I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

Let me make a note of that

Ever since I got my first iOS device, a 2nd gen­er­a­tion iPod Touch, I’ve been on a quest to work out the best way to take notes. I’ve tried a shed load of dif­fer­ent apps, Sim­ple­n­ote, Ever­note, Notesy, the built in notes app, NVAlt… in fact if you can name it I’ve prob­ably tried it. I’ve always read with interest art­icles on note tak­ing setups, how people use them, how their go to app on their iPhone works so well for them, and I’ve always struggled to fig­ure out how or why that is.
You see I’ve tried so many times to get into the habit of using an app, or a suite of apps, to make my notes in. But for whatever reas­on I’ve nev­er been able to stick with one. I’ll go through a spell of for­cing myself to use them, to form a habit so that my first thought is to use my phone or the Mac app, but they nev­er stick. I can nev­er get to the point where I can declare, so and so is my goto note writ­ing app.
Except, now that I think about it, I can.
My goto for notes sits right beside me on my desk. In fact for the whole of my work­ing life it’s sat right next to me on my desk, or in my back pock­et. What’s it called?
Well it’s called paper, or a note­book, and I make my notes on it with a pen. Try as I might I can not break the habit of using a phys­ic­al note­book to make my notes.
The habit stretches back to my school days. I always had a note­book, or the back of my exer­cise books, which I would doodle and scribble in. Then when I was 16 I star­ted a Sat­urday job in a fam­ily run hard­ware store which fur­ther ingrained the habit. I always needed a piece of paper and a pen in my pock­et, to make a note of meas­ure­ments, stock num­bers, phone num­bers, deliv­ery addresses, you name it and it was on my note paper.
Then when I star­ted uni the habit con­tin­ued, my sketch book was always with me. I’d use it to make note of ideas for pro­jects, to record com­ments from crit ses­sions with my tutors and when I got the odd freel­ance job, to make notes from cli­ent meet­ings. The way I use my note­books has barely changed since then. When I meet a cli­ent I take my note­book and my iPad, but it nev­er feels nat­ur­al to pull out my iPad to make notes (I use it to show work). It does how­ever feel nat­ur­al to pull out a pen and jot down some comments.
There’s some­thing about the con­veni­ence of a note­book and pen that an app and my iPhone just can’t break. The tech­no­logy, which on the sur­face presents a far more super­i­or exper­i­ence doens’t seem to be able to break the hold a nice note­book and pen has over me. With my iPhone I can make a note, I can tag it, it’s auto­mat­ic­ally dated and I can search to eas­ily find what I need. It should be the best way of mak­ing notes. Except it isn’t.
Tap­ping out a note on my iPhone, just doesn’t give me the men­tal con­nec­tion that I need when mak­ing a note of some­thing. It may be less effi­cient, in the sense that it might take me a little longer to find a note because I can’t search for it, but I do (gen­er­ally) remem­ber where on the page I wrote it and over time I’ve developed little quirks to help make things stand out. Tasks get a little box to the left of them, if I think it’s import­ant when I write it, it’ll either get a star or often a box drawn around it. Inform­a­tion gets segreg­ated on the page by lines, but more often than not, the simple act of writ­ing it down is enough to com­mit it to my memory. It’s some­thing which, in this digit­al world we now live, I fear we will lose. Pro­cessing some­thing in an ana­logue man­ner can have a far more last­ing effect than doing some­thing digitally.
There’s also some­thing rather nos­tal­gic about using a note­book and pen. I have every single note­book from my pro­fes­sion­al life as a design­er on a shelf. I can pick them up and look back to a cer­tain moment in time and have an instant con­nec­tion. I can remem­ber where I was, who I was with and what was going on in my life at the time. Some of them are all neat and look like they’ve barely been used from the out­side. Most of them are nicely worn, weathered with age they bulge in the middle. But I think most import­antly, they present a phys­ic­al instance of the work I’ve done in my life. The vast major­ity of it is cre­ated on my Mac, sure some of it’s prin­ted, but the ideas and begin­nings of it all are in my note­books. You don’t get that with a list of files on a com­puter screen, you don’t get little sketches or doodles that seemed like noth­ing at the time but which turned into a sub­stan­tial piece of brand­ing. The throw away moments that are so com­monly cre­ated in a note­book don’t even get con­sidered in a notes app. Those are the very moments I can’t give up, the very moments I won’t give up. They’re the very moments that bring the best out of me and my pen and note­book are the most power­ful tools I own.