Vari-Dot Grid Research and Bullet Journal Giveaway

This is part of an on going series of posts following the variable size dot grid notebook research and development, aka Vari-Dot. For previous posts please see:

Vari-Dot Grid Research

While waiting for screens to dry and such, I’ve been working away on this Vari-Dot book. Here’s what I’m looking to make now.

(If you’re just here for the Bullet Journal Giveaway, you have to keep scrolling a bit)

Diagram 1: Dimensions of the proposed Vari-Dot Layout book

Diagram 1: Dimensions of the proposed Vari-Dot Layout book

I want a big book. Almost a sketchbook, but with more order. This is a plan for a 9 x 12 inch book with perforated pages and double wire-o binding. Not shown at this scale is the new Vari-Dot graphic that I’ve been testing.

9×12 is the sketchbook size I use the most and I’ve come to appreciate those with top binding. Most of my work is done in portrait setting and the binding is out of the way no matter if you’re left or right handed. It doesn’t look remarkably different from other sketchbooks on the market, but in addition to the Vari-Dot Ruling I’ve made a few small changes.

Note that there is a front and back chipboard cover. Many sketchbooks only have one and then a cover sheet slightly heavier that the inner pages. I feel that two gives the book that much more protection. The chipboard covers are slightly over the size of the inner pages so as to provide some additional protection.

Diagram 2: Vari-Dot Construction and Cover Sheet

Diagram 2: Vari-Dot Construction and Cover Sheet

Although this book has a front and back chipboard cover, it still has a cover sheet. On the cover sheet would be some amount of printing that includes the model number, bar code, and specifications of the book. The printing would be as minimal as possible, but things like a barcode are necessary if I plan to sell it in stores. A person could totally tear it off after purchase and have a super minimalist unbranded book.

However, I have implemented one small feature in the cover sheet: The Bottom Flap. It would come folded behind the cover sheet, but could be refolded by the user to serve as a bookmark. It could also be folded across all the inner pages on the bottom and tucked behind the inner sheets and back cover as further protection for the bottom of the pages as well as a spine to write on.

For more details, please see the three page Vari-Dot Construction Abstract I put together for manufacturers (PDF).

So who did I design this for? Mostly for me. I design a lot of prints and posters that are 18 x 24 inches in size. The 9 x 12 book is a quarter of that size and maintains a popular 3:4 ratio. On the outer margins I’ve also included some discreet markings:

Diagram 3: Closeup of Vari-Dot margin markings

Diagram 3: Closeup of Vari-Dot margin markings. Pink = one quarter, Blue = one third, Red = one half.

The pink dashed line shows the quarter page mark. The blue dashed line corresponds with small triangles on the margin that show where the page can be separated into thirds: Useful if you’re using the “Rule of Thirds” in your design (or just folding a letter).

Diagram 4: Illustrating the one third markers on a full page

Diagram 4: Illustrating the one third markers on a full page

Diagram 5: Illustrating the one quarter and half mark guides on a full page

Diagram 5: Illustrating the one quarter and half mark guides on a full page

To be honest I’m not sure what to call this. Sketchbook doesn’t sound right. It’s not a notebook or a journal either. I’ve been calling it a Layout Book, but I’m not sure that’s a thing. What would this offer that other books don’t?

  • Larger format size: 9 x 12 inches. Larger than A4 and US Letter. Gives more breathing room and maintains a somewhat common 3:4 ratio. While not truly a dot grid ruling, I haven’t found a dot grid book in this size. If you were using a 6 x 9 inch or smaller book, a two page layout can now be featured on one. The downside is you’re not putting this in your back pocket.
  • Made In the USA: I’ve scouted out a few manufacturers that are less than two hours from my home in the Midwest. While the cost of local labor may be more expensive than overseas, keeping it local means the carbon footprint is reduced by moving the product less distance before distributing it. (Your Moleskinne, Leuchtturm, and Picadilly’s are all made in China.)
  • Nice Paper: I would be shooting for around 100 gsm, but I would have to test samples from the manufacture before going into production. Users of Tamoe River Paper know that paper weight alone does not indicate how robust a paper is. I would look for something comparable to Canson sketchbook papers with a medium to fine tooth.
  • Vari-Dot Ruling: The ruling is presently 0.25″/6.35mm. The Vari-Dot is not quite “dot grid” and not quite “graph paper”. I went with this size because this is a US made product aimed at a US market and 1/4 inch graph paper is kind of a standard. Yes, I agree, the metric system makes more sense and we should all use it. That’s not the reality we live in though. If it came about that I was putting this ruling into European sized books (A4, A5), I might scale it down to 6mm, but there are some 6mm options already.

The Future of Vari-Dot

Closeup of one of twenty-five Vari-Dot prototypes

Closeup of one of twenty-five Vari-Dot prototypes with new ruling dimensions

It’s mid-September now and I’ve been working on this design since the beginning of June. Over 40 prototypes have been made experimenting with dot color and size (you would be surprised how much 0.0040″ makes in a dot). That doesn’t include many  I would love to launch a crowdfunding campaign to get these made and turn my ideas into a full time job.

