Daddy, where do Field Notes come from?

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If you’re a designer, or a writer, or a meticulous note-taker, or a collector of small brown objects, you’ve probably seen the tiny notebooks named Field Notes.

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Field Notes have become extremely popular among people who write and draw things—there’s even a Flickr group to prove it.

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So popular, in fact, that they’ve been spotted in the hands of more than a few famous writers and drawers, including the late screenwriter John Hughes. In last month’s Vanity Fair a story about Hughes included a photo of his desk stacked high with tiny notebooks. Right there on top is a Field Notes, tucked next to a copy of the original Breakfast Club script, then named Detention.

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Last week I went to Chicago to find out where Field Notes came from, which is a little place I like to call Coudal. They make lots of other stuff, too, like a website, and a nifty way to make custom CD/DVD cases, a Field-Tested Books book, and a great way to waste away your Friday afternoons.

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All of this, including Field Notes, are packed and shipped straight to your door by this strapping young man. Or, if you prefer to pick up your Field Notes in person, as I did, you can use the Will-Call window (likely manned by the same strapping young man).

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The little note-taking wonders now come in different editions, all designed by Aaron Draplin, who lives in Portland where he also designs other, larger things.

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I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the newest Field Notes edition, which quite literally go back to the Field Notes’ roots. Tiny notebooks like this were given out as promotional pieces by seed companies, so farmers could use them to jot down notes about their crops while they were—yes!—in the field. These bright yellow notebooks are named Packet of Sunshine and they include marigold seeds. I suggest you order a bushel immediately.

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While at Coudal, I also got meet someone extremely special who works there: My former UnBeige co-editor, Steve Delahoyde. Unbelievably, it was first time we’d ever met. For some reason I thought he’d be taller.

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So goes the contemporary definition of “co-worker”: We worked alongside each other every single day, populating a site with our ramblings, coordinating content and trading witticisms, for two years starting in 2006, yet as of March 2010 we had still never met in person. We took a photo to prove it, then we planned to see each other again in 2014.

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  • http://www.zulkey.com/ Steve's Wife

    Alyssa I want to know what you did to get Steve to smile like a non-jerk.

  • Alissa

    Funny, all I did was say, “How's that beautiful wife of yours?” and he just beamed in this lovely non-jerk way.

  • http://www.zulkey.com/ Steve's Wife

    Watch out because now I'm going to marry YOU!

  • http://www.fastcompany.com/ David Lidsky

    Fun story! I just picked up some Field Notes in my neighborhood. Beats Moleskine every day

  • http://www.extanz.com/ Laura

    Although the information about the Field Notes is interesting, my favorite part of this entry is that you recognized the original Breakfast Club book from a photo….

    Nice blog.

  • http://www.extanz.com/ Laura

    Although the information about the Field Notes is interesting, my favorite part of this entry is that you recognized the original Breakfast Club book from a photo….

    Nice blog.

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