My name is Aron Fay. During the day, I am a graphic designer at Pentagram Design in New York City. After hours and on weekends, I work on my own independent projects such as this.
Five years ago my boss at Pentagram, Michael Bierut, handed me a composition book, and I've been fascinated by these utilitarian and ubiquitous notebooks ever since.
Through extensive research, I've learned that, interestingly enough, these notebooks haven't changed all that much since they came into being centuries ago. And that they have an 180+ year history of being produced using the most economical manufacturing methods available.
With all the new advances in the fields of papermaking, printing, and binding since the 1800s, I was interested in what it would be like to create a notebook that uses the new printing and binding technologies and the highest quality materials possible, while still maintaining the nostalgic pattern that we all know and love.
That's how 'comp' was born. An elegant, sophisticated, and long-lasting version of the classic composition notebook.
"When you look at [comp], immediately it’s recognizable. It reminds us of something that all of us have seen all our lives. And yet, it’s taken all the characteristics of that object and made them the best they can be." —Michael Bierut, Partner, Pentagram
comp first started as a curiosity, then turned into a research project, and finally, (admittedly) into a bit of an obsession. I've spoken with many experts in fields such as paper marbling, book binding and design, have visited rare book libraries, and poured through many stationery catalogs trying to document the history of the composition notebook.
The pattern on the composition notebook was an industrialized version of the traditional art of marbling, a process that was used to make decorative papers for book coverings and end papers. Paper marbling began thousands of years ago––in the tenth century in China and later in Japan during the twelfth century.
The marbling process remains more or less the same today: It essentially involves dropping different colored pigments into a bath of water (typically with size added), and working them into a unique pattern with different instruments and brushes. Once you have the desired pattern, a piece of paper is rested on top and absorbs the pattern to create a marbled paper. Meanwhile, in the fifteenth century in Turkey, a different type of marbling was being developed called Ebru, which eventually made its way to Europe.
Around the early nineteenth century (1820s–1830s), a new industrialized type of paper marbling began in France and Germany. This 'pseudo-marbling' process, a term coined by marbling expert Richard J. Wolfe, aimed to create marbled patterns using industrial processes––it was here that a new type of pattern was created in Germany, called the 'agate' pattern. Over time, these chemically made agate papers started to be used on more and more cheap blank notebooks, and the pattern evolved slightly into the printed composition notebook pattern we know and love today.
A cultural icon
Throughout the years, the composition notebook has become a sort of cultural icon. Its unique design has been imitated, reproduced, shared, and worshiped; making a name for itself inside the art and design community and beyond. Strangely there’s no one producer of these notebooks since the pattern is not copyrighted and exists in many unique variations.
Over the years, the composition notebook's black and white marbled pattern has inspired and been used by famous artists, writers, and designers, like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ettorre Sottsaas Jr., Roy Lichtenstein, and Michael Bierut.
Why recreate the composition notebook?
Composition notebooks, as they are now, have become an important piece of American culture. That said, they fall into a category of objects created for utility, that focus less on longevity and more on economy.
As a graphic designer, printmaker, and bookbinder I wanted to create a notebook that uses today's finest available processes, materials, and design to create something that will be kept, cherished, and used for years to come.
An exposed spine using the best quality Italian cialux cloth, instead of tape for added durability.
Covers that are made of thick wrapped boards for added durability and rigidity. The cover shown left is a traditonal notebook cover. The cover shown at right is comp's thicker covers.
Layflat binding allows the notebook to open completely flat, which makes for easier use.
Italian micro-embossed cover paper, which is durable and feels much more premium than a traditional notebook cover.
Color dyed black end sheets for clean inside and outside back covers.
A beautiful, unique, custom marbled cover pattern, optimized to balance light and dark perfectly, with every shape in the pattern individually placed for a unified look throughout.
A redesigned offset label that balances perfectly with the black binding at the left edge and allows you to write your name or other information you choose on the front cover.
Ultra white interior paper that is substantially thicker than a traditional composition notebook, allowing for less show through back to back between pages. These uncoated sheets work exceptionally well with all sorts of pens and pencils.
Both unlined as well as lined versions of the notebook. The lined version utilizes 3/8” ruling in which the length of the lines have been optimized for the best writing experience. Thin black lines are also used instead of traditional blue lines for a more streamlined look.
The lined version also has unique header ruling that help provide hierarchy as well as a clear way to track page to page.
7.5" x 9.75" upright
148 pages (74 leaves)
Custom designed pattern
Offset printed covers (with double hit of black ink for extra contrast)
2mm wrapped hardcovers wrapped with fine micro-embossed cover paper
Boards on, layflat binding
Square back with sewn and glued signatures
120 gsm ultra white, smooth, uncoated interior paper 155 whiteness (CIE), 96% opacity, 122 brightness (ISO 2470/D65 %), 150 Roughness (Bendtsen, ml/min)
Color-through dyed black endsheets
Black Italian cialux cloth
Lined version printed offset with stochastic screening for fine reproduction of feint lines
All materials used are FSC certified
Printed and bound in Italy
Lined or unlined
All lined or all unlined
Plus free tote bag
All lined or all unlined
Plus free tote bag
Since the composition notebook is such a ubiquitous object and has been used by so many different people in so many different communities, I thought Kickstarter would be a perfect place to bring comp to life and share it with as many people as possible.
With your help, I'll be able to pay for the manufacturing and shipping of comp, along with compensating all the different components that have helped bring this project to life.
The Kickstarter goal includes every single cost involved in making this project happen:
Tote bag manufacturing
Shipping the books to the US fulfillment house
Payment processing fees
Edo Van Breemen
Special thanks to Michael Bierut, Caroline Weaver, Paul Vogel, Richard J. Wolfe, Sid Berger, Chela Metzger, Hamish Smyth, Jesse Reed, Britt Cobb, Meg Miller and to the countless others who have helped with along the way.
Risks and challenges
comp has already been fully designed and we've gone through several rounds of protoyping. Our prototypes use the exact materials and printing methods that will be used for our larger production run if our campaign is funded.
The biggest risk lies in the production of the books. However, since we have produced several rounds of prototypes (as well as many books and notebooks in the past) we feel confident that we will be able to offer this book at the highest quality possible.
We will be a part of every single part of the process: working closely with our binding, printing, and fulfillment partners; reviewing additional proofs of the book; being on press at the printing plant; and checking the binding of these books.
We have also produced prototypes of our tote bag, using actual materials and printing processes. Again, we feel confident in the prototypes we have done to date and will work closely with our tote bag manufacturer and label maker to bring these products to life.
Since these books and tote bags are high production objects, they take time to print, bind, finish, sew etc. We plan on updating backers regularly with each step of the process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)