Spaces for Ideas: The First Prototype

This product has launched! Get your sketchbook at the Spaces for Ideas Store now!


If you have not already, do check out the earlier posts first as they will give you a greater insight on how this design came to be.
1) Spaces for Ideas: The Beginning

Here we are finally, pictures of my first prototype for the Spaces for Ideas sketchbook! But before I get ahead of myself, let me pick up from where I left of in the last post Spaces for Ideas: The Beginning.
If I know you clever reader, you would have realized 2 things about the first post. First, the post was fairly generic and second I did not really set out a concept direction I wanted to go for at the end of the post. The reason was because I wanted to build up a background story around my thought process.
So as a recap here are some of the key elements I think the ideal sketchbook should have.

1. A sketchbook that highlights the work and not itself
2. Well constructed and affordable
3. No spines getting in the way of cross page sketching
4. Just the right size but with enough space or room to play with
5. “Boundary-less” pages
6. Flexible enough to do what you will
7. Decent quality paper that takes all non-wet mediums like ink, pencil or markers.
8. Appeals to everyone, not just designers

Unfortunately, I’ve learnt very early in my career that if you threw everything you wanted into a product you just end up with a mess. Thus my quiet objective in our discussion in the first post was to really prioritize which elements were important and in what combinations should they be built in.
I decided that the first of my 7 sketchbook solutions (yes 7!) would focus on creating a sketchbook around point 4-6. After a lot of thinking, sketching, and working in an iterative manner, the “expandable” sketchbook concept was born. What really amazed me about my process was this concept eventually inspired the name for the entire brand collection: Spaces for Ideas.
So now, lets take a look at my first prototype, which was incidentally an EPIC FAIL! Heh-heh. Hmm maybe I should have built a better quick mockup? Make many mistakes, but make them early!

This A6 sized book is ah…way too thick. It contains 20 pages of good quality 100gsm bright white, lightly textured paper that is quite nice to write on. Furthermore the book’s A6 size in proportion to the thickness makes it feel more like a pocket dictionary or bible. Grab your nearest one and you will know what I mean. It is a beast!


Here is the trick of this concept; the A6 sketchbook unfolds out into a generous A3 page. The sketchbook’s binding solution was a bitch to work out, as the folded A3 sheet becomes a thick wad that is about 6-7 times thicker than a single sheet. So the 20 folded pages inflates itself into something like a 120 page sketchbook. While my Binder is not much of an origami expert (the page unfolded upside down), he managed to figure out how to stuff those thick wads of paper into a book!

Here is where the biggest problem lies. The 20 sheets of folded A3 paper creates a large “hump” under the first unfolded sheet. This really spoils the drawing/writing experience.
Well that’s all from me for this update on Spaces for Ideas. I think you can easily see from this prototype that there are a lot of obvious problems that needs to be solved. Therefore almost immediately after studying it, I went ahead to brief the Binder on what to refine. Luckily, they will happy to make me another prototype.
Just as a teaser, I actually have the final prototype right here in front of me and it is looking great. There is still a lot to do, so please bear with me? I will share the next update after I work out a few more issues like branding and logistics. As usual I look forward to your comments and please do keep in touch?
Edit 2: Check out the next installment of this project, Spaces for Ideas: The Brand.
Edit 3: Check out the final installment of this project, Spaces for Ideas: The Final Prototype.

This product has launched! Get your sketchbook at the Spaces for Ideas Store now!

16 Comments
  • matt marrocco

    January 14, 2010 at 2:25 am Reply

    love this idea…funny how something as simple and ubiquitous as the sketchbook really hasn’t found an ideal form factor yet. I see the logo as an inkless letterpress on a white cover. it is a beautiful, but subtle way to print text, and in this case kind of speaks to focusing on the work, rather than the book. Good luck, looking forward to seeing (and purchasing?…and using?) the finished book!

  • Chris

    January 14, 2010 at 9:24 am Reply

    Very clever. I agree with Matt in that the form factor isn’t there yet (but it is a first prototype so that can be ironed out). As far as just practicality its almost nigh to perfect. Finding a way of having the pages fold and expand (according to the artist/users needs) was is my eyes definetly achieved. The prototype is great in my opinion. Can’t wait to see more.

  • Justin Moore-Brown

    January 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm Reply

    Definitely dig the concept sir.
    That’s a tricky situation ur facing with the bulk of the book, but I think the end result you’re gonna have is GREAT!
    Looking forward to the finished product.

  • Marine Boudeau

    January 15, 2010 at 12:58 am Reply

    My girlfriend needed a notebook for Christmas and seeing you with your project totally motivated me to create her a unique notebook. I will take a few photos and post the link later today. Like you said, you can’t put all the features in or the product will be completely unusable. You have to make choices and I look forward to see your V2.
    I am curious about the current binding. Is it thread? Glue? Could you do a close up maybe?

  • William Sutton

    January 15, 2010 at 4:00 am Reply

    What if the book was just a folder for all the folded wads? Everything becomes an elaborate “napkin” sketch–just on better paper.
    Just pull-out a napkin and start sketching!

  • Akshay

    January 15, 2010 at 11:48 am Reply

    This is an awesome project, simply because it has the clear message of don’t just take what you’re given, understand your own needs and do something about it. Point taken.
    Just a suggestion about the page that you open being over the bulk of the rest of the book, why don’t you just start sketching from behind? The bulk would be on the left and you would still be able to use it quite decently.

