Happy Friday! Today’s Get Inspired post is a very special one for me. Last fall, I featured Print Pinball, the business and postcard making side of Pinball Publishing. I was sad to learn that Pinball decided to stop producing their cool cards, but I was overjoyed to see that they are focusing on their way-cool book printing skills with Scout Books. In today’s post we have a great interview with Taryn Cowart, a project coordinator over at Scout Books, as well as a sweeeeeeeet giveaway. But first, movie time!
So first of all, why choose Scout Books? One, because I love notebooks. Two, because Scout Books is a Portland, OR based company that has a love for print and a strong desire to do print right. From their 100% recycled paper sourced from paper mills in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest, to their use of vegetable-based inks milled and mixed right in Portland, Scout Books are as eco-sensible as they are amazingly designed.
Take a trip through their bookshop, to see all the fun stuff those paper lovin’ folks are making up their in Portland. Besides the books that Scout creates, they have a ton of books co-designed with some of the best creatives out there. They even have their Good Ink series, which features classic short stories and amazing drawn illustrations.
Now, about that interview. I asked Taryn a couple of questions and she graciously answered. I think you’ll love what she has to say about paper and Scout Books love for it.
1. With all the electronic gadgets we all have, why is paper still so popular?
Good question! We’ve found that the more time we spend in an online world the more we crave interactions with well-crafted physical objects.
Little printed books and notebooks are also often just as effective as digital tools (or more so) for many tasks. Writing is so pleasurable, and note-taking on a digital device can be cumbersome. Sketching feels more natural and satisfying on paper. Content that is contained in a Scout Book, literary or otherwise, can be carried in your pocket, and always works without a battery or an internet connection. And print is beautiful, which is not an insignificant part of the Scout Book’s appeal.
We see the Scout Book as a wonderful tool that bridges the analog and digital, and we agree with the statement that Rob Walker shared on Design Observer last year, “The digital does not annihilate the analog. It glorifies it.”
2. Your prices are pretty reasonable. How do you keep the costs so low?
To use the wise words of our friend Kate Bingaman Burt: RULES, RULES, RULES! We believe 100% in setting up rules and systems for every part of production. Rules are totally the secret to our success and to our pricing.
The core Scout Book formula (3.5″ x 5″, 32 pages, 100% recycled paper with a chipboard cover) is designed for efficiency in production. Scout Books are manufactured from one cover and one 32-page signature, and are printed, scored, folded, stitched, trimmed, and corner-rounded in our Southeast Portland headquarters. Simplifying this process, as well as limiting the amount of custom options, means that we can be super efficient and pay close attention to the quality of each and every Scout Book.
3. What’s the most inventive use of your books that you know of?
We are constantly inspired by our clients and the inventive ways they’ve used the Scout Book format. Here are a few of our favorite projects:
Election Design Field Guides: A successfully funded Kickstarter campaign that aims to improve the election process through the design of straightforward, trustworthy ballots. A collaboration between Oxide Design, Dana Chisnell and Whitney Quesenbery, the project intentionally chose the Scout Book format from the get-go because the small size forced the content to be succinct. The goal was for the guides to be simple, direct and clear.
Google: A Scout Book that could be used to record experiences as part of a concert series that promoted Google Hotspot. Each one came with a download code for a special compilation album that was curated for the event.
Threadless: A series of notebooks that utilize designs from the Threadless community. Their brilliant crowd sourcing system for apparel graphics was transferred to notebook covers.
Wee Gallery Activity books: A set of adorable Scout Books that encourages children to draw their own clothing designs on foxes, bunnies and pigs.
Pocket Wireframe Notebook: A pocket sized wireframe tool for developing apps from Pocket Wires.
Megabolt: A group of creative people who better kids lives through art. For every Megabolt sketchbook sold, they give one to a child in a hospital.La Cocina: A festival passport to guide visitors and help them record their tasting notes at the San Francisco Street Festival.
Pielab Cookbook: A delicious pocket sized Pie cookbook.
4. You have a ton of collaborators and clients. What lessons have you learned when collaborating?
Yes, we like to say that we’re a “Collaborative Brand.” We absolutely love collaboration and it is critical to the success and momentum of everything we do. It’s part of the mentality of our entire team that we love to work with other people, and sincerely believe that everyone, every business, and every institution could benefit from making their own Scout Book.
Our brand is strengthened through working well with others, and we’re deeply invested in the success of each Scout Book project. We’ve found that making friends, sharing ideas and generally being advocates for our clients gives them the ultimate service—and is really just a lot more fun and rewarding for us!
That being said, we have learned some good lessons along the way. Years of operating a printing and publishing company has trained us to provide very clear parameters when working with other people. Rules help projects succeed. The goal is to exceed everyone’s expectations and that is much easier when you have clearly defined the parameters of working together. The Scout Book format makes it really easy to collaborate—since it’s so efficient, we can be very affordable, and that means people can experiment with artwork and content, but we don’t deviate from the core formula of a Scout Book.
5. What’s your best selling product to date?
Our top-selling retail product is the DIY Blank Notebook 3-Pack. These are simply the best tool for quick and easy note-taking, sketching, and list-making.
Our top Make Your Own products are Notebooks with Black ink and Blank interiors. You really can’t beat black ink on chipboard; it always looks good.
Thanks Taryn! There is a lot to love about Scout Books. It will be interesting to see who they collaborate with in the future. In the meantime, would you like to win a fab set of Scout’s Rainbow Pack of Composition Notebooks?
This amazing set contains 12 of their signature Scout Books Composition Notebooks in every color of the rainbow—plus a few fun extras! To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is:
- Follow Scout Books on Twitter.
- Leave a comment below, letting us know what you plan to do with your massive haul of little colorful notebooks.
I will pick a winner on Monday, February 18 at 5:00 pm HST. A big ‘Thank You!’ to Scout Books and Taryn Cowart. Have fun!