Beyond Moleskines, Field Notes and Sharpies

Finding the best tools for designers

Designers love their Moleskines, Field Notes and Sharpies. And all of these are great tools. Go to any meeting of designers, look around and that’s pretty much all you see.

But about a year ago, I discovered the Pen Addict podcast and an entirely new world of pens, pencils and paper. A range of outstanding tools for writing and sketching that I never knew existed. Modern fountain pens. Japanese pens you can’t get in the standard US retail channels. Nice mechanical pencils. Wooden pencils. Sharpeners. New notebook brands.

Very few designers seem to know about the range of options that are out there and I really think designers would enjoy these writing instruments.

So I’m starting a new weekly series: Designer Toolkit.

Each Friday, I’ll profile a pen, pencil or paper product and tell you why designers should try it out. (The first post — about the Kuru Toga mechanical pencil — is already up.) And since many of these materials aren’t available in your local office supply store, I’ll let you know where you can get them.

These new tools may or may not replace your Moleskines, Field Notes and Sharpies. But they will open up a whole world of tools that you didn’t even know existed.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he talks too much about pens and pencils. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Designer Toolbox: The Kuru Toga mechanical pencil

A mechanical pencil with a twist

Red Kuru Toga with red lead

Designer Toolkit is a new weekly series on Sketchbook B that will highlight an analog tool that designers should be using.

 

Why designers will love THE KURU TOGA:

  • Precise, consistent lines. The Kuru Toga is a Japanese mechanical pencil with a cool trick... the lead rotates every time you pick up the tip of the pencil, keeping the point even and consistent. Great for sketching or taking notes.

  • Range of thicknesses. Kuru Togas are available in .03, .05 and .07 mm. Pick the line thickness that's perfect for your sketching style. 

  • Colored lead. Some Kuru Togas come with colored lead to match their body color. I've got a red Kuru Toga with red lead (pictured above) that's great for marking up proofs. 

Things to know:

  • U.S. vs Japanese models. In U.S. retail channels, you can find a limited selection of Kuru Togas, so you can pick up a basic model at your local Staples. But if you want more options — and trust me, you do — order from a company like Jet Pens and select from a wider variety. 
  • Disney edition. Love Mickey? You can get Japanese Disney-themed Kuru Togas through Jet Pens. 

How much?

The Uni Kuru Toga starts at about $5. You can find the entire range at Jet Pens.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he apparently talks too much about pens and pencils. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

How to get quality images and logos from clients

Just copy, paste and send.

I constantly struggle with getting high quality images from clients to use in printed materials. Typically, my struggles fall into one of two issues:

  1. Poor image quality. Images that are too small, edited or color corrected poorly.
  2. Vector files. Clients don't understand what a vector file is and why you need it.

I was tired of explaining it repeatedly so I started writing some standard text that I can copy and paste when I need to explain these concepts to clients and partners. As I worked on them, I realized that other designers could benefit to having a copy of these explanations.

Request high quality Images

Most designers try to explain image size with resolution, file type or file size. This goes completely over the head of most users. Now that most digital cameras — including phone cameras — generate appropriately large images, we can just ask for the original, unedited image. We also need to make sure they understand that they can't just grab the files off of Facebook or Instagram.

Next time you need an image from someone, try this explanation:

In order to make sure your image looks its best, please provide us with the highest quality image you have. This should be the file that comes directly off your camera or phone. Do not edit or crop the image. Images downloaded from Facebook or Instagram will not reproduce well. The file will likely be a JPG or PNG file.

Getting Vector files

Vector files are tougher. The concept is foreign to most users who don't understand the difference between vector and bitmap. Here, I think the best bet is to educate them that a vector file is a special file format and try to steer them to the designer or communications department.

Most of the time, when I need a vector file, it's a logo. So I wrote several versions of my vector explanation. The first version is specifically for logos:

In order to ensure your logo will look great, we require a vector version of your logo. A vector file is a special type of image file typically created with Adobe Illustrator that can scale to various sizes while maintaining quality. A vector logo is typically saved as an EPS file. Note that JPG or PNG files are bitmap files and cannot be vector files. Vector files are typically provided by the designer or company that created your logo.

A second version of this copy can be used when you are working with a non-designer in a larger company that has a dedicated communications team:

In order to ensure your logo will look great, we require a vector version of your logo. A vector file is a special type of image file typically created with Adobe Illustrator that can scale to various sizes while maintaining quality. A vector logo is typically saved as an EPS file. Note that JPG or PNG files are bitmap files and cannot be vector files. You can typically get a vector version of your logo from your communications department.

Sometimes, I need vector artwork for other projects. So I wrote a third version that is a little more generic.

In order to ensure your artwork will look great, we require a vector version of your design. A vector file is a special type of image file that can scale to various sizes while maintaining quality. Vector artwork is typically saved as an EPS file or a PDF. Note that JPG or PNG files cannot be vector files.

Copy and paste!

Feel free to use these descriptions next time you are requesting artwork. Hopefully they will help you get the files you need and save you time. 

I've started a page in the resources section for these (and possibly future) copy and paste snippets. I'm already thinking about snippets to explain font issues and IMDL files.

Please let me know how they work for you. Based on feedback, I may refine and update them. Reach out on Twitter (@sketchbookb) and let me know what you think.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he looks for ways to be more efficient. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.