Our Spaces for Ideas StoryBook is Finally Here!

Spaces for Ideas
Sep 06, 2011

At the end of December last year, we said that our StoryBook sketchbook product was going to be put on hold indefinitely. However, in our pillar article: 9 Lessons from a Design Entrepreneur, I shared that all I really needed was a two month break before I jumped right back into this self-funded project! Not settling for no, I decided that shipping and getting this product out into the market was the most important thing for my fledgling Spaces for Ideas brand.

The road getting here was not easy. Moving to a new supplier meant getting to know this new supplier’s strengths and weakness. As a result we spent a total of four months just tweaking the design with the supplier, two of which were spent just building samples (a total of 5 rounds of prototypes to be exact).

The StoryBook is an accordion fold sketchbook designed, in the spirit of the Spaces for Ideas brand, to provide as much of a limitless drawing experience as possible. Popular with artists, design sketchers and scrapbookers, the StoryBook’s accordion pages gives you enough space to seamlessly create your design story from the beginning to end of the sketchbook.

Here are some of the features.

1) All our StoryBooks sketchbooks, code name Nadali, are available in 3 limited edition beautiful textured cover colors. The covers are 280gsm and made from FSC certified environmentally friendly paper.

2) The StoryBook is designed to be a standard A6 size, and fits perfectly in your handbag or man-bag.

3) The accordion fold drawing paper, which provides for a long drawing space, is available in both Black (120gsm, 23 pages) and White (140gsm, 29 pages) paper. The paper made from FSC certified environmentally friendly paper.

4) The accordion pages are hand folded, to ensure the creases are soft and comfortable to draw over.

5) To prevent the pages from falling out, all StoryBooks come with a free Elastic Bookmark that can be also used in other A6 or A5 sketchbooks. The Elastic Bookmarks are made from the same material as the StoryBook covers.

6) Both the StoryBook and the Elastic Bookmark are lovingly handmade in Singapore, which means slight variations in folding and finishing is expected.

Inspired by how the Field Notes product cycle is managed, I’ve created the StoryBook product range in limited runs of different cover materials or designs. I hope to keep the product fresh by introducing a new range of StoryBooks, with different cover materials, at least once a quarter. As you can see, I’m looking to build Spaces for Ideas into a credible creative and innovative stationary brand.

The StoryBook currently retails at USD$12 each, and goes for $28.80 for a bundle pack of 3. However, to celebrate the launch of this product, the StoryBook sketchbooks will be on Sale at USD$10 each, and USD$24 for a 3 StoryBook bundle. Please note additional shipping costs do apply and will be included at checkout. Our launch sale ends on the 30th of September.

As we have limited stock, I would not wait and get it at our online store now! For more shipping information and images of our StoryBook sketchbooks, check out out official product page. What do you think about our new StoryBook? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please do not hesitate to leave a comment below?

Spaces for Ideas Featured in MyPaper!

Spaces for Ideas
Aug 05, 2011

Click on the image for a bigger view

How cool is that? Our own Spaces for Ideas brand has been featured today in a newspaper article on products designed and made in Singapore.

This article is pretty apt seeing that it is our National day on the 9th of August. If you look at the back of the image above, you can catch a glimpse of our new product, the Story Book. The Story Book will be launched later this month, so do stay tuned!

For more information on our current Spaces for Ideas products, check out our Expandable Sketchbook page or visit our sleek 

online store.

For more details on the newspaper article, click on this link for the full story in a hi-res pdf format (3.1mb). Unfortunately, the news article is in Chinese, but I will get the text translated into English and post it here as soon as soon as possible.

I like to say a big thank you to the kind people at Singapore Press Holdings and MyPaper for featuring my product.

Celebrate Spaces for Ideas’ 1st Birthday with Free Shipping! (Sorry it’s Over)

Spaces for Ideas
Mar 22, 2011

Update: With just over a week to go before the end of our Birthday sale, I like to ramp up the celebrations with a new shop front and to announce that the free shipping offer now applies any amount of Expandable Sketchbooks you buy. Read more below. Sorry everyone, this deal is now over. A big thanks to those that supported me.

