Few creative tools are as useful to creatives as a trusty notebook. They might appear pretty simple on the surface – just sheets of paper bound together inside a cover – but they've survived through the years for a reason: they just work.
Notebooks don't have to be charged (well, most of them don't), they're inexpensive and they're one of the easiest things to use – simply open them and start writing and drawing. Even the most sophisticated digital drawing tablets have to pack a serious technological punch to appear this intuitive.
But just because notebooks are straightforward doesn't mean they're all the same. We've rounded up 10 of the best notebooks for designers that show off how the same concept can be pushed in interesting directions. So if you're after a new place to record notes or pencil drawings, maybe one of these notebooks is just what you're looking for.
01. MOO Hardcover Notebook
Famous for its frankly dizzying array of business cards, you might not know that MOO also makes notebooks. Built by the company's in-house designers with the same care and consideration as its business cards, MOO's Notebooks come in hard and soft cover form.
The Hardcover Notebooks here are available in a choice of six colour combinations (split into classic or bright) and are filled with crisp, non-glare, ruled paper. There are also 16 pages of shaded paper in the middle that break up the notebook and give you a space to jot down those sporadic, unrelated thoughts that spring up from time to time.
Thanks to their binding, the MOO Notebooks can be laid perfectly flat. This is welcome news for left-handed creatives, who need no longer be hindered by spines creating impractical bulges under the pages. Topped off with a quality cloth cover and a slipcase to keep the notebook protected, this is a premium journal with an accessible price.
02. Moleskine Classic
Well, it wouldn't be a list of the best notebooks if we didn't mention Moleskine, would it? In the world of stationery, Moleskine is the Apple of notebooks, with its products generating the same kind of enthusiasm and loyalty as the latest iPhone release.
It's funny to think that the Italian company has only been running since 1997, but its relatively rapid success is the result of a commitment to creating quality products. With a straightforward and practical design, plus a luxurious finish that makes them a joy to write on, Moleskine notebooks have really earned their place at the top of the notebook food chain.
Even the most basic of Moleskine notebooks feel like something special, and with a variety of different styles, including coloured notebooks, memo books, and two-go textile-covered notebooks to name but a few, it doesn't look like they're going to be knocked off the top spot any time soon.
Remember what I said about notebooks not needing to be charged? Well, here's one exception: meet Lockbook, a nifty little notebook that keeps all your secrets safely locked away, for your eyes only. Sealed with a biometric lock that needs the owner's fingerprint to open, the Lockbook is one of the most practically innovative journals we've come across.
However its unique security system doesn't mean you have to use Lockbook to record your darkest thoughts. Once you've opened it up, you'll see that Lockbook's ring binder lets you personalise it in any way you want. With a range of inserts, pockets, sticky notes and more, you can tailor the Lockbook to be as personal as – well – your fingerprints. The Lockbook was funded by Indiegogo, but is now available to purchase from Amazon.
04. Rocketbook Everlast
Another notebook that uses technology in creative and useful ways is the Rocketbook Everlast. Bringing the concept of a journal bang up to date, the Everlast lets users take what they've written on the page and upload it to the cloud with the help of the Rocketbook app.
Once your writing has been sent to a digital location, you can wipe your words off the page and start all over again. It's Rocketbook's aim to cut down on the amount of ideas get lost between different notebooks, as well as making the world a tidier place for creatives. Just like the Lockbook, the Rocketbook Everlast was originally crowd-funded, this time through Kickstarter.
05. The Bound Book
Writing from the safety of your home or studio is all well and good, but what if you need to work outside, exposed to the wrath of mother nature? Where most notebooks would wilt in the rain, the Bound Book from the rugged Rite in the Rain company is capable of standing up to storms, grime, and even laundry mishaps (they can happen to the best of us).
With a glorious yellow cover made out of an imitation leather material called fabrikoid, the tough pocket-sized Bound Book comes with sewn-in pages coated in a unique moisture shield. This allows users to write in pen and pencil, even if the pages have been soaked.
06. Field Notes
Field Notes is a collection of smartly-designed, vintage-styled pocket notebooks, created by the Draplin Design Company and Coudal Partners. The small notebooks, which measure 3.5x5.5in, come with 48 pages and a saddle stitch binding, are ideal for sketching or taking notes on the go. Best of all, the Memo Books come in a mixed three-pack, so you're spoilt for choice when it comes to page design.
Available with plain, lined or graph paper pages, the Memo Book collection is ready to suit any task. Inspired by the "vanishing subgenre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers, and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list", this trio of journals is an essential on-the-go option for designers.
07. UI Stencils Everyday Carry Kit
One for the web designers amongst you now: Let us introduce you to the Everyday Carry Kit from UI Stencils. Just like the Field Notes Memo Book bundle, this set includes three pocket-sized notebooks with 48 pages each. However unlike Field Notes, these are specifically aimed at digital designers. Each book in this set contains gridded pages ideally suited to creating digital prototypes.
What sets this collection apart from other notebooks is the unique Pocket Stencil. Complete with cut-outs of frequently used UX shapes, such as touch and swipe icons, phone symbols and social media logos, this stencil makes it quicker and easier for web designers to jot down layouts for the latest groundbreaking app.
08. Leuchtturm Master Classic
Small notebooks are all well and good, but sometimes you want a big beefy notebook that's going to last you a while. That's what you get with the formidably named Master Classic notebook from Leuchtturm. Larger than A4, the hardcover comes stuffed with 233 numbered pages – choose from either ruled, plain, square or dotted paper, depending on your preference.
If you're not after something quite so substantial, Leuchtturm offers lots of other alternatives in different sizes and thicknesses. To give you an idea of the quality on the table, the company has been running since 1917 and its main rival is the new(ish) kid on the block, Moleskine.
09. Baron Fig
We've seen lots of different notebooks on our list so far, each satisfying a different niche depending on what you're after. With so many different demands being placed upon notebooks, Baron Fig decided to ask the design community what they want out of a notebook and go from there.
The result is the Confidant notebook, which from the ground up has questioned what a notebook is and what it can achieve. Pithy sales soundbites aside, the Baron Fig notebooks are truly gorgeous. Available in a soothing light grey or charcoal, the Confidant notebooks can open flat and contain plain, ruled or dot grid pages.
Its quality acid-free fine grain paper makes the Confidant a dream to write in, whether that's with inks or pencils, plus this means the books are safe from degradation. They might be modest to look at, but Baron Fig lets its high-standard products speak for themselves.
10. CIAK Pitti
Bit of a wild card to finish on. Take a look at the CIAK Pitti from Fiorentina, a European specialist in leather products and accessories. They're beautiful to look at and are extremely soft to the touch, and are sure to be one of the most luxurious places you can put your pen to paper.
With contrasting elastic straps to keep the books secure when they're shut, and a dazzling lining that makes them pleasant to look at as well as use, the CIAK Pitti line really is in a league of its own in terms of style.
The only catch? These books are only available to order as a wholesaler, with minimum orders set at $300. However, unless you're desperate enough that you want to order these books in bulk (and we really couldn't blame you), the kind folks at Fiorentina are happy to guide you towards the nearest retailer if you get in contact with them.
It sounds like a bit of a hassle, but it sort of makes these elusive notebooks feel even more valuable if you happen to get your hands on one.