Brooklyn Artist Confronts Blank Page Terror With Doodle-Friendly “Noted” Book

Adam Turnbull’s new book looks at how all the things we come across in our daily lives can inspire design decisions.


Brooklyn artist Adam Turnbull used to have an orderly system in place for organizing ideas: Clean sheet of notebook paper. Felt-tipped Marvy Uchida Pen. Go! But Turnbull got bored with pristine parchment so he began scribbling his thoughts on randomly selected scraps of paper.


Now, he’s compiled some of his favorite found items in a new book Noted. Subtitled “A Journal to Explore How We Shape, Create, and Develop Ideas,” the softcover volume uses facsimile napkins, match boxes, bingo cards, and other bits of ephemera to make a visual end run around the terrors of the blank page.

“Originally, I made little books for documentation purposes so I wouldn’t lose these bits of paper,” explains Turnbull, whose illustration and graphic design clients have included Cirque du Soleil, Samsung, Visa, Wrangler Jeans, Adidas, and the U.N. “That took me to this place of thinking about idea generation and how different things we come across in our daily lives can inspire our design decisions. For example, if I’m at a restaurant and I take the matchbook, those matches might give me an idea for a logo.”

A native Australian and self-described hoarder, Turnbull culled many of the vintage artifacts found in Noted from his own oddball archive. “For years,” he says, “I collected the weirdest things, so when I moved here four years ago I brought suitcases filled with things like sea shells and old envelopes and little plaques and what not. The rest of the stuff in the book I picked up at estate sales and flea markets.”

Scribble Now, Think Later

In addition to the visual prompts, Noted includes inspirational factoids–musician Richard Berry wrote the lyrics for raunch rock classic “Louie Louie” on toilet paper–and motivational quotes including Nick Cave nugget “To act on a bad idea is better than to not act at all.”

Turnbull, who also makes thermochromic paintings that change color with room temperature, hopes his book kickstarts readers’ imaginations, even if the end-result is less than earth-shattering. “It doesn’t really matter if the idea is great, at least it’s something, and then you feel good enough to move on to the next idea,” he explains. “The main thing I want people to get out of the book is to spark a visual conversation within themselves, whether it’s a scribble or a drawing or doodle. Because I think we’ve all been there: You start a new project and open up your notebook and go, ‘Oh shit, I have nothing.’ I believe if you have already something to look at, it can lead you to many different places.”

About the author

Los Angeles freelancer Hugh Hart covers movies, television, art, design and the wild wild web (for San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and New York Times). A former Chicagoan, Hugh also walks his Afghan Hound many times a day and writes twisted pop songs.