In a blink of an eye, Spaces for Ideas is now 1 year old. How unbelievably quick? Strangely, I don’t really remember the exact date when I came up with the idea or officially launched the expandable sketchbook, but I believe it was sometime in March or April last year. If that is the case, lets spend the rest of March and the entire month of April celebrating shall we?

Right. So from now until the end of April, you will enjoy free shipping for 5 (or more, 8, 15, even 100!) any amount of expandable sketchbooks you buy! That’s savings of at least the value of that can range from USD $6 to $25 or more.

As part of our 1st birthday celebrations, we are also introducing and trialing a new shop front system from the folks at Wazala. It still uses Paypal as a backbone for the funds transfer, but this new shop front provides a much better shopping experience for you and me. What is really awesome is that I can use the same shop front on this website, the soon to be relaunched www.spacesforideas.com, and best of all our Facebook fan page. All purchases and cart management will be centrally controlled by one master dashboard. What an awesome time saver!

So do click on the red tab at the top of this webpage and enjoy! If you would like more information, do head on over to the Expandable Sketchbook page for the details of our product.

Oh before I forget, as part of this celebration we are also launching a brand new dedicated Spaces for Ideas Newsletter to share with you the latest product news and launches for our Spaces of Ideas brand. Sign up right away to get special loyal subscriber deals or discount coupons, especially for our new range of innovative sketchbooks that will be launching soon. (Hint!)

Sign up for our dedicated Spaces for Ideas newsletter at this link or by the form below, to get the updates right to your Inbox!

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Fail Often, but Fail Early

Spaces for Ideas
Dec 20, 2010

It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce that I have decided to put the Spaces for Ideas Collection 2 on hold indefinitely.

After taking a hard look at the new prototypes, I am unable to get the design and marketing mix right. The cost to make the Story Book and Iteration Book is not economically viable in the volumes I can afford. Initial user feedback have also supported this by highlighting that the selling price vs. product offering is just not compelling enough.

The reality is that launching products into the market is a calculated risk. If I had the funds, and this is all self-funded, I would trust my gut and launch the product. But this time I don’t have the funds, so my gut says no.

This second collection is by no means killed. However this time I am going back to the drawing board for a complete rethink and redesign. I am planning to bring in some help to see where I can take the range. Often it takes a fresh set of eyes and perhaps a different angle to get the mix right.

I’ve spent so much time on this project that it is criminal. I could have gone on and on, but I’ve hit my self imposed dateline and it is time to pull the plug. I’m contented that I’ve covered almost every possible iteration and have the many mock-ups and prototypes to document my process. Mock-ups cost far less than a production run, and as they always say, fail often but fail early.

The Space for Ideas brand will continue with the Expandable Sketchbook being the brand’s only product for the time being. I have by no means exhausted all possible sales channels for the Expandable Sketchbook, and the awesome December sales figures tell me that demand for this product remains healthy.

Interestingly, as I’m about to publish this post, I feel strangely liberated. Closing this project has freed up much or my mental capacity and a weight off my shoulders. This also means I can focus on other aspects of Design Sojourn’s business such as consulting and training. If anything, this is the reason why I had to go through this whole convoluted but enjoyable process. You should try it sometime!

Unbelievable Spaces for Ideas Cyber Monday SALE! (Is Over, Sorry!)

Spaces for Ideas
Nov 29, 2010

Forget Black Friday, if you are reading this, it is now time for the Spaces for Ideas Cyber Monday Sale! Well at least in my timezone it is (+8 GMT).

A few days ago, I found out that:

Cyber Monday, for the unfamiliar, is the Monday after Black Friday and a day where online retailers offer steep discounts—essentially their version of Black Friday. Via: Lifehacker

Therefore (drum roll please…) in the next 24 hours I will be giving away (that’s right I’m literally GIVING away) 1 FREE Expandable Sketchbook for every USD $13 Expandable Sketchbook purchased.

