Few things are more fundamental to artists and designers than the deceptively humble notebook. They might just look like blank pages bound together in a sturdy cover, but over the years they've been used to write masterpieces, record stunning pencil drawings, and document world-changing ideas.
Time moves on, though, and just like everything else sketchbooks have had to change to keep up with the world. But how do you redesign something so simple and effective as a sketchbook? Read on to find out how various companies have given them a 21st century boost with the help of apps, smart pens, synthetic papers and more.
Are you a paper person? The team at reMarkable are. That's why they've created the reMarkable tablet, a device that digitally emulates the feeling of working on paper. Thanks to reMarkable, creatives can say goodbye to desks and shelves cluttered with assorted notebooks and journals, as the tablet collects them all together in one easy-to-transport tool.
With an anti-glare display, reMarkable feels just like paper when you read from it. You can even lean on the page as you're writing and drawing and you won't confuse the screen (or get a dirty side-palm.)
It wouldn't be a list of quality sketchbook alternatives without mentioning Moleskine. The popular and superlative stationery supplier has waded into the world of digital sketchbooks with Moleskine's Smart Writing Set, a collection of devices that allows users to edit and share what they create on paper in real-time, all without taking a photo, scanning pages or uploading files.
The set is made up of three elements, namely the Paper Tablet, the Pen+, and the Moleskine Notes app. The tablet itself looks and feels just like a traditional Moleskine journal, rounded edges and all. Meanwhile the Pen+ is a stylishly slender aluminium pen with a camera that traces and digitises everything you create and sends it to the app.
In a similar vein to the clutter-curing reMarkable, the Wacom Bamboo Folio is a smartpad geared towards creatives who have the unfortunate habit of losing track of their work. Designed for on-the-go note-taking, the A5 device can turn handwritten notes and sketches into a digital backup file at the push of a button.
Released as part of the Bamboo family, the Folio smartpad is integrated with cloud services and the Wacom Inkspace app – a clever device that allows designers and artists to easily edit and access their files wherever they are.
One company that continues to innovate when it comes to sketchbooks is Rocketbook. Its latest effort, the Rocketbook Everlast, is a smart journal filled with synthetic polyester pages. Confused by the science? Well, the practical upshot is that users can write and draw on a page then wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
Don't worry, the pages won't get soggy. In fact you can send your notes and pictures wherever you want thanks to a code of symbols at the foot of each page. Simply assign a symbol to a destination using the Rocketbook app, cross off the corresponding icon, and hey-presto, your notes are neatly organised digitally just the way you want.
It's an app, it's a service, it's a notebook. It's also pretty darn convenient. Meet Mod, a range of sketchbooks that are designed to meet every creative's needs. Lined with plain, dotted or ruled pages, the Mod journals are filled with high-quality paper and open flat for ease of use.
What's new about that, you ask? Well, once the Mod book is filled with your brilliant ideas, you can mail it back to Mod (don't worry, it's pre-paid) and they will scan and digitise it for free within five days and return it to you. The notes will then be free to access in the Mod app. It's a bit more old-fashioned than some of the other suggestions on the list, but maybe it's time we got reacquainted with how fun it is to send and receive things physically through the post.