How to Create and Maintain a Personal Journal
November 5, 1996
Throughout this website you'll
see icons like the one to the left. It signals an invitation for
you to solve a problem, create a problem, or work with some
concept in your personal journal. This page describes what a
personal journal is and how to keep one.
What is a Personal Journal and Why Should You
Many Knowledge Workers in the MG Taylor network maintain their
own Journals. These are more than diaries... another name for
them might be "Personal Invention Journals." Like the
ones that Leonardo DaVinci and Thomas Edison kept. Or like an
artist's sketch book. It's a place to record great ideas or
plans. It's also a place to wrestle with understanding complex
subjects. And it's a log of the evolution of our ideas over the
Our journals are filled with drawings. [click here for a few samples] We call them
annotated diagrams. While most diaries are filled with paragraphs
of text and may have a picture or two in the margins, our
journals place the diagrams front and center. The text--labels,
headlines, captions, lists--supports the diagrams.
To create and solve complex problems we often need to see the
situation from many vantage points. Sometimes we need to talk it
out or act it out, or write it down. Sometimes we need to picture
it in two dimensions on paper--as a drawing.
Materials and Stuff
A good artist doesn't need a whole bunch of tools. Most can
work miracles with a simple pencil. But, hey, who said we're good
artists!? Buy a bunch of tools and play with them until you find
a set you like to use.
There are so many tools for creating art and so many ways of
using them that we only touch on a few here.
In general, you'll be more pleased with the results if you use higher quality
paper and writing instruments. But it's not necessary to spend a bundle. Start
with these items that you can purchase from an art supply store or crafts store.
Or order them from one of our knOwhere stores (888.363.2002):
||A soft drawing pencil--HB or 2B. You
can do the entire Journal in pencil if you wish. Try an
assortment of hard and soft leads.
|A Sharpie fine point. You can also get
the extra and ultra fine point pens. They're great for
headlines, borders and outlining.
|Calligraphy markers have a chiseled
point that's useful for headlines and titles as well as
for traditional calligraphy.
|Try a few Micron Pigma pens. They're a
little pricy but you can get some wonderfully fine lines
with them that are great for detail work.
|Don't forget color! Try a set of 12 or
24 artists (soft lead) colored pencils. We recommend
either Berol Prismacolor or Faber Design brands.
|If you have some cash left over, try
some permanent art markers. Again, Berol and Design both
make good, non-toxic pens. Get some greys to use to add
shade and shadow to your diagrams.
You'll also need an eraser. Try a kneaded eraser instead of an
Buy a spiral bound or hard bound pad of drawing paper like
Strathmore's 9x12 Premium Recycled Sketch. If you have to skimp
on something, don't skimp on the paper.
How to Begin
- Leave two blank pages in the front of your Journal for a
title page and a table of contents.
- Some of the writing instruments use inks or bases that
bleed through paper. Use a blank piece of paper as a
backing divider between the page you're working on and
the one behind it.
- You can orient your Journal any way you wish: vertically,
horizontally or at an angle.
- Experiment! Don't worry about "ruining" a page.
Composing and Templating a Page
||Title each page. It's
hard to remember what the page was about a year from now.
Number each page. Put the number and title into
your table of contents.
You may choose to put a border on each
page, or let the paper be the border.
Date each page.
Building a Page Using an Annotated Diagram
Frequently we begin design work with words:
memos, outlines, bullets. Then we may add clip art, icons or
diagrams to support the words. That's OK, but sometimes we need
to draw a picture that captures the whole idea, and then label
the picture and write text to support the picture. That's what
annotated diagrams are all about.
Think of diagrams having four building blocks:
Frames. Frames are just ways of marking
off territory. Stuff happens in frames. If you're
diagramming a floor plan, then each room may be a frame.
The border you draw on you page is a frame. If you're
drawing a living cell, then the cell wall may be a frame.
Actors. These are the major components of
your diagram. Each box in a flow chart is an actor. Stick
figures or other drawings representing people are actors.
Trees, circles, flowers, clouds. These are all actors.
And the actors live in frames.
Connectors. Actors, well,... they act.
And they act upon and with and through one another.
Connectors show which actors have relationships with one
another. Two boxes in a flow chart may be connected with
a line. Mom and Dad may be connected with a line. Frames
and connectors are both ways of showing how actors are
related to one another.
Annotations. Finally, add notes, labels,
phrases, paragraphs that describe the frames, actors and
Some Examples of Using the Tools
(None of these trees were created by
artists--anyone can do this level of work!)
This tree was drawn entirely with pencils
(4B, HB). The light spots on the tops of the leaf masses
were created using an eraser to remove the graphite. The
dark on the bottoms of the leaf masses were created using
the darker pencil (4B).
This tree was first lightly sketched in
with pencil. When the Journalist was happy with the
sketch (after some erasures) the outlines were drawn in
with felt tip markers (like the Sharpie mentioned above).
The dark areas on the leaf masses were made with a warm
grey marker (30%) like the Berol or Design Art Markers.
The dark area on the trunk of the tree was done with a
50% warm grey marker.
This tree was first sketched as in the
previous example, using pencil. A fine point marker like
the Micron Pigma mentioned above was used to outline the
branches, trunk and leaf masses. The grey marker was
applied just as in example 2. Then colored pencils were
used to color the trunk and leaf masses.
The Journalist used only colored pencils to
create this tree. Note how many colors other than green
were used. The underside of the leaf masses are shaded
with blues and purples. The tops are shaded with yellows,
light blues and light greens. The trunk has red and brown
on the light side, and dark blue and red on the dark
side. The streaky look was created by lightly rubbing an
eraser over the finished drawing.
Resources and References
There are many, many excellent books about
drawing on the market. One excellent book is The Complete
Sketch, by Robert S. Oliver.
copyright © 1997, MG Taylor Corporation.
All rights reserved
terms and conditions