The Design Process: The Clifton Notebook

The Design Process: The Clifton Notebook

In 2023, our founder Sidonie embarked on a mission to add a new notebook to the Papersmiths collection. Following the resounding success of our beloved paperback notebooks, there was a growing demand for a harder-wearing option. A keepsake. From this, our new notebook was born. As a homage to our roots, Sid named the new notebook after Clifton, the place where Papersmiths was founded. Explore the journey below to discover the inspiration, challenges, and pure delight that shaped the creation of the  Papersmiths Clifton Notebook.

The challenge was to create a notebook that would complement our existing collection. People were asking for sturdier options, something they could treasure, so we knew from the outset that we wanted to go with a hardcover, book cloth style. 

As for the paper, we needed to test the waters, so we stuck with ruled paper, seeing as it's our crowd-pleaser. For the paper stock, we chose a premium, fountain-friendly paper, which Sid tested with every pen under the sun to ensure its quality. It was important that there were enough pages to give the notebook longevity, but also ensure it was lightweight. It was an essential that you could easy to carry around with you in your bag, so we didn't want it to be too bulky. 192 pages was the perfect fit.

 Notebook Design Process

Sid’s favourite part of designing the Clifton was choosing the materials and colours. It was like piecing together a puzzle.

“The real excitement came from picking out all the little details – the foiling, fabrics, the bookmark ribbons. I even asked my family for their thoughts. For me, the part of the design process that takes the most time is selecting the colours and making sure that everything clicks. It’s also the most fun!"  - Sid

Headband on notebook design

"A material that didn’t make the cut was a headband which alternated between a raspberry pink and a minty green. It reminded me of a mineral called watermelon tourmaline. I’ve shown a photo of the headband above on the left alongside watermelon tourmaline depicted as an illustration on a poster. I picked it up in an antique shop and it shows various American minerals and gems. I hope to use this in a future project though." - Sid

clifton notebook design

Inspiration was sourced from unexpected places, like an old radiator manual from the '50s. 

"I found this book in a second hand book shop in Bridport, Dorset. I knew that one day it would inspire a project, but it took ten years of it sitting on my shelves before that happened! I fell for the firey combination of the burnt orange leather and golden foil. Instead of leather, I used a linen book cloth to avoid animal products and keep things as sustainable as possible.” - Sid

Notebook design inspirations

"I collected objects to build up possible colour palettes for my notebooks. These inspired the choice of materials. Pictured above on the left is what I gathered together for the Blaze Orange colour way. Crocheted squares, the radiator book that inspired the project, various swatches of orange paper. " - Sid

Notebook design


It was vital that the notebook was kept minimal. Covers are quite often covered in fussy design, with quotes and text taking the spotlight. It was important to avoid distracting from the details of the materials or dictating what the pages should be used for.

"Subtlety is key for our products. All of the products in our collection feature understated branding which allows the special materials we use to sing. The front cover of Clifton is discreetly embellished with a thumbprint-sized monogram - and nothing else. We’re not telling you what to do with this notebook. It’s yours. You’re free to use it however you like." - Sid 

We based our colour palette on what customers continuously love, our colour trend research and our favourite brand colours. The classic colours such as Myrtle Green, Mulberry Red and Lunar Blue ended up being the most popular.

"Before sampling, I made miniature versions of the cover designs using foil and ribbon detail to get an idea of how the finished notebooks would look in their palettes." - Sid

Notebook Colour Design

It was also essential to us that everything had to be British made, to fit with the traditional book style. We found a 104-year-old book bindery in the South East of England, just 40 miles from our Chelsea store, it was the perfect location.

"I sampled the notebook with trusted suppliers to ensure the quality was top-notch. Look carefully at the spine on the finished notebook, and you’ll spot the head and tail bands, adding extra durability to the construction and a flash of colour."  - Sid 

papersmiths founder with notebooks

With the Papersmiths Clifton Notebook, Sid's managed to seamlessly blend traditional bookmaking with modern design, creating a must-have for stationery fanatics everywhere.

Each page is just waiting for your next big idea. Shop the collection here.

Clifton Notebooks

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