Justin Avery, the man behind Back Pocket Notebooks...
Why did you start designing notebooks? How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always loved notebooks. When I was in high school I had a little black notebook that I would carry everywhere with me and jot down just about anything and everything. Song lyrics, poems, theories about life and space… EVERYTHING. In my 20’s I started doing a bit of traveling and once again used a notebook to capture the adventures each day, even when they were boring days just lazing about a hostel.
By the time I’d reached my late 20’s I had moved into the web and spent most of my time building digital things. I wanted to combine my love for notebooks with my desire to create something more tangible… and thus BackPocket Notebooks was born.
The move into creating a notebook business was greatly helped with my other passion of building websites following the responsive design approach.
What’s responsive design, and what does it have to do with notebooks?
Responsive web design, or RWD, is the approach to building websites that work just as well on your phone as they do on your giant desktop screen and everything in between.
Remember when you used to have all those m.sites.com? Well, RWD allowed you to create a single website that would work seamlessly across any digital device.
In 2011 I started a weekly newsletter about responsive design and over the years it has built up to a large community of subscribers — I saw that as the opportunity to turn my hand back to a physical product which is where the Responsive Web Design Notebooks came from — it presented me with an already engaged audience that I could tap into.
The thing that worked the best is that even though the web is a digital thing, we always start off designing a website with sketches using pencil and paper, so it made the perfect match.
Who are your notebooks for?
I’d love to say they’re for everyone and anyone, but the fact is that they’re made with a more expensive stock of covers and inner pages then you find in most notebooks meaning that the cost of the notebooks themselves reflect that.
The notebooks are for anyone that loves the feel of a great quality product in their hands.
Aside from that they’re also there to educate the owners around the covers. Our RWD notebooks teach you about web design, Space notebooks teach you about travelling to Mars, our Guitar notebooks cover chord charts and scales… you get the idea.
How do you use notebooks?
I go meta with my notebooks.
I use the notebooks to design new notebooks. They’re literally the perfect size for the job, and our Plain Kraft sets mean I can sketch out cover art on the notebooks themselves too.
I have an every day cary notebook as well. I work in three directions…
- back-to-front contain a bullet to-do list
- front-to-back contains article and side project ideas fleshed out a little
- middle-to-out are website sketches so I can pull them out and share.
What’s next for Back Pocket?
I’ve been slowly getting them into more and more physical stationery stores (small boutique stores at the moment) which I hope to continue to do. It gives me an opportunity to travel around the UK to smaller towns I might not have visited otherwise.
I’m always keen to expand the product range. The Solar System set finished shortly, and I will be adding to the Cricket set with 2 more sports (Baseball and Football).
There maybe a line of pencils in the works as well… more on that later.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just a thank you to all the readers that have used and fed back on the notebooks. I love to hear how people are using it and anything that people want to see in the future.
Thank you also so much to yourself and Stuart for reaching out with these questions. It’s an honour to be included on the Pocket Notebooks site along with so many amazing Notebook brands. You do an amazing job, keep it up.
Getting to know you!
Describe yourself in three objects
Notebook, Notes App or both?
BackPocket Notebook, and OmniFocus.
What’s in your pencil case right now?
Baron Fig Archer pencil, and their Green Squire pen. Lovely.
Pencil, ballpoint, gel, or fountain pen?
Ballpoint (the Squire), closely followed by the pencil.
Which three famous people, (living or dead) would you like to have dinner with?
- Jim Morrison
- Antonio Gaudi
- Leonardo DiVinci
What’s the best thing about the place you live?
- Green fields and countryside.
What’s your most treasured possession?
- my 13” Mac laptop (my most treasured things are my wife and two kids but I don’t class them as ‘possessions’ ;)
Where are some of your favourite Stationery spots on the Internet?
- Well aside from Pocketnotebooks.co.uk and Backpocket.co of course… my favourite stores are Field Notes and Baron Fig.
Field notes do some wonderful work around their products, one of my favourites was the moon scene they created for a product video for the Lunacy set - https://fieldnotesbrand.com/products/lunacy. I was lucky enough to meet Aaron Draplin at an event recently and it was clear to see where Field Notes gets it’s quality from… what an amazing person Aaron is!
Baron Fig also do a wonderful job of their product pages with some beautiful photography and use of illustrations - https://www.baronfig.com/pages/Vanguard