Notes on Black Ice Field Notes

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It’s hard to know where to to begin with Field Notes’ 33rd quarterly edition (winter, 2016). In a snapshot, it’s the typical 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket-notebook with 48 pages of 70#, line-ruled paper. But with this notebook, which Field Notes has named the “Black Ice” edition, there’s actually a lot more going.

This notebook has a hefty 100# cover stock that is stamped with a dull, reflective foil. The cover shows cracks and scratches with wear, but somehow never seems to leave smudges or finger-prints. It ostensibly represents the shiny, gray coloring of a thin layer of ice on asphalt. It’s a clever design, though not one that’s easy to photograph.

Oddly, there’s also a lot of orange with this edition – the orange spine,  the glossy inside-cover section, and the ruling that lines the header section on each page – which is perhaps an ode to the Field Notes creator, Aaron Draplin. Not that I’ve got nothing against orange, but I don’t see how it makes much sense with the “Black Ice” theme. A dark gray would have worked better, in my opinion.

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The most unique feature of the Black Ice edition, however, is the use of PUR binding, a first for Field Notes. Instead of stapling the pages together, each leaf of paper is glued into the book, and the spine is then covered by an orange, rubbery hinge. The obvious advantage to PUR-binding is that it creates a much tougher spine for the notebook, though it also adds some bulk and prevents pages from easily laying open. As someone who typically keeps these notebooks in a back pocket, the extra bulk isn’t ideal, though I wouldn’t describe it as particularly cumbersome either.

Overall, anyone who uses Field Notes is likely to enjoy the Black Ice edition, though it doesn’t personally rank among my favorites. The bulkiness of the PUR binding can be a little annoying, and I’m not in love with the use of orange. On the other hand, the reflective covers look good, the pages are hefty, and it’s a durable little book. No doubt this edition will find a lot of fans, but I wouldn’t be surprised by the fact that it also has a few detractors.

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Additional Notes

  • Of the 30 “Practical Applications” listed in the notebooks’ inside-back cover, my favorites are the following: “02. Curling Rosters”; “24. Plunges Polar-Beared”; and “27. Bells on Bob Tails Rung”
  • With the Field Notes quarterly subscription, this edition came with a couple pieces of wrapping paper and gift labels. It was a smart assumption by Field Notes that these notebooks, released prior to Christmas, would be gifted. Though, I used the wrapping paper I received to wrap other gifts.
  • Check out some other good Black Ice reviews at Fountain Pen Follies, Lead Fast, and Nerd Gazette.

Notes on XOXO 2016 Field Notes

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Every year, the halls of the XOXO Festival – an art and technology conference out of Portland, Oregon –  have been complimented by an exclusive edition of Field Notes pocket-notebooks. In 2015, the conference engaged artist Brendan Monroe to create artwork that adorned the notebooks’ covers, which was a very good decision (it just so happens that the XOXO 2015 Field Notes are one of my favorite editions). So for the XOXO 2016 notebooks, I was happy to see that another artist was again involved, and the resulting designs can justly be described as an explosion of orange and pink.

This marbled/tie-dye cover-art was created by Mark Weaver, a designer and illustrator based out of New York, and from what I’ve seen on his website and Flickr account, he has an artistic style that might be described as ‘funky modern.’ For the XOXO 2016 notebooks, he created artwork that is bright, trippy, eye-catching, and generally just pretty cool. Inside the books, 60# white paper is ruled with bright-orange grid-lines, a color that I’ve found looks particularly good behind bright-blue ink.

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This edition is another win for XOXO, but I hate to talk these notebooks up too much, as they are difficult to find. Attendees of the XOXO conference were easily able to get a 3-pack, but I was able to get mine a few weeks later when extras were made available on the Field Notes website. They sold out quickly, however, and the best bet on finding a set now is through eBay where they will likely be overpriced (though it looks like they might still have some available at their Chicago home base).

So, good luck to you if you’re on the hunt for this Field Notes edition. They are, after all, probably one of the better things to come out of 2016.

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Additional Notes

Notes on Dead Print Field Notes

“Posters are delicate things,” writes Aaron Draplin. So what is a poster-maker to do when misprinted, damaged, and test prints begin to pile up in the workshop? For Draplin, the creator of Field Notes, the answer couldn’t have been too difficult: use these ‘dead prints’ to make pocket-sized memo books.

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So, in October of 2015, limited edition “Dead Print Field Notes” were made for three poster-producing companies: Draplin Design Co., Mondo, and Landland. Between all three companies, only 3,000 3-packs were made, and with images of these notebooks sporadically popping up on Instagram and Twitter, these Dead Print Field Notes became somewhat of a craze.

Although the notebooks contain basic 50# blank paper, the unique covers, made from assorted posters, spurred on the collectors. Getting my hands on all three was no easy task. I’ve seen sealed 3-packs occasionally sell for over a hundred dollars on eBay (much, much more than I’m willing to spend), but with a bit of patience, I found them all individually for reasonable prices.

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The DDC Dead Prints were initially only sold at a pop-up shop run by Aaron Draplin in Portland, but eventually a handful were sold through his website. There I was able to grab a couple 3-packs before they sold out. Similarly, the LandLand Dead Prints were briefly available on their website, but many of the shipments were lost in the mail, including mine. Fortunately,  the good folks at LandLand were able to ship out replacements a couple months later.

