sketchbook is different, because everyone’s process is different. It’s all well and good seeing pictures of sketchbooks you love and taking inspiration from them, but make sure you’re using yours in a way that works for you. For example, I adore Mark Conlan’s sketchbook images, but working up full colour drawings doesn’t really fit into how I work. Instead I much prefer thumbnail sketches, note taking, and painting my abstracts. But I love how he focuses on a single image per page, so sometimes I just do that but with my own pieces in my own style as the focus.

REMEMBER IT’S A RECORD

Whether you hate what you’re drawing right now or you love it, it is a record of what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, right now. There is something so satisfying about flicking back through the pages of my books and seeing how my work has changed. If you don’t like it right now, don’t worry, turn over the page and start something new – don’t erase it.

I’m so excited to share this design story with you, it’s just a little bit special. I’ve wanted to do a design story on my glasses from the very start of this series. They’re the biggest design statement I make every day. But I wasn’t sure how to do them justice. After some thought, I decided to reach out to the guys at Cubitts to see if they wouldn’t mind helping me out. Being as lovely as they are, they kindly agreed to help so this design story features an interview with the people who were actually involved.

Before we get into the interview let’s start at the very beginning as we always do in these design stories.

The first eyeglasses were probably invented in 1285, in Italy, by Salvino D’Armate. He shared his invention with Allesandro della Spina, an Italian monk, who made it public and is sometimes also credited with inventing eyeglasses. These first glasses were designed to help long-sightedness. By the 14th century, dedicated Venetian craftsmen were making glasses for sale. These “disks for the eyes” apparently got the name lenses because their round convex shape reminded people of a lentil.

It wasn’t until 1451, almost 200 years after the first spectacles had been made, that glasses for near-sightedness were invented by German philosopher and theologian Nicholas of Cusa. One of the most important contributions to eyeglasses were the invention of side or temple pieces that rest over the ear which were introduced by Benjamin Franklin and first advertised in 1728. Nearly 60 years later, in 1784, Franklin also created the first bifocals.

Vision-correcting eyeglasses were darkened and they were introduced into Italy via the Chinese in around 1430. These lenses were darkened for vision purposes, rather than to protect from bright light. The sunglasses we know became popular in the early 20th century around the same time as the rise of Hollywood, as stars used them to protect their eyes from the bright stage lights. Sam Foster is credited with popularising them in 1929, mass producing tinted lenses for the first time.

Perhaps the most important modern refinements of those originals designs include the invention of unbreakable lenses in 1955 and the development of plastic lenses in 1971.

Styles and fashions changed have changed over the years, from scissor glasses to cat eye frames, and the materials used to make glasses have been optimised. But they have, in effect, stayed very similar. While my Cubitts Bingfield glasses are a lot sturdier, lighter, and, may I say, stylish than those Benjamin Franklin was making, you can definitely see the resemblance.

The shape of the Bingfield is pretty classic and was super popular in the 90s, what made you decide now was the right time to bring it back? And what touches have you added to make it more modern?

We launched in 2013 with a range of 8 styles, all of which were purely acetate. At that time round frames were just starting to become more popular. We designed a number of metal frames to add to the collection, and Bingfield was the first one we launched. We’ve added custom titanium nose pads, and tweaked the lens shape a little. But otherwise, the design and construction is very traditional.

Do all of your designs begin with a sketch? Could you talk me through the process from the first spark of an idea to the finished article being on someone’s face?

We start with a sketch, which becomes a technical drawing. We 3D print and laser cut prototypes, and produce a sample. We make tweaks to this and produce further samples. Once we’re happy this product is then put into production.

Is it just one person who makes a pair of glasses from start to finish, or is it collaborative and mix of skills?

If it’s a bespoke piece the frame is made by one person. If it’s a frame in full production then many people are involved, each focussing on a very specific job.

In a lot of the design stories I’ve researched the process of creating is very iterative, is that true for spectacle design too?

This can change a lot depending on the complexity of design.

How do you go about finding the right materials? For example, why are the nosepads on the Bingfield made of titanium?

We sample materials from many different suppliers until we find what we’re happy with. We’re looking for the best quality material we can find, to produce a beautiful product that is also affordable. The titanium nose pads are lightweight, and look better than chunky silicone. When using metal there’s lots of other things to consider, like nickel content which can cause allergic reactions etc

I know that the Bingfield is named after Bingfield Street in King’s Cross, what made link the glasses and that street?

We name all of our frames after Streets around the King’s Cross area, where the company is from.

