The Art of Paper Notes: One Designer’s Sketchbook

sketchbookTake a look inside this designer’s sketchbook as he plans an online design course; it’s a work of art in itself.

What’s the one technology that an online course designer can’t do without? If you’re John McWade of, it’s good old-fashioned paper notepaper.

“I’m developing a course titled Design 101: Layout, which (kind of obviously) is a primer on page layout, and the other day I was showing my notes to content manager Kristin Ellison, who said hey, you should publish those; others might like to see how you get this stuff done,” writes McWade in  LinkedIn.

Judging from the comments on his article, he was right about that.

“Your storybook is ART,” writes one commentator.

“I think you should publish the notebook as John McWade’s Sketchbook. I’d buy it!” gushes another.

It is beautifully done and serves as an excellent reminder that planning is so critical to a successful outcome.  And for many, that planning is best done offline. In this digital age, how often do we pause to take pencil to paper to work through our ideas? Not often enough, I believe.

As for McWade, he has some pretty specific thoughts on exactly how he likes to work on paper.

“For paper, I prefer bound pages to loose sheets, which invariably get shuffled or upside down and always seem to be missing the one page I need,” he writes. “And in a sketchbook you can write on both sides of the page, which you never want to do on a loose sheet or you’ll never find your note again. A small, loose-leaf binder can do both, but I don’t love the rings; I prefer blank sheets to lined.”

Now that’s a process. Enjoy this look inside the making of an online course that has its beginning on good old paper.