I Only Use Dotted Pages - Here’s Why
As a graphic designer and team leader here at Jenni Bick, I've been using dotted page notebooks for a couple of years now, exclusively for the past year. Here is the skinny on how I use dotted pages, why I prefer them, and how the major brands compare.
What are dotted pages?
Imagine graph (squared) paper, with its horizontal and vertical grid lines. Now put a dot where the grid lines cross. Now remove the original grid lines, and there you have it, dotted pages!
I like how dotted pages provide me with more structure than blank (plain) or ruled (lined) pages, while being less obtrusive than squared (graph) pages. How so?
Dots are spaced about .5 cm apart, or 5 dots per inch (like common engineering graph paper), creating both horizontal and vertical structure. Unlike squared pages though, the dot grid is subtle and feels more 'suggested' to me... there when I need it, but not really in my way when I don't.
That means no unnecessary lines crossing every square centimeter of every page, i.e. less clutter. Always a good thing for me.
What's the story with dotted pages?
No one really knows (okay, someone probably does). As far as I can tell, some genius in the late 20th century, probably fed up with the rigidity of squared pages, while appreciating the structure, also desired some freehand freedom from time to time.
Perhaps said Anonymous Genius finally got tired of hauling several notebooks around, one for written notes (ruled), one for sketches/doodles (blank), and one for more structured designs (squared).
In any case, thank you, Anonymous Genius.
What Jenni Bick brands offer dotted pages?
- Rhodia (jennibick.com) - These iconic black and orange pads have been a favorite of students, writers, professionals, and designers since 1930. Featuring extraordinary quality Clairefontaine paper in a variety of pad and notebook formats, our Rhodia collection will raise your standard for paper excellence.
- Moleskine - With a trusted name and a sterling reputation, Moleskine notebooks are legendary among writers, artists, and thinkers.
- Leuchtturm1917 - A family business since 1917, Leuchtturm operates under the belief that the enduring values of quality, workmanship and attention to detail make for good products.
- StonIt (jennibick.com)- These innovative, tree-free notebooks are made using paper entirely from limestone and ecological resins. Feeling remarkably similar to traditional paper, it is totally waterproof, tear-resistant, and so smooooth.
- Nuuna (jennibick.com) - This Swedish journal maker melds eye-catching cover designs with rich paper stock suitable for both writing and sketching. All Nuuna journals are thread-stitched and bound in fine, but durable materials.
What brand do I prefer?
Hands down, Leuchtturm 1917.
My exclusive use of dotted pages corresponded with my discovery of Leuchtturm1917's softcover notebook. I think it was its lay-flat-when-open construction combined with its thinner profile that won me over.
I was not new to Leuchtturm notebooks though. I was already a fan of their hardcover, being a half-inch wider than a Moleskine; that additional inch (when open) does make a difference to me. Leuchtturms also feature numbered pages, and two bound-in ribbon bookmarks.
The paper weight always felt a bit more substantial to me, and after some digging, found I wasn't crazy. At 80 gsm, Leuchtturm's paper weighs in at 14% heavier than Moleskine's, which is 70 gsm. You may notice the weight difference, you may not, but you'll more likely find a bit less ink bleed-through and pen impression on the page reverse.
Finally, the style of the dots themselves seems more well-thought-out in a Leuchtturm. Sharp and clear, but also small and light, their dot grid seems just right to me. I found Rhodia's dot style to be a bit fuzzy, while Moleskine's were too dark and bold to blend into the background. Leuchtturm's dot grid style is on-point.
My Desire For Structure Is Inherent
A key piece of information here is that I still prefer pen and paper over an app for gathering my thoughts and ideas. I’ve sort of always been a doodler, which developed pretty naturally into sketching, and eventually into an interest in multi-toned pencil portraiture. The dot grid can actually prove quite handy.
DaVinci, being the closet engineer he was, used a simple 2d grid to divide the human face into standard proportions. His grid needed to be flexible, since it included not just horizontal and vertical lines, but diagonal lines at varying degrees.
Dürer depicted the popular method of superimposing a simple grid on both subject and canvas. Once the basic proportions were sketched accurately with the help of the grid, the lines were either erased or painted over. The famous Grid Method is still used by artists today.
So if you find that a blank sheet of paper is just not enough structure, you are in very good company. If however, you also find that squared pages are a bit imposing, dotted pages may be exactly what you’re looking for. I’d like to think DaVinci would have agreed.
Isn’t There An App For That?
I confess I still use the "Notes" app on my phone. For quick to-dos or very brief notes, sometimes it's just more convenient. After all, what is technology really but a tool designed to make a task easier?
In the end, a well constructed notebook and a decent quality pen are in themselves feats of design and engineering (i.e. technology). Even better, they are totally wireless.
There's no need to charge my Leuchtturm notebook, or wait for my Ohto pen to download updates. No need to navigate a microscopic keyboard, correct incorrect autocorrects, or minimize a message every minute. My Leuchtturm notebook is a dedicated device, which to me is refreshing since simple, specific-purpose-driven devices are becoming increasingly rare.
Now that that’s out of the way...
How do I use dotted pages?
I have primarily a creative role here at Jenni Bick, but my secondary responsibilities here are pretty multi-faceted. I provide some content direction with our b2b marketing, compose shots for our product photography, along with coordinating customer projects, bridging the gap between digital proof mockup and finished product. That means my notes can look quite different depending on their purpose.
Being a very visual person, my marketing notes tend to look like impromptu mind-maps. I'll throw in some bullet lists here and there, but just to break down auxiliary points; the backbone is almost always a flowing network of arrows and shapes.
Even when the occasion calls for more traditional notes, outlines, punch lists, and to-dos, the dot grid is just as useful to me as horizontal lines for keeping the page tidy.
For designing layouts and sketching rough proof concepts, this is where dotted pages in my opinion are spot-on. For the same reason as being the basis for the original bullet journal, the underlying (and understated) framework is perfect for creating your own templates.
I imagine much of the Bullet Journal’s success is due to the flexibility of that framework... It can be whatever you need it to be.
Designing an app UI that works across multiple screen ratios? Check. Storyboarding a promotional video at 16:9? Check. Composing a front + back business card layout? Check.
Whatever the 'canvas' size, I find drawing my own mini art boards at various sizes and ratios takes minimal thought. Though squared pages also work, which area would you prefer to design within?
To sum it all up, as someone with varying notebook needs, I’ve found the dotted page style to be the best of all worlds. Its unobtrusive dot grid strikes the right balance between structure and flexibility for me. Whether you are a bullet journaler, artist, designer, coordinator, or a combination of these, give a dotted page journal (preferably a Leuchtturm1917) a try. Mark my words, you will not be disappointed... period.