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Pratt Institute for Barnes & Noble Strings Sketchbook


B&N basic sketchbooks are my preferred brand for a variety of reasons, but let’s go with the easiest two: value and quality. There are many products cluster-cussed at the $10 price point, however, I don’t think the quality, value and durability mixture is quite right for 90% of them. For example, B&N sells sketchbooks sharing aesthetic similarities, but with significant variance in performance and satisfaction. I have used these sketchbooks for at least 13 years (averaging 11 sketchbooks per year…) and while I try different brands for different reasons these are my default. Earlier this year when Barnes & Noble wasn’t stocking my beloved Teal Basic Sketchbook I had to seek out alternatives.

I had a two black ones, but honestly, I don’t like for my journaling stash to get low. I like having at least a year’s worth stashed away, because of that one time when I lived in Big Bear and I had to make 2 of these bad boys last an entire WINTER. And let me tell you, I had a lot to say and by mid Feb of that freezing dark winter I was gluing in pages just to make it. The first thing I did when I moved to North Carolina (oooh backstory) was stock up on these journals. I recall my mother saying, “Are you going on polar expedition?” as the journals were stacked so high in my hands she could barely see my face. “No, ma. I just survived one in Big Bear.”

How do I know what I said to my mom mid April in 1999…Oh yeah I WROTE IT ONE OF THESE DAMN SKETCHBOOKS!

in the dark ages, Barnes & Noble offered the basic sketchbook two colors: Black and Matte Black. Then red appeared on the horizon. Then silver. I kick myself everyday for not buying every silver basic sketchbook they sold. In fact, if I turn back time to 2003 I would be nothing but a silver basic sketchbook, capsule collection hording fool who probably would have no time to earn a MFA and still be living with my mother.

Editor’s note: My sainted mother is like the greatest person to live with ever. I’m fairly certainly she strongly encouraged me to attend college in far away VT in order to get the house to herself. At least I think that’s what she meant by, “i’m not losing a daughter so much as gaining a spare bedroom for my clothes.”

Fast forward to circa now and the basic sketchbook comes in four colors: purple, hot pink, lime green and black. This troubles me greatly because it is my default sketchbook. I wish it came in white, yellow, orange and kelly green.

Well, I sorta got my wish. in 2010, Barnes & Noble partnered with Pratt Institute and release some products designed by their talented students. “Strings” created by Alexandra Kalouta (whose own portfolio site when dark this past June), is one of a handful of sketchbook design collaborations between Pratt and B&N. Of the design covers I have seen, Strings – in all of its Spirograph glory – it is by far my favorite. I was immediately drawn to the cover and transported back to 4th grade and spending hours Spirographing. I have no idea where the artist drew inspiration, but I have to believe a Spirograph was involved at some point.

    With 192 pages (96 sheets in all) and a generous 8″ x 11″ format, the sketchbook affords ample space for all your artwork, and the casebound hardcover construction ensures that it will last for many years. Each page has a perforation near the spine along the 11″ side, so you can easily detach any sheet for presentation. Combining distinctive beauty with functionality, this sketchbook will stimulate your creativity for years to come.

– (source)

I love this kind of jaunty ad copy, particularly the subtle way in which it serves up some shade. I mean theoretically most companies use the most cost effective durable materials for their products. The fact that often times this fails to result in a product that is actually as durable as the customer would like is something else entirely. Often companies and consumers have different ideas about durability. Besides, they’ve turned what is pretty much a design flaw – pages falling out of the book – into a feature! Perforated pages for everyone!

There are about two things I don’t like about B&N’s basic sketchbooks: the corners show wear fairly easily. Now it doesn’t mean the sketchbook is falling apart. It just means you’re gonna see some wear once you put the book into rotation. Even stored on the shelf the corners can get a bit janked up. But I think that has more to do with B&N employees giving the process a little help when they’re merchandising the journal wall. The other thing I don’t like is the satin ribbon placeholder, but then I don’t like them in any journal.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/04/2012 4:56 am

    I love these journals so much. I got one for my birthday. Entertaining blog!

  2. 08/04/2012 5:03 am

    Thank you, LD for stopping by.

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