I don’t know anyone who doesn’t keep a notebook of some kind. From artists and designers to writers, musicians, comedians, and entrepreneurs (even my businessman dad keeps a stack of yellow legal pads for his ideas), there isn’t a profession that can’t benefit from a little pen-to-paper action. Whether the founders of The Sketchbook Project knew it or not, they were tapping into a universally shared practice when they began their crowd-sourced library of sketchbooks in Atlanta, Georgia back in 2006. Now, nearly 10 years later, they’ve received submissions from over 30,000 creative folks who’ve sent them in from nearly 150 different countries. When the books aren’t making the rounds in the mobile library, they’re housed at the Brooklyn Art Library in Williamsburg, an exhibition space and reading room open to the public.
If you can’t make it to Brooklyn, or you’d prefer not to wade through wall-to-wall bookcases for a diamond in the rough, pick up a copy of The Sketchbook Project World Tour book, (out now from Princeton Architectural Press). In it, the authors have have combed through all the sketchbooks and selected their favorites organized by continent, with special sections devoted to contributors from the U.S., Argentina, Sweden, Croatia, South Africa, Dubai, Japan, and Australia.
Though the design of the book is something of a missed opportunity (not that it ought to mimic a Moleskine or anything, but the bar is automatically raised for any publication that champions creativity), the project itself is a prime example of how a small-scale endeavor can garner global attention through an innovative exhibition model—in this case, a permanent space with a mobile library, traveling shows, and now a book. And there’s no doubt that as The Sketchbook Project amasses more books, they’ll invent ever more creative ways of bringing the exciting, tactile experience of opening a stranger’s sketchbook and discovering what’s inside, out to the public. For those who want to add their own sketchbook to the collection, buy the book to get inspired and nab a 25 percent code for the entry fee.