Don’t ask me why I’m doing this, but you will likely never see the Expandable Sketchbook going so cheap AGAIN! Well maybe the Cyber Monday sale next year…

All right here are some more details:

1) Go ahead, buy one, buy 10 or even 20! When the drop down menu asks “How many Sketchbooks you would like?”, selected 1 for USD$19 (USD$13 + $6 Shipping). After that, there should be an option to enter the quantity you want. Upon receiving your order, I will include 1 free Sketchbook for every Sketchbook you purchase before sending it to you by the end of the week.

2) There is no additional shipping charge. I’m really digging deep for this 24 hour sale. I’m even looking for spare change under my sofa’s cushions, just kidding!

3) This offer is only valid for purchases made on my online store within this 24 hour duration in my time zone (+8 GMT). I will have a grace period of a few hours if an order falls outside this period, do contact me if you are unsure if you qualify for this unbelievable sale.

What are you waiting for? Go to the Spaces for Ideas Expandable Sketchbook page and get your pair of Sketchbooks for the price of one today!!!

Edit: Sorry folks, Cyber Monday is over. However we are currently running a Christmas Special (From Nov 09 to 25th Dec) where we will give away 1 free Expandable Sketchbook for every 5 sketchbooks purchased.

Spaces for Ideas: Prototypes Round 2

Spaces for Ideas
Nov 28, 2010

It has been far too long since I have written an update on this project. I have been so caught up in setting up and running Design Sojourn Consulting that my own produced (brand managed) products got neglected.

About 2 weeks ago I suddenly realized, with much frustration, that I have missed the window to get my products into the retail shops for Christmas. Fortunately I still have a chance for some holiday season sales with my online store. So despite a delay it’s still full steam ahead. I should have the final prototypes in a week, but meanwhile here is an update of the product development.

Before you check out the images in this update, do have a look at the first two posts for more background information on the second Spaces for Ideas Collection.

1) Spaces for Ideas: New Additions to the Family

2) Spaces for Ideas: The New Prototypes are In!

Story Book

I’ve actually spent more time with the Story Book that the Iteration Book (below). In fact, the Design had gone through another round of prototypes since I introduced them to you in the last blog post. You would probably recognized the Exhibit A as the first prototype end-to-end accordion sketchbook with the thumb gap.

As concluded in the last blog post, the thumb gap with the square corners created a possibility of bended edges on the cover, therefore that design iteration was a failure. I relooked at the product and redesigned it to what you see in the photo as Exhibit B. In Exhibit B the covers are linked as a normal book would instead of the original Exhibit A where the chipboard covers are stuck end to end of the accordion pages.

However, as I wanted 4 rounded corners (and the cool “v” detail on the accordion pages), I asked the bookmaker to try punching the rounded edges on the spine. As the rounding is a shearing process, and this prototype is 30 pages x 140gsm thick, it does not cut the round edge clean and actually tears the paper. Ideally I would have to die cut each individual page as well as the cover, but with such a long parchment it would have been a really expensive process.

The next prototype, Exhibit C, kept the spine intact but only rounded the outer edges. I actually like how tight and finished the spine now looks but did not really like having every other page with a rounded corner or “v” detail.

Even without the spine getting in the way, the rounding tool still does not do a good job cutting corners on a book this thick. As you can see from the detail, the pages look bent and tortured. I decided that the final prototype was to be a tight square corner. A good thing anyway as it works with the design language setup by the Expandable Sketchbook design.

Check out the details on the inside! Unlike the Expandable Book, the insides are lined with the Sketch paper. (100% recyclable). I personally like how the crisp joint detail between the two covers turned out, simple yet elegant. Furthermore, unlike competing accordion fold products, I designed the paper stack to sit on the cover and unfold out towards you and in any direction you like. This gives you plenty of space to develop your ideas or build a concept sketch “life-stream” which makes the name Story Book pretty apt don’t you think?

Finally I plan to increase the sketch paper’s weight to 170gsm (from 140gsm). The paper is now a little thicker, but not as thick as card. The heavier paper gives the accordion a studier structure that prevents accidental dog eared pages as well as an overall better writing experience.

Iteration Book

Strangely I though this would be a pretty straightforward design. However after studying the prototypes, something nagged at me but I could not quite figure out. So I decided to let it sit for a bit.

I have put my 148x148mm square book design (left) with an A5 sized book (right) for comparison. As I mentioned in the previous post, I went with a square format as it allows you to use the book in any way you want. Open left to right, right to left, top down or up, it is all up to you.

One issue I had to consider is that the open stitch bound detail you see in the picture (above) is not the best binding technique with tracing paper as the multiple holes may tear the tracing paper through prolong use. Therefore the final prototype will be stacked with single thread sewn along the spine. It will look similar to the saddle stitched A5 sketchbook sitting below my design.

The Iteration Book has 50 pages or smooth white 65gsm (environmentally friendly) tracing paper. It is the whitest finely textured tracing paper I can find and should not mess up your colors like traditional yellow tracing paper would.

After talking to a few designer friends, I finally figured out what was troubling me with this current prototype. The brown craft paper chipboard cover did not compliment the translucency of the tracing paper as well as being consistent with the spirit of the design. So I set out to find the thickest tracing paper I could find! Initially I was a little worried that this design might be killed if I could not find an appropriate material. I was even considering using sheets of polypropylene (PP), but binding that would be very tough. Luckily I manage to find a 230gsm parchment that worked beautifully (see above). What is really cool is after you fill up this Iteration Book, if you then hold it up into the light you could possibly see the shadows of your concepts right through the cover!


I’ve intentionally kept the Elastic Bookmark out of the picture for the time being so that I can keep the discussion as simple as possible. So which Sketchbook would you consider buying? Would you even consider purchasing both? How would you plan to use these sketchbooks if you bought them? I would love to hear your feedback on these two designs, as it will help me improve them. Finally as I am self-funding the project (unlike the lucky people on Kickstarter), your feedback would help me mitigate my risks as much as possible. Looking forward to hearing from you soon and thank you in advance.

Check Out our Spaces for Ideas Christmas Special! (Is Over, Sorry!)

Spaces for Ideas
Nov 09, 2010

Image by Michael Verhoef

It certainly looks a lot like Christmas, my favorite time of the year! To celebrate this festive season, we have decided to do something special to get us all into the festive mood.

Throughout the month of November (starting from today) and all the way to Christmas, we are going to give you 1 free Spaces for Ideas Expandable Sketchbook for every Sketchbook bundle of 5 you buy!

So this means you get 6 Expandable Sketchbooks for the price of 4. That is approximately USD$8.70 per Expandable Sketchbook. Holy cow, what an amazing bargain! Even better, the shipping cost remains the same.

Why wait? Treat yourself or give a Spaces for Ideas Expandable Sketchbook bundle to your favorite creative person this Christmas. Buying your sketchbook bundle this week would mean you should get them by early December with plenty of gift-wrapping time to spare!

Edit: The Christmas Offer is now over! Thank you everyone for your support!

The Expandable Sketchbooks are Flying off the Shelves!

Spaces for Ideas
Oct 08, 2010

Just check out the size of that stack of Expandable Sketchbooks I have been packing!


In the last few weeks, we have been having a number of online sales for The Spaces for Ideas Expandable Sketchbook. In terms of traffic, just last week alone we had 3,643 visitors to the Expandable Sketchbook sales page. (beat that bricks and mortar!) As a result I have been kept busy all this week packing and labeling, and finally shipping them all out today. So for those that made recent purchases, do expect to receive your Expandable Sketchbooks in a couple of weeks.

I would now like to thank the following websites that have graciously covered or reviewed the Expandable Sketchbook. I have no doubt they were responsible for sending some of their visitors over to my site (adding to that 3600+ visitor pool) as well as lending weight to the sketchbook’s credibility.

World Famous Design Junkies

Reviewed by Chris Burns, Art and Design style-meister at WFDJ. Thanks for the funky write up Chris!


Thanks NotCot!


Reviewed by Armand B. Frasco, formally from Moleskinerie. Thanks Armand and do check out his new independent notebook blog: Notebookism. Nice name by the way.

Finally, we are also looking to do a restock at the Red Dot Museum Shop, as the supply there has almost run out. All in all, things are looking positive and I will be continuing to keep the momentum going with official launch of the next range of sketchbooks. Oh by the way, have you bought your Expandable Sketchbook today?

The Miura-Ori Map

Spaces for Ideas
Sep 15, 2010

not a sunrise (ミウラ折り 3)
Image: not a sunrise (ミウラ折り 3) by Dan Rosen

The problem with maps is that the moment you unfold them, it becomes a complete nightmare to fold them back into their original compact form. Ergonomically this is a big problem, but not if you use the Miura-Ori folding technique!

Inspired by Origami, Koryo Miura and Masamori Sakamaki from Tokyo University’s Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, created the Muira-Ori folding technique to allow people to unfold a map in one action and refold it with minimal hassle. It is touted to “transform the ergonomics of map folding”.

Miura and Sakamaki normally work on the problems of packing large flat items, like satellite antennae and solar collectors, into the smallest, most compact shapes with a view to deploying them as rapidly and as simply as possible. They saw three problems with maps folded at right angles in the conventional manner. First, an orthogonally-folded map requires an unduly complicated series of movements to fold and unfold it. Secondly, once unfolded there is a strong possibility that the folds may be “unstable” and turn inside out. Finally, right-angled folds place a lot of stress on the paper inducing, almost without exception, tears which begin where two folds intersect.

The key to an alternative system of may folding lies in the ancient Japanese art of paper-folding, origami. One of the most common origami effects is to use a variant on concertina folding to produce a slightly ridged surface composed of a series of congruent parallelograms, by a variation on concertina folding.

Miura and Sakamaki looked at this kind of surface in terms of its geometry and elasticity and came to the conclusion that the most important point of difference from an orthogonally folded sheet is that the folds are interdependent. Thus a movement along one fold lire produces movement along the other. In other words, the user can open the map with just one pull at a corner. The new method also solves in part the other problems which Miura and Sakamaki cited. Interdependence of folds means that it is very difficult to reverse them and the amount of stress place or, the map sheet is also reduced because only one thickness of paper comes beneath the second fold, avoiding the need to fold several sheets.

How is this for initial research for my next version of the Expandable Sketchbook? Looks like I’m off to a great start.

Check out the full article here, and if you are interested in a step by step process of creating a Miura-Ori origami fold check out the instructions below from ThinkQuest! Please click on the images from left to right and then top to bottom. The text is in Japanese, but the visual and numbered instructions are pretty clear.

Hat tip to Sebastian for pointing this out.

Design Sojourn’s Brand New Beginning

Kohi Sunrise

Sorry for that cliffhanger of an ending in that last post where I announced that I would be leaving Philips Design at the end of September. I like to be a little dramatic at times and I thought it would be a nice lead in to the story I’m going to tell you today.

So what, you may ask, am I going to do next?

I have spent most of my life working for people, or more accurately, designing for other people and making said people rich! Well not really…but I did decide that it was a time to do something different. Central to this plan, as you probably guessed by now, is Design Sojourn.

If I do a little counting, my Design Sojourn blog has actually been in operation for almost 5 years now! Throughout the history of this website, I have shared my ideas and thoughts on design, bounced these ideas (and sparred) with designers from all over the world. I have even helped and mentored designers whenever I could. I hope such efforts have contributed to the international design industry as a whole and in return allowed me to build some credibility as thought leader in design.

So it is then logical to expand Design Sojourn into other areas beyond just blogging. I plan for Design Sojourn to evolve into a design consultancy and brand management company. Yup, I’m going to be an entrepreneur.

Here are a few more details:

Design Sojourn The Blog

First and foremost Design Sojourn the blog, will continue, but it’s going back to its roots. This blog cut its teeth by helping designers be the best they can be. Design Sojourn was and is all about “How to do good design, and make clever products”. I did, in recent years, evolved this blog into Strategic Design. However I realized that by helping designers become more strategic, it was really still in the same vein of helping designers be the best they can be. Being strategic is the name of the game in today’s design industry.

I have also taken a look at the state of my blog, and I have to say I’m not happy with it. In the recent years, my heavy workloads and family commitments have influenced a drop in the quality of my posts. I had discovered one day that the posts people came to Design Sojourn for were more than 2 years old. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry or anything, I have accepted that my priorities and attention were needed elsewhere. I will therefore plan to dedicate more time in writing useful and engaging posts that will make your visit to Design Sojourn worthwhile. Growing Design Sojourn is high on the priority list, with a target of doubling readership in the next six months.

