comp

With all the new advances in the fields of papermaking, printing, and binding since the 1800s, I was interested in what it would be like to create a notebook that uses the new printing and binding technologies and the highest quality materials possible, while still maintaining the nostalgic pattern that we all know and love.

comp uses today's finest available processes, materials, and design comp uses today's finest available processes, materials, and design

Front cover with custom drawn pattern and redesigned offset label Front cover with custom drawn pattern and redesigned offset label

Layflat binding opens completely flat to reveal ultra white, smooth 120 gsm uncoated paper Layflat binding opens completely flat to reveal ultra white, smooth 120 gsm uncoated paper

Detail of book spine made with the finest quality Italian Cialux cloth and thick, durable 'boards on' covers Detail of book spine made with the finest quality Italian Cialux cloth and thick, durable 'boards on' covers

Lined version features optimized 3/8 Lined version features optimized 3/8" ruling and black interior feint lines

The interior of the unlined version of the notebook The interior of the unlined version of the notebook

Color-through dyed black endsheets Color-through dyed black endsheets

comp first started as a curiosity, then turned into a research project, and finally, (admittedly) into a bit of an obsession. I've spoken with many experts in fields such as paper marbling, book binding and design, have visited rare book libraries, and poured through many stationery catalogs trying to document the history of the composition notebook.

Bookbinder, Paul Vogel. Photo: Brian Kelley Bookbinder, Paul Vogel. Photo: Brian Kelley

The pattern on the composition notebook was an industrialized version of the traditional art of marbling, a process that was used to make decorative papers for book coverings and end papers. Paper marbling began thousands of years ago––in the tenth century in China and later in Japan during the twelfth century.

Ebru pattern. Image: Terry Underwood Evans/Shutterstock. Ebru pattern. Image: Terry Underwood Evans/Shutterstock.

The marbling process remains more or less the same today: It essentially involves dropping different colored pigments into a bath of water (typically with size added), and working them into a unique pattern with different instruments and brushes. Once you have the desired pattern, a piece of paper is rested on top and absorbs the pattern to create a marbled paper. Meanwhile, in the fifteenth century in Turkey, a different type of marbling was being developed called Ebru, which eventually made its way to Europe.

Example of a pseudo-marbled agate pattern Example of a pseudo-marbled agate pattern

Around the early nineteenth century (1820s–1830s), a new industrialized type of paper marbling began in France and Germany. This 'pseudo-marbling' process, a term coined by marbling expert Richard J. Wolfe, aimed to create marbled patterns using industrial processes––it was here that a new type of pattern was created in Germany, called the 'agate' pattern. Over time, these chemically made agate papers started to be used on more and more cheap blank notebooks, and the pattern evolved slightly into the printed composition notebook pattern we know and love today.

Pseudo-marbled French composition notebook from 1860. Image courtesy of Alwen Rambo/Belle Brocante Pseudo-marbled French composition notebook from 1860. Image courtesy of Alwen Rambo/Belle Brocante

Pseudo marbled French composition notebook from 1887. Image courtesy of Alwen Rambo/Belle Brocante Pseudo marbled French composition notebook from 1887. Image courtesy of Alwen Rambo/Belle Brocante

Pseudo-marbled French composition notebook from 1901. Image courtesy of Alwen Rambo/Belle Brocante Pseudo-marbled French composition notebook from 1901. Image courtesy of Alwen Rambo/Belle Brocante

Printed American composition notebook, 1964 Printed American composition notebook, 1964

Printed composition notebook, 2016, Pennsylvania, USA Printed composition notebook, 2016, Pennsylvania, USA

Throughout the years, the composition notebook has become a sort of cultural icon. Its unique design has been imitated, reproduced, shared, and worshiped; making a name for itself inside the art and design community and beyond. Strangely there’s no one producer of these notebooks since the pattern is not copyrighted and exists in many unique variations.

Over the years, the composition notebook's black and white marbled pattern has inspired and been used by famous artists, writers, and designers, like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ettorre Sottsaas Jr., Roy Lichtenstein, and Michael Bierut.

Composition notebooks, as they are now, have become an important piece of American culture. That said, they fall into a category of objects created for utility, that focus less on longevity and more on economy.

As a graphic designer, printmaker, and bookbinder I wanted to create a notebook that uses today's finest available processes, materials, and design to create something that will be kept, cherished, and used for years to come.

Here is a more detailed look into comp's features.

An exposed spine using the finest quality Italian cialux cloth, instead of tape for added durability.

Covers that are made of thick wrapped boards for added durability and rigidity. The cover shown left is a traditonal notebook cover. The cover shown at right is comp's thicker covers.

Layflat binding allows the notebook to open completely flat, which makes for easier use.

The finest Italian micro-embossed cover paper, which is durable and feels much more premium than a traditional notebook cover.

Color dyed black end sheets for clean inside and outside back covers.

A beautiful, unique, custom marbled cover pattern, optimized to balance light and dark perfectly, with every shape in the pattern individually placed for a unified look throughout.

A redesigned offset label that balances perfectly with the black binding at the left edge and allows you to write your name or other information you choose on the front cover.

Ultra white interior paper that is substantially thicker than a traditional composition notebook, allowing for less show through back to back between pages. These fine uncoated sheets work exceptionally well with all sorts of pens and pencils.

Both unlined as well as lined versions of the notebook. The lined version utilizes 3/8” ruling in which the length of the lines have been optimized for the best writing experience. Thin black lines are also used instead of traditional blue lines for a more streamlined look.

The lined version also has unique header ruling that help provide hierarchy as well as a clear way to track page to page.

7.5" x 9.75" upright

148 pages (74 leaves)

Custom designed pattern

Offset printed covers (with double hit of black ink for extra contrast)

2mm wrapped hardcovers wrapped with fine micro-embossed cover paper

Boards on, layflat binding

Square back with sewn and glued signatures

120 gsm ultra white, smooth, uncoated interior paper 155 whiteness (CIE), 96% opacity, 122 brightness (ISO 2470/D65 %), 150 Roughness (Bendtsen, ml/min)

Color-through dyed black endsheets

Square corners

Black Italian cialux cloth

Lined version printed offset with stochastic screening for fine reproduction of feint lines

All materials used are FSC certified

Printed and bound in Italy

Since the composition notebook is such a ubiquitous object and has been used by so many different people in so many different communities, I thought Kickstarter would be a perfect place to bring comp to life and share it with as many people as possible.

With your help, I'll be able to pay for the manufacturing and shipping of comp, along with compensating all the different components that have helped bring this project to life.

The Kickstarter goal includes every single cost involved in making this project happen:

LLC creation
Legal fees
Printing
Binding
Tote bag manufacturing
Label manufacturing
Shipping the books to the US fulfillment house
Packaging
Prototyping
Media Licensing
Photography
Video
Music
Campaign management
Kickstarter fees
Payment processing fees

Special thanks to Michael Bierut, Caroline Weaver, Paul Vogel, Richard J. Wolfe, Sid Berger, Chela Metzger, Hamish Smyth, Jesse Reed, Britt Cobb, Meg Miller and to the countless others who have helped with along the way.


SHARE THIS
Previous Post
Next Post