Notebooks from the fringe of hell

Over 15 years ago I started using sketch books (and a fountain pen) for my note-taking and design work.  The notebooks by Strathmore come in various sizes, the paper is acid free, they are pretty cheap (compared to Moleskins), and you can buy them nearly anywhere.  I use paperback-size notebooks for to-do lists, bigger 9×11 notebooks for design work, and occasionally huge notebooks for big ideas.

In meetings, I’m usually taking notes (laptops are just rude, in my opinion), doing design work, or when things are boring and I can see the clock going backwards, I draw cartoons.

In really bad meetings the cartooning takes a “cry for help” flavor, like the following.

Here’s a message in a bottle.  I think that someone in the room behind the guy throwing the bottle is doing client-server technology on a whiteboard.  Sharks are circling for some reason.


This one is a little infantile.  The meeting must have been really bad.


(“Blind man with a short stick” = “Engineer without a spec” = “Meeting from Hell”)

This one is basically junior-high-school level artwork.  It makes reference to the building we were in at the time (the Landings Drive suites, just off 101 in Mountain View, and across from the main Google building, though it was SGI at the time this was drawn) –


Sometimes we’d sneak over to the SGI cafeteria.  They didn’t seem to care; they had their own troubles.

I imagine (I know) that some of you were in the Landings complex.  Anyone in 2047?  I know a few of you, too… 🙂


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8 Responses to Notebooks from the fringe of hell

  1. Bernd says:

    Where do you get those notebooks? Are they available only in the US?

    I’m in Central Europe and using Moleskins right now, but I have to admit they are too expensive, especially because their quality is really slipping. Half of the time now, the rubber band is so weak that it doesn’t hold the book closed…

    Otherwise, total agreement: Taking a laptop into a meeting is just not OK. What I’ve been thinking about is just recording meetings with my iTalk and putting them on a team server – what’s your opinion on that, asking consent of course?

  2. landon says:

    @bernd: I get them at artist supply stores or craft stores (e.g., Michaels). The local university bookstores usually have them as well.

    Sometimes I’m in meetings where *everyone* has a laptop and is typing away. My sometimes snarky comment is, “Oh, are we in a study hall then?” This variously gets grins and dirty looks, but doesn’t tear people away from their email… 🙂

  3. Wazoox says:

    I’m used to take notes on my Palm since I have one. I used Graffiti, then the puny thumb keyboard and it’s fine. I have an app for quick drawings if necessary, and back at the office I sync and get my notes on my PC instantly 🙂

  4. Bernd says:

    Thanks for the answer…really doesn’t look like we get them here, then, because if Bäumler doesn’t have them, it’s not a good sign for art supplies.

  5. john says:

    I have a stress cow. It sits in front of me and i squeeze it all day long. this keeps me from drawing because once i start to draw i stop listening altogether which is no good to anyone.

  6. phil b says:

    i think i ran that meeting. 🙂

  7. Mike C says:

    I was in one of those meetings, wishing I had a cool notebook and wondering what the hell Landon was scribbling. But then I decided to just take naps on the floor (much to phil b’s chagrin.)

  8. landon says:

    @Mike: I’d forgotten about the naps.

    In the Newton group, after the Newt shipped we could scribble cartoons and stuff and beam them at each other. (We didn’t do that very often, actually — few of us actually brought Newts to meetings).

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