Your way of making "a design book" for your craft, painting reference files, etc.?

1. I've tried several ways, some work better than others. I wondered how you organize your reference files if you're a designer, artist, craftsperson, writer, you know any of the inventing genes that force us to 'make stuff' whether on paper, via electronics, or in other mediums

2. Some people call these idea files
I tend to, as a writer, call mine 'scrip...' mainly my own writing scrapwork that might have one sentence out of 5 billion worth

3. i also keep a color reference file for my painting and crafts of the hands... in my heritage, ceremonial beading, and carved, painted leather.

4. I'm trying to think through right now about taking all those 8.5x11 pages and clipping out only the usually two square inches that caught my eye, usually in an advertisment for something or other, and glue those to index cards, punch and O ring them in packets according to a theme. Sort of like Pantone decks, or paper samples. My issue is trying to get things to not take up so MUCH room. Geez.

5. I wondered if anyone tried Circa disks to organize a clip file, or if that becomes too cumbersome if there are lots of pages.

6. I would love to know how you organize your 'idea' files. You know, so you can, um , FIND the pages youre looking for WHEN you need them? lol. I KNOW you know what I mean... and I sympathize deeply

thank you in advance,

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less trouble = more useful


I don't have a whole lot of comments on the whole filing thing. I try very hard to not have papers if I can possibly help it.

I have one really big exception--recipes.

At one point, I wanted to have a 3x5 card file for my recipes like my mom does. I wanted it in my kitchen, nice and small so it wouldn't take up the whole counter when I wanted to use a recipe. So I started typing up all my recipes or reformatting them if they were already electronic, so they'd print out on 3x5s. And I printed them out, made some tabs, stuck them in the box, etc.

The box was nice--I used it a little. But what I discovered is that 3x5 doesn't really fit my life well when it comes to recipes. When I want a recipe, especially a new one, I go to my favorite recipe site (, search one up, and print it on FULL SIZE paper (that's already in the printer). At that point I'm usually in a hurry, so speed is primary. Then I use that paper in the kitchen, and if I like it I keep it. Sometimes I make notes on modifications to the recipe, right there on the original. There's usually a lot of white space left, so plenty of room for comments and tweaks.

So for me, the 3x5 thing is out the window. It's nice, it's small and handy, etc. But it just doesn't fit my life or how I grab new recipes and use them.

So now, I just leave it all letter size and I've made a circa notebook to keep them in, one with transparent covers so I can slip the current recipe on top, under the cover, to keep it clean.

Anyway, kernel of advice is not to make your collection/processing too fussy. Less trouble = more useful and more likely to be 'current' and 'maintained'.


digital and analogue "design" books--

archangel, this is a topic that has so many approaches and needs to fit the way you work.

I come from a background (sculpture) that trained me to always keep a journal (sketchbook) and archive EVERYTHING in it. My drawing teacher said: "If you don't write down your ideas, you won't get any more." And I and my foundation design colleagues at the university I teach at also require our students to keep journals. These journals archive ideas, materials, working process, etc.

That's all fine and good until:
you have years and years of journals and you live and work in small spaces
you are working on projects that continue on/get lost and found/expand over a period of time
you also write a lot (and my writing an integral part of my sculpture)
you want to start searching by themes

For all these reasons, I did two big things: I got comfortable with "tagging" with keywords (starting with my digital photo collection) and then I started a digital journal project about a year ago. It's a long process, but basically I keep digital copies of articles and scan everything that isn't already digitized. I use a Fuji SnapScan scanner and YEP software (like iTunes for .pdfs) so the scanning part is pretty painless. And then I tag away.

And then my writing "snippets" also get thrown into this digital journal.

My tags are a combination of project names as well as more general categories.

I recycle tons and tons of paper I used to keep and my physical files are much much smaller and growing smaller daily. (I also have multiple computer backup systems).

I throw what used to be my "daily pages" in my journal into an electronic journal. I'm using Mori, but I also like Mac Journal (you can tell I'm a Mac person, and I don't know the PC side.) I do love that I can archive images and web links easily as well as my writing and comments and articles.

I still have a paper journal, a Circa notebook, where I draw and process. Then I scan from that what I want to archive.

I use Circa notebooks for all my work and art-work projects because I can easily divide them up, add to them, rearrange them and I don't feel at all dismayed about "tearing out" and throwing away (recycling) pages.

I couldn't live without Circa notebooks for immediate, non-computer access.

And, because I'm also a tactile learner, I have lots of sample decks, pin up boards, etc, depending on my current projects.

Your idea of culling your inspiration file for snippets of the actual inspiration is, well, inspired, because it will usable and compact.

My system works well for me. If my artist friend starts talking, as she did, about a metal shovel cut out like lace, I say, I've seen that work and I have it here somewhere and actually find it after a little rooting and identify the name of the artist.

Likewise, if I want to search my writing for the word "thread" that's easy in Mori or any of the journal apps.

I keep a separate database for things I have to access like account information and software serial numbers and all that stuff.

I hope this helps a little.