  • fecsx

    January 15, 2010 at 7:59 pm Reply

    i like the idea of resizing but the remaining fold lines and scaling bother me .. i have a feeling that a3 is too big, could be more compact since a notebooks are basically used on the go .. the book cover could be folded out serving as rigid backround if bigger space is needed and could be folded back with the paper for a smaller, comfy book having less fold lines.. a
    btw i love the basic idea of folding it out:F

  • Ingo

    January 16, 2010 at 5:26 am Reply

    Hi Brian, love the idea of folding everything to a small book. Did you consider to use a spiral instead of a fixed back. Although it might not look as nice, you will be able to lay it flat.

  • DT

    January 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm Reply

    Guys, thanks very much! I’m totally in awe by the quality of the feedback you have given! Let me see if I can respond to each of you as best I can.
    @matt marrocco: Indeed! I am currently working on a logo that will be pressed (or debossed) into the cover. This should give it a very nice finish to the whole object. This logo will also give the sketchbook some orientation as well, i.e. this is the front or back.
    @Chris: Thanks for the vote of confidence. Resolving that folding and unfolding was the hardest part! Do stay tuned to the final prototype which will be published soon.
    @Justin: Hey big guy! (No pun intended!) Thanks for your support, please keep in touch?
    @Marine Boudeau: I’m glad this project has inspired you! That was why I wanted to share it. And yes please do share some links of your own design, I would look to take a look at it. With regards to the binding its all glued up together. Oh it was a mess, so I decided not to focus too much detail on it.
    @William Sutton: That is an interesting suggestion. A napkin folder/sketchbook. I am thinking of making a version that has perforated lines that allow you to tear pages out of the book. Thanks for your suggestions, and please keep in touch?
    @Akshay: That is a wonderful suggestion! I actually did think of a book design that did not matter how it was used. If a designer started from back to front, or if you flipped that book from any direction. The only problem that I came up with was that when you eventually reviewed the work it will be in different orientations as you turn the page and that might not be so nice. However in my final design I am reducing the number of pages from 20 as you see here to 5. That “hump” has gone down tremendously, but your suggestion is still valid as I can’t totally get rid of that “hump”. Thanks again and please keep in touch!
    @fecsx: Hey thanks for the valuable feedback. The fold lines are actually not too bad if they are done tightly and I will think about your suggestion for a folded cover. However do consider that the concept is about portability. You have, in its rest state a sketchbook that could (A6) fit into your pocket. However this A6 expands into an A3 page that gives you a lot of space to play. Regardless I will consider as you suggested a smaller option, perhaps an A4 page that folds into an A7? Is there even such a size? Thanks again and please keep in touch?
    @Ingo: So nice to hear from you, hope things are going well? I did actually consider a spiral bound. However I always hated spiral bound as with frequent usage the pages start to get caught in the spiral and the ends eventually tear off. The way the page folds opens puts the binding under a lot of pressure, and my solid binding now is a lot stronger than spiral bound and more expensive. 😉 One thing to consider with spiral bound is, as you have mentioned, it opens flat, but somehow I always preferred sketchbooks that were properly closed bound. I gives me a much more solid and reliable feel.

  • iammyy

    January 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm Reply

    This is really nice ! But won’t the fold be ‘distracting’ to sketch on ? Of course,my love for Moleskine hasn’t changed ! 😉

  • Licheng

    January 29, 2010 at 2:28 pm Reply

    Random idea I’m throwing out there : if you sketch in pencil and fold your A3 page inwards and outwards over and over, very soon you’re going to get a very messy and dirty page full of graphite marks.
    However this idea would be brilliant for dry medium like pens and markers.

  • Freddy

    January 31, 2010 at 12:32 am Reply

    For a new sketchbook, its fine
    until you started using it,
    -the sketch book’s appearance create a horrible sight to look at due to the constant folding and unfolding of paper.
    -It would be complicated to find the page your searching for
    since it all folded up.
    -When sketching, rotating the paper would be an annoyance.
    -When you don’t have a luxury space( example in a plane seat)
    sketching on a4 size paper would be irritating due to the attachment to the thickness of the sketchbook (the hump that you mention)
    -Imagine sketching in the 10th page paper, with all the
    (1 -9 pages) unsightly folded paper eager to unfold itself..
    Its uncomfortable.
    Freddy

  • DT

    January 31, 2010 at 1:35 am Reply

    @ingrid: It actually folds out nice and flat, though the fold lines do show up. But I’ve tried it and while visible, it does not really bother. Thanks for your comment!
    @Lichen: Thanks for taking the time to comment. Quite true with pencil. That medium is always “dirty”, even a normal sketch book would suffer the same problem.
    @Freddy: Thank you for your feedback. I think you made a number of valid points, all of which I have actually considered. Do note that this is a prototype and it has does have a number of issues which I have alluded to in the post. Fortunately much of the problems will be resolved in the final mock up.

  • Duncan

    February 1, 2010 at 5:13 am Reply

    Am loving following this creative journey. Thanks for sharing.
    Have you thought of ring-binding so you can “choose the depth” of the number of pages that are underneath the hump?

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