I bought my glasses online, and went through the home trial process. Was there a design process involved in how you created your service as well as your glasses? How did you make it so that the process of buying your glasses is just a pleasurable as wearing them?

It’s just about making it as simple and easy as possible. Removing unnecessary fuss, and making every step run smoothly. There’s lots of design to this process. Whether it be the structure of the store, or the checkout on the website. It’s all designed to make to process enjoyable.

Your glasses come beautifully packaged and you’ve got a whole array of accessories and artist designed cloths, why are these little details so important? And do you have a favourite cloth design?

The accessories are all included to serve a functional purpose. They are not there for the sake of it. But with the cloth in particular we had an opportunity to work with artists to make something more interesting. The first cloth we ever made was a scene scape of King’s Cross. Lucy Dalzell took a building from each of the streets we’d named frames after and created a beautiful design. It’s still my favourite one. 

This is perhaps the closest I will ever get to being a beauty blogger and I am pretty excited about it. I am so excited in fact that I am coming at you with not one, but two design stories this time. I’ve taken a couple of objects from my makeup bag, inspired by the classic “what’s in my bag” Youtube videos, and telling their story: the compact mirror and the lipstick bullet.

COMPACT MIRROR

Silvered glass mirrors, like the ones we use today, have been around for almost two centuries. In 1835, Justus von Liebig, a German chemist, created a process for applying a thin layer of silver to one side of a pane of glass. His choice of silver instead of the previously used lead and mercury was not only safe but a lot more reflective. It took him 20 years to refine this process to a stage where it could be marketed to manufacturers.

His method stood until 1930 when John Strong, an astronomer and physicist from California University of Technology, created a method using a vacuum to deposit aluminium foil to telescopes and scientific instruments which was later appropriated for mirrors. This is the method we use to this day.

However, mirrors have been around for as long as you can imagine. The first mirrors were simply pools of still water. Who can forget the story of Narcissus who fell in love with her own reflection in a pool of water?

Moving beyond puddles, in Turkey, obsidian mirrors from 6,200 BCE were discovered in an archaeological dig and people in Iran have used polished copper as mirrors at least as early as 4,000 BCE. Mirrors have been present throughout history, being developed independently by different cultures.

A Chinese source from 673 BCE states that the queen wore a mirror at her girdle, suggesting that the compact mirror has a long history as well. But the decorative, clam style, compact mirror we would think of today didn’t rise to popularity until the early 1900s when as Andrea DiNoto states in Art Plastic: Designed for Living that as “women began to enter the workforce in greater numbers it became necessary to transform vanity items into portable forms.” And these compacts became increasing decorative statement pieces. While the compacts of today aren’t quite as important as status symbols they do owe their design to all of the interweaving stories that have been a part of the mirror’s history.

LIPSTICK BULLET

Now I’m not a regular lipstick wearer, but when I do, nothing makes me feel quite as special or grown up as rolling up a lipstick bullet or the satisfying magnetic click of the closure as I purse my lips together.

Like mirrors, lipstick has been around in some form or another for aaaages. In Mesopotamia, Queen Shub-ad of ancient Ur, was reportedly the first to use a lip colourant made of white lead (not her best idea) and ground red rocks, in approximately 3500 B.C. From around 2000 B.C. rich Egyptians, including Cleopatra a little later, used crushed carmine beetles, and occasionally fish scales for shimmer, to add colour to their lips.

But we’re not here to talk about the colour itself, instead, I wanted to know about the bullet that holds the product. While there are rumours that, in the 16th Century, Queen Elizabeth, who made her own personal crimson shade, invented the lip pencil by mixing ground alabaster or plaster of Paris with a colouring ingredient and rolling the paste into a crayon shape before drying it in the sun, it wasn’t until the 1910s that lipsticks were readily sold as sticks. Guerlain is credited with that move, selling lipsticks in paper tubes or tins to aristocratic customers, a style which became more accessible by World War I.

Maurice Levy is most often credited with creating, or at least commissioning the first metal push up tube for lipstick in 1915, which was then mass produced by The Scovill Manufacturing Co. However, there are a number of arguments that suggest such packaging was actually in use before Levy began selling it through his cosmetics company.

Whoever invented this first push up packaging, it was only popular for around a decade because in 1923 the first swivel-up lipstick was patented in 1923 in the USA by James Bruce Mason Jr. There seems to be little written about how he invented the swivel tube, except for his own notes on his patent:

“An object of my invention is to provide a device of the character described which affords facilities for removably holding a lipstick so that the latter is available for application when desired and when not being used is protected by an encasing body.” 

