Our Favorite Notebooks + Pens

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” — Jack London

We are quite discerning about our pens and notebooks. Together they are our daily sword
and shield, taken everywhere to tackle the day’s onslaught of information. We carry them to
each appointment, which often invites curiosity from our clients and colleagues. So
frequently are we asked for recommendations that we thought we’d lend some insight into
our obsession with these tools of the trade.

As visually oriented people, we like to see order in all that we do. We’ve found that color
coordinating our notes, bookshelves, and even our tea drawer works as an invaluable
organization tool. Besides simply making things easier to find, using color stimulates
creativity, helps with recall, and makes the act of recording a more pleasurable experience.

Style and function must be considered when selecting a notebook. Does it lend itself to
longevity? Will the paper itself assist in organization – think lines, dots, or grids – and does
the binding or cover offer any integrated benefits, like a folder for loose notes or cards, or a
band to keeps its pages firmly closed? Then there’s the choice of stylus: from line weight to
the clarity and color of the ink, the right pen helps us to smoothly and seamlessly record our

Below is our collection of personal favorites.


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OGAMI Professional

OGAMI notebooks are Shannon's personal favorite; she has been using them for years. They are remarkable for the exceptional smoothness in which the ink applies to the page. These notebooks do not use a traditional tree/wood pulp-based paper product: instead, they are made in Italy from calcium carbonate, (a limestone byproduct) mixed with resin. This makes the pages waterproof, tear resistant, and non-biodegradable – ideal for preserving one's important information, especially in our rainy Portland climate. A helpful color- matched elastic band keeps the notebook shut tight. Offered in 3 sizes in both ruled and blank versions.

* in writing this article we were unable to find the company's website, leading us to assume that the stock available online is all that remains. Hoard while you can!


Leuchtturm 1917

Is it over-exaggerating to say that a notebook changed your life? Well, this is how Anna feels about discovering the Leuchtturm 1917 brand of notebooks, specifically the A5 in grid or dots. (These blow Moleskines out of the water.) With numbered pages, a blank index, inner pocket, 2 ribbons for marking pages AND a binding elastic, this notebook helped her get work notes and project details into an easily accessible order. They also come with labels for the spine, so they can be easily archived.



A Japanese brand of notebooks, these are lovely to have on hand for taking quick notes on the fly. With a spiral binding at the top, one can easily flip through the notebook to make a quick sketch, jot down notes while holding the pad in one hand, or lay flat for studied sketching. The 1x1 mm grid paper offers a nice background that assists with making straight lines while not completely overwhelming the drawing or committing one to a scale.



Muji 0.5mm Gel Pens

With a devoted international following, these refillable gel pens write smoothly and dry quickly. Unlike the thick, often scratchy lines made by a Gelly Roll, the Muji has an even flow and a fine lineweight (we like the 0.5 mm version, but there is also an extra-fine 0.38 mm option). Their minimal design and crisp strokes make them perfect for writing notes and cards where the focus should be on the sentiment, not the script.


Staedtler 308 Pigment Liners

Our fondness for these pens is tied to hand-drafting plans and lettering exercises in design
school. The variety of available line widths allows us to sketch with emphasis and layered
detail. The pigment ink is waterproof and archival, making these a wonderful choice for
architectural renderings or watercolor sketches.

Staedtler TriPLUS Color FineLiner

We picked up this set at a local art supply store after our beloved Foray Ballpoints had run
dry. Tired of the color smudges created left on our hands by ballpoint ink, we were curious to try Staedtler's line of colored fineliners. We are now converts! The saturated colors make for clearly organized color-coded notes. Though the cap design could stand some improvement, the tips seem designed to withstand this and can be left uncapped for up to 18 hours.

Thanks for bearing witness to our slight obsession! Perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise that we put just as much thought into our note-taking systems as we do into every aspect of our work. After all, details make all the difference.