However, I’ve been doing lots of reading on the subject and I’m not sure I have the juice to make it happen. As of this post Neat and Keen has 36 Twitter followers and just north of 300 Likes on Facebook. Not too many people know about me.

By contrast, the Pano Book by Studio Neat was funded on Kickstarter to the tune of $187,149 (4515 Twitter followers, 3136 Facebook Fans). Passion Planners is on their 4th Kickstarter and cumulatively have raised $1.99 million to date (23,119 Twitter followers, 181,982 Facebook Fans). You can see how I might feel a little intimidated by those numbers.

Here are some of my options:

Front the Cost of Vari-Dot Prototypes and Send Them Out

Initial quote for 100 books with digital printing was $1985. The manufacturer is sending me some paper samples shortly. My hope is offset printing with much greater numbers can cut that number in half. Keep in mind that $1985 just gets the books made. It doesn’t get them delivered to me, and it doesn’t pay for packaging supplies to get them to individuals.

Make Handmade Prototypes

There’s this printer I have my eye on. It’s a wide format printer that can make films for my silkscreen prints. It can also print archival prints, greeting cards, and any number of other things. For the price of 100 notebook prototypes, I could almost get this printer and some binding equipment to make my own prototypes at whatever volume I choose. I haven’t determined if I can reasonably produce the perforation that I want.  Also, instead of sending whole books to reviewers, I could send printed sheets on the actual paper I planned to have them printed. Presently I have to put my prototype files on a thumb drive and get them printed at the local UPS Store.

That’s still a lot of money to spend, but at least I would have a useful tool in the studio and not stacks and stacks of custom made layout books that maybe no one wants to buy.

Digital Printable Copies

This is apparently a thing. How many of you are printing your own journal paper and such? I’ve made, but not yet listed, some North American and European size dot-grid layouts to put on Etsy. It’s not the same as being able to have an actual physical book to sell, but it might be an option.

Wait. Be Patient.

I guess I don’t have to have it figured out right now. Being patient is probably the safest bet (I am a sucker for those invention stories where someone spent their last dollar to build the first version of a product that went on to be wildly successful, but those are few and far between). I’m toying with the idea of a Kickstarter to finance the printer I want (with greeting cards and prints as the reward). In the meantime…

Free Vari-Dot Download!

With a new version I decided to offer the Vari-Dot free to try for any of you DIY notebook makers. The ruling is now slightly larger and there are three side dots instead of just two.

Although these appear to be grayscale, I recommend using a color printer if possible.

VERSION 2.1: Dot value C/M/Y=11, K=0

VERSION 2.2: Dot value C/M/Y=15, K=0

VERSION 2.3: Dot value C/M/Y=20, K=0

Bullet Journal Giveaway!

During the coarse of research and development I fell down the BuJo rabbit hole. I’m currently doing mine in a MUJI notebook, butI acquired a number of other models and resources for inspection. So now I’m giving them away!

Grand Prize

  • Leuchtturm 1917 Slim Dot Grid Notebook
  • Miliko Saddle Stiched Dot Grid Notebook
  • Northbooks Dot Grid Notebook
  • 4-Pack Pilot G2 Pens
  • 10-pack Yoobi Mini-Highlighters

Runner Up Prize

  • Two (2) Miliko Saddle Stiched Dot Grid Notebooks
  • Bullet Journals for Beginners by Karen Lancaster

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Use the widget above to enter. You can enter multiple ways, some entries are worth more points, and some entries you can repeat!

All The Rest

I’ve been feeling really burned out lately. My work schedule is now Friday through Monday, ten hour shifts, plus usually an extra 8-hour shift on Tuesday or Thursday. I might opt to go back to third shift at the soonest opportunity. Why can’t I just stay home and draw guitar playing robots all day?

It sounds like I’m going to try for October 14 to have a studio open house here in DeKalb. That’s less time to prepare than I would like. It would great to do at least two more silkscreen prints before then, but time is wasting. One would be an event poster to have for sale at the open house. I’ve got a musician lined up and a possible bartender.

That’s about it. I’m going to try and clean the house a little bit and then maybe draw some robots or skulls or robot skulls.


7 thoughts on “Vari-Dot Grid Research and Bullet Journal Giveaway

  1. Mike

    This is a great idea and hope you go forward with crowdfunding. Check out to find solid US printers that don’t require 1000 MOQ.

  2. Martin

    …No great idea like this comes about without pain…I for one appreciate your effort, and would purchase a notebook, should you ever print them…All the Best…

  3. Ashley Evans

    This would be great for other poets, such as myself, as well as for planning and notetaking! Crossing my fingers for a win! Would totally support crowdfunding opportunities.


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