What we do know is that after Mason Jr.’s invention lipstick soared in popularity because it was now portable and easy to use. Meaning women could mimic the styles of popular movie stars on the go, including taking inspiration from the original “It girl” Clara Bow who made the “Cupid’s bow” style of lipstick application a hit.

Key Sources:

There are plenty of design myths around. Some are good, some not so much. So, I thought I would debunk some of the worst ones because letting them lie is pretty damaging to the industry and individual designers. So here we go…

 

THE CLIENT ALWAYS KNOWS BEST

Clients give briefs and designers work to them. That’s the usual process. Sometimes it goes smoothly, sometimes it doesn’t. While designers are expected to keep their clients happy, they are also expected to produce the best work they can. Sometimes that means recommending something that isn’t what the client has in mind. Designers, to varying degrees, are experts in their field, and will more often than not have more experience in design than their client. And so sometimes the designer knows best, they know what will work and what things won’t and sometimes the client needs to trust in those recommendations and that they’ve hired the right person for the job.  Sometimes, as Clients from Hell has shown us, they are just plain wrong as well.

 

DESIGN IS JUST MAKING THINGS PRETTY

It’s not. As I discussed in my post about design thinking, design is a process, not just an outcome. It’s quintessentially about making things that work, quite often those things are attractive but that isn’t their only function. Steve Jobs once said, “design is not just what it looks and feels like, it’s how it works” and while he might not be a designer I think he really hits the nail on the head. In order to make something that works a designer has to understand the user and their needs and be able to work to fulfil them. Design isn’t just making things pretty it’s understanding what people need and making their lives easier, no matter what you’re creating.

 

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW IS PHOTOSHOP

Just as design isn’t just making things pretty, photoshop isn’t the only skill a designer needs. There are a whole wealth of technical skills you need from sketching to an understanding of typography to working with vectors. But more than that you need to know how to be empathetic, to understand both a client’s needs and a user’s needs and balance those things. You need to be able to work to a brief and know when you can push it. You need to understand all of the basics from composition to hierarchy and how to make them work seamlessly. If you freelance you need to know how to be an entrepreneur, how to manage a customer. I’m not listing all of these things to put anyone off learning to be a designer, but to explain to those customers out there who think that when they’re hiring a photoshop monkey they’re getting so much more that they don’t see, and that skill set deserves respect.

 

CREATIVITY IS AN INNATE TALENT

It always makes me really sad when people say they’re not creative, or when, on learning I design in my spare time, people say I didn’t realise you were a creative person. Everyone is creative. Everyone has an imagination. It’s not some special power some people are born with. Sure, we all channel our creativity differently, but it’s always there. On the flip side of that, the suggestion that creativity is innate does a disservice to the amount of work that goes into harnessing and utilising your creativity. Creativity’s not a thing you have, it’s a muscle you have to work.

 

A LOGO IS ALWAYS THE ANSWER

I’m not sure if this is a common enough misconception to be a myth, but the number of times I’ve heard people say they just need a logo is staggering. Repeat after me a logo is not a brand. Logos are great, they can be little visualisations of your brand they can be printed on anything and everything, they can even become icons. But they’re not all you need to make a brand. A brand is all of the decisions that go into the identity of your business, its character, its products, how it speaks, what it represents and, yes, how it looks. A logo is one little part of that how it looks element. The other bits of the visual element include deciding the fonts and colours you’re going to use, the kinds of images that will represent your brand, even tiny things like the way pages on your website are structured. Yes, logos are great but they’re only a tiny part of a big old brand puzzle that will evolve over time. A logo on its own is not the answer to your branding woes.

 

DESIGNERS ARE ALL HIPSTERS

There seems to be an idea out there that all designers dress and look alike. Yeah, that’s not true. Designing is a job. Like any other job anyone, no matter where they come from, look like, or listen to, can do it. The more we encourage diversity in the industry the stronger and more interesting it will be. That’s all I have to say.

 

YOU CAN GET GOOD DESIGN ONLINE FOR FREE

No no no no no no no. One of the auto-fill options on google for “logo design…” is “free” – how terrifying is that? Good design comes from good designers, and good designers like all other human beings need to eat and somewhere to sleep, and so they need to be paid for their work. It’s really quite that simple. If you want design that resonates with your customers, with your brand, with your vision, if you want quality work, if you want a good working relationship, if you want to be challenged to make something really great you need to pay because it’s right and because someone who can offer you all of those things has spent years studying and practising and you need to respect that. Pay designers fairly.

Which design myths really get your goat?