The Mondo Dead Prints were trickier. They were initially distributed only at MondoCon, the company’s convention, but some extras were sold online. These became sold out lightning-fast, well before I was able to add a pack to the shopping cart. But, after months of scouring eBay, I eventually found a single Mondo notebook for a relatively low price (never mind that it’s mostly just a white notebook).

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After some use, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that these Dead Print Field Notes are one of my favorite editions. Aside from the special cover-paper, there’s no difference between this and a standard Field Notes notebook. However, with their wild designs and the gold-foil used for the cover text, I’ve received more comments/compliments on these notebooks than I have while carrying around any other Field Notes edition. It’s really a shame that these notebooks are so rare, but maybe, if we’re lucky, Draplin, LandLand, and Mondo will continue to damage enough posters in order to justify another run.

Additional Notes

  • The Mondo Dead Prints have no “Practical Applications” list, but a musician/artist roster for their convention instead. Both the DDC and Landland books, however, do have “Practical Applications” lists. My favorites: “02. Thick Lines Tinkerings” (DDC) and “16. Hashtag Plans” (LandLand).
  • Even the belly-bands seem to be made of inside-out posters.
  • And speaking of Aaron Draplin, I wrote a review of his book. I liked it. It’s worth checking out if you like those DDC Dead Print designs.

Book Review: Pretty Much Everything by Aaron Draplin (+The Everything Else Kit)

Aaron Draplin might possibly be the most prolific graphic designer of our time. He’s best known for making logos, producing a lots of stuff, and creating the booming Field Notes brand of notebooks. This year he decided to cram his life’s work into a book, appropriately titled, Pretty Much Everything.26240629

Pretty Much Everything is an autobiography, a textbook, a coffee-table book, and a vanity project all squeezed between a bunch of black and orange pages. Much of the book chronicles Draplin’s career, from his humble origins in the Midwest, to his snowboarding days in the Northeast, and the steady growth of his Draplin Design Co. brand. He talks a lot about his influences and his family throughout, and he offers up his design philosophy (which can probably be boiled down to something like ‘work hard, enthusiastically, and be nice to people’).

Just looking through the pictures, it’s hard not to be impressed by Draplin’s output. Between his fondness for bright colors, his “thick lines” artistic style, and his aptitude for space economics, it’s easy to flip this book open to a random page and just sit and stare for a while. Practically every inch of this book is filled with stuff to look at.

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Aside from a couple of big grammatical errors, Pretty Much Everything is really quite a delightful book. Any student of graphic design will learn a lot, any fan of Field Notes notebooks will get their fill, too, and lovers of Pantone Orange 021 will find a kindred spirit within these pages as well. And beyond that, Draplin comes across as a very friendly person, someone who lives and dies by his friends.

Everything Else Enhancement Kit

If, after closing the final pages of Pretty Much Everything, you long for more Aaron Draplin, then you’re in luck. Along with the book’s release, Draplin began selling an “Everything Else” Enhancement Kit (aka EEEK), which includes a bunch of bonus stuff.

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At $55, the kit is about double the price of the book. So it’s probably best considered by hardcore fans only. However, you will get your money’s worth. There are bookmarks, stickers, a handful of prints, a certificate of authenticity (in case you were worried), and a Pretty Much Everything slip case (that, to my eye, looks more red than orange).

There’s plenty of other stuff too; a pencil, a button, a patch – and two 3-packs of a special Field Notes edition. Those Field Notes books are pretty unique, and I’ll definitely have a lot more to say about them in a future review.

Notes on Lunacy Field Notes

Lunacy, Field Notes’ Fall 2016 Special Edition, is what you get when you take a simple concept and go a little crazy on the execution.

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Its theme pays homage to Earth’s celestial buddy, the moon, and there’s a lot more than usual going on with these little 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket notebooks. They contain 60# light gray notebook paper with a reticle grid ruling. They are bound together with black staples that blend into a shimmery, black cover stock, giving it an almost leather-like look. And along with the the embossed Field Notes logo on the front, you’ll find a black moon logo embossed on the back cover.

But, of course, the most noteworthy aspect of the Lunacy edition is their die-cut covers, which open like little windows into a glossy inner photo of the moon.  Each book in the set is cut to represent a different phase of the moon: there’s a waning crescent, a third-quarter (half) moon, and a full-moon. Those who are subscribers to Field Notes’ quarterly additions also received a bonus “new moon” book, which just has a fully-intact black cover.

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The glossy inner cover-pages aren’t just for show either, they also include a bunch extra info. In typical Field Notes fashion, some of this information is lightly useful, but most of it is just for fun. Need to know how to say “moon” in German? This notebook has got you covered. Want to know how to kill a werewolf? You’ll have that info in your back pocket too.

It’s a cool edition overall, though I’m not a huge fan of the die-cut covers. While they don’t rip or tear like I initially thought they would, I still find them a little annoying. But beyond that, these books remind me a lot of Field Notes’ Night Sky edition from the summer of 2014. That’s an edition I’ve always wanted to own, but they are now sold out (and much too expensive to buy through eBay). Lunacy, as well, is a little more expensive than usual – $12.95 for a 3-pack – but still worth it for any aspiring astronaut.

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Additional Notes

  • Of the 30 “Practical Applications” listed in the notebooks’ inside-back cover, my favorites are the following: “2. ‘That’s No Moon'”; “20. Dark Side Theories”; and “22. Tidal Changes.”
  • Check out  Ed Jelly’s review for lots of good pictures, and Fountain Pen Follies says that these notebooks are very fountain pen friendly.
  • Definitely check out the video that Field Notes produced for this edition. It’s almost as if they were trying to fake the moon landing.