I’m going edgy. Simple but edgy. Oh, and critical too, but constructive critical.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

Finally, now that I am on my own, I will not be tied down nor associated with any brand. I’m now a Design Rōnin. A master-less designer roaming the world and kicking ass! Sorry, too many Akira Kurosawa movies.

Rest assured that I’m not about to take a “dump in my own backyard”, but do expect a more edgy tone, more rants, and of course, constructive criticism. Not being associated to any brand does provide the freedom to have an unbiased view.

Design Sojourn Consulting

After everything, the unfortunate hash realities of life still exist. We still need to eat and I have a mortgage to pay. This is where things here at Design Sojourn will start to be a little different.

Many companies setup a company then a blog to get them going. I’ve actually flipped this approach on its head by turning my blog into a company, Design Sojourn Pte Ltd. Here is what we do:

Design Sojourn is a multi-disciplinary strategic design consultancy.

We see ourselves as guides or translators for clients and partners in their journey in design that will go beyond products and into services, systems and processes. We are also teachers and students at heart, so we are passionate in building creative environments and improving the design industries through training and education.

Anchoring our creative process around the tenets of Joy with Functionality and Simple but Edgy, we offer full end-to-end design solutions that range from commercially savvy design languages that fulfill business needs; to manufacturing viable and resolved designs; to marketing, communications and new media solutions. However we are also nimble and flexible enough to take on that “quick kill” design problem.

No job too big or too small.

I can promise you that other than getting a “Hire me” banner up, and an update to my About page, I will not be constantly reminding you of my consulting services. However, in the coming weeks, I will share more about Design Sojourn Consulting and what it stands for. Especially its design process which, I think, you might be interested to see?

If you, or someone you know, need my services or want to collaborate with me, please do not hesitate to contact me at brian@designsojourn.com. I won’t bite, and if something does come out of this tie-up, I will be in your debt as this will allow me to continue to blog, not to mention pay my mortgage…

Design Sojourn Brand Management

The other thing that Design Sojourn Pte Ltd is going into is Design Entrepreneurship. As Design Producers, we design, develop, and produce products under our own brand or basket of brands. We also work closely with awesome designers to collaborate on products from design to market. When the time is right you will know who these awesome designers are.

I’m sure by now, you also know about our Spaces for Ideas brand? Well you will be pleased to know that we have spun the brand off Design Sojourn and given it its own dedicated site at www.spacesforideas.com. To celebrate the launch of the site this new start, we have reduced the price of the Expandable Sketchbook, so if you have not gotten your Sketchbook yet, do head on over and get one now!

Edit: Due to time commitments, I am unable to run two websites at the same time. Therefore I am re-integrating the Spaces for Ideas store back into Design Sojourn. This should also make it a smoother navigating experience for you as well. Spacesforideas.com will still exist and will be reborn when the time is right. If you can, do check out the Spaces for Ideas store? We will also be expanding the Spaces for Ideas product range to include more sketchbook solutions.

On a side note, SpacesforIdeas.com will focus more on sales transactions and product information. My sharing of development efforts, as well as the design activities will still be here on Design Sojourn. I’m guessing that you don’t want to be bothered with all this blogging noise when you make your purchases or vice versa?

On Design Sojourn, you can expect some announcements as well as the banners you see now. I’ve dumped the ugly Google ads, and will continue to streamline the site’s design so these ads do not overpower your reading experience. However, they will be a necessary evil, as Design Sojourn is the main marketing engine for my Spaces for Ideas products. Please do let me know, if you have any feedback on this matter?


There are a few other things in the works, but they are currently too premature to talk about it now. I’ll let you know as soon as they are ready to fly! All I can say is that they will be quite awesome.

What do you think? Am I out of my mind? Many of you have been part of my own design sojourn right from the start as friends and loyal supporters. It has been a great honor journeying with you and I do hope to get your continued support of this website and in all my future endeavors. Thank you.