Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook [Part 1]

This is part of an on going series of posts following the variable size dot grid notebook research and development. For more, please see: Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook Research [Part 2]

Today I’m going to share the details (and download) of my latest idea, the Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook.

I’ve always liked stationery and office supplies. With this particular idea, I asked myself if I were going to have a store and offer just one line of notebooks, what would be the best notebook line to carry? There’s lots of great notebooks out there, but eventually it led to me designing what would be the best notebook for me.

Now everyone has different needs and wants from a notebook, so there is no one perfect model or brand. One size does not fit all. Still, I’m pretty pleased with the idea I’ve come up with.

First, I like a dot grid layout. As near as I can tell it was first introduced by Rhodia in 2010. In hindsight it seems like such an obvious innovation that it’s difficult to believe it has been around for just seven years. Still, I feel like there’s room for improvement within the dot grid. Here’s what I came up with.

The Variable Size Dot Grid Explained

Zoomed in example of a square Variable Size Dot Grid layout.

Zoomed in example of a Variable Size Dot Grid layout.

The Primary Dot: It measures 0.4mm in diameter, which is a bit smaller than many others notebooks. The Primary Dot composes the standard grid on most dot grid notebooks.

Sub Dots: Just 0.15mm in size, the Sub Dots have two different features. First, there is one on the center for easily finding the center of any square made up of Primary Dots. Second, there are two Sub Dots in the horizontal space between Primary Dots. This gives it a slightly more lined look and makes it easier to keep writing straight. There is also a single Sub Dot in the vertical space between Primary Dots. This can help to manage the height of letters when writing.

Square Dots: The Square Dot appears just four times on a sheet of paper, once on each side marking the halfway point of the grid. It is 0.6mm in size when it appears where a Primary Dot would be normally, but is just 0.4mm if it appears where a Sub Dot would be or if no dot was already present.

Triangle Dot: Similarly to the Square Dot, the Triangle Dots appear only on the edges of the entire grid and mark the 1/3 sections of the grid. The base of the Triangle Dot is 0.6mm.

Digital render of A5 open dot grid notebook

Digital render of A5 open dot grid notebook

The significance of the variable size dot is that the Sub Dots should disappear out of focus when at a normal viewing distance. However, when working closer in the notebook they become helpful guides. This may be somewhat evident in the digital rendering above, however the screen size you’re using will make a substantial difference. Although I’ve used a 30% gray ink in the file, every printer may render these differently. I’d like to get them as light as possible while still viewable. Update: The ink has been reduced to 25% gray.

Here are my dream specs for a notebook with such a layout:

  • Mid Size Format: US Half-sheet, B5, or A5.
  • ≈90 gsm white paper, not too bright, not too toothy.
  • Smyth sewn binding or alternative lay flat design.
  • 128+ pages, possibly perforated
  • Manufactured as locally as possible
  • No frills (pockets, bands, book marks)
  • Minimalist design w/ little to no branding

There are other aspects I’m still torn on. What color would it be? Black is nice and classic, but not terribly original.

It was tempting to start phoning manufacturers (I have a couple in mind) and reaching out to notebook bloggers for opinions. And then of course I’d start a popular crowdfunding campaign and get this dream notebook made (when you’re stuck working 60 hour weeks on third shift you’re always looking for something to help get you out the door). However, I have other things I’m working on so for now I’m giving this layout away as a free download. If I get enough positive feedback, maybe I’ll pursue production of it someday.

Sample doodles and lists on a printed dot grid

Sample doodles and lists on a printed dot grid

Free Dot Grid Downloads

Update: I’ve gone ahead and added an 11 x 17 (two sheets of US Letter) and A3 (two sheets of A4) for the few of you with larger printers who wish to make your own notebooks.

Your mileage may vary depending on the quality of the printer you use and the paper stock you source. Since it’s free you’re stuck with a little bit of branding at the bottom of the page. If you do download it and use it I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

In Other News

Earlier this week I ordered some screen printing chemicals so I hope to print something this weekend even if it’s wrong. I probably won’t start printing the Triumph Motorcycle for another week or two, but I might be making some improvements to a previous print. Still planning to do a giveaway of some Andy Warhol books and some of my original prints. Look for that next month either on Instagram or Facebook.

I’m still building a guitar. It’s going slowly. It’s the thing that has to go most on the back burner because it doesn’t do much to further my career objectives or income stream. Recent rain doesn’t help (I have to work with the garage door open and go in an out often during the process).

As always the biggest setback I have here is time. We’re still mandated 60 hour weeks at work. From time to time I look for other opportunities, but not finding much where I’m a good fit. Anyone out there want to hire a guy who builds guitars and designs dot grid notebooks in his spare time?


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