The Search for the Perfect Notebook

By Bennett Hensey

School never did it for me. Maybe it was the teachers, maybe it was a discipline problem, but I always struggled to stay tuned-in during class. I remember taking tests on visual, auditory, and tactile learning, but teaching styles never changed and I always went back to doodling in class. I spent high school teaching myself out of textbooks and cramming for exams, so the fact that I graduated and made it to Northwestern University is nothing short of a miracle. I arrived at college as a fiercely independent learner, and one of the first things I bought was a sketchbook. Not for drawing of course, but for taking notes in class.


My handwriting is terrible and, by extension, so are most of the things I draw. But I took college as a chance to experiment with the way I learn, so I tried a number of different tools before my sketchbook: