Ben Scott and LaMar Smith are the Newport News-based graphic designers behind the latest cell phone accessory: a pocket-sized notebook.
The notebook itself may not be revolutionary, but the pages inside it—a “mixed up” collection of different types of paper meant to encourage creativity—are.
The idea is that even in an increasingly digital world, people will carry a small notebook with them to sketch, doodle or—believe it or not—to actually write things down with a pen or pencil.
“If you don’t write anything down, you’re doing yourself an injustice,” Smith said. “You’re training your brain to forget or to be reliant on technology. … Especially with phones getting thinner and thinner every generation they come out, it’s not too much of a hindrance to carry a notebook along with your cell phone.”
Nomad Notebooks’ first product was “Repurposed,” which contains six kinds of paper: white, cream, kraft, tracing, graph and recycled newsprint. The cover is brown chipboard, adorned with a black “Nomad” logo.
“They see it,” Scott said of Nomad Notebooks’ first-time customers, “and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is a neat notebook.’ And then they open it up, and they’re like, ‘Wow. I didn’t know.’
“We’ve got to get people past the cover so they can open it up and see it,” he continued. “Once they get inside of it, they’re amazed because people don’t make mixed-up notebooks.”
Their brand strategy is twofold: In addition to engaging people in the physical act of writing, they want to inspire their customers to “create adventure.”
Scott waxed philosophic about the analog strategy. “Everybody uses their phone for everything,” he said. “Stepping away from that, putting that down and picking up a pencil and picking up a notebook and either writing a note to yourself or drawing something or whatever brings that authenticity back. It’s almost like a mini-vacation. You know, we go to the beach. We go to the mountains. We go to these places that get us away from the hustle and bustle of life. So when you pick this up, you can create adventure inside of a Nomad. It kind of gets you out of that day-to-day.”
Although Nomad Notebooks is based in Newport News, its Instagram “fans” are helping promote the brand to the world.
Hand-lettering artists Chrystal Elizabeth and Ceindy Ton Nunez have posted photos of work they’ve done in Nomad Notebooks. Outdoor photographer Brady Nations recently shared a photo of a Nomad Notebook from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.
“I was pretty blown away when I saw it,” Smith said. “We couldn’t believe that people are actually taking them and thinking enough about them while they’re at these amazing locations to hold them up, take a picture and plug Nomad. I thought that was pretty cool.”
Matthew Wallace, the owner of Prince Ink Co. in downtown Norfolk, said Nomad Notebooks “are moving quite well” in his store and that customers range from financial managers to “a couple of the chefs over at Field Guide.” “One guy in particular is saying how he just keeps filling them up,” he said, “and it’s been like a little savior to him.”
Wallace compared Nomad Notebooks to established brands like Moleskine and Field Notes. “It’s a product that’s comparable to those things,” he said. “I don’t really know of any other independent-type notebook companies. … I could see it becoming quite popular.”
Scott and Smith are in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to launch several new products, including “Graph” notebooks, “Planner” notebooks and “Sea+Air+Space” notebooks, which feature different combinations of colored, dotted and gridded paper, not to mention depth charts of the Chesapeake Bay and constellation charts.
For a “one and done” pledge of $10, a supporter will receive a three-pack of notebooks and a “thank you” on the Nomad Notebooks website. As of Sept. 12, Scott and Smith had raised more than $10,000—within striking distance of their $25,000 goal.
“We’re just a couple of regular dudes,” Scott said. “A couple guys who work a regular job just like everyone else out there, and we had an idea. It’s really cool to see the response that we’ve gotten so far from it, and we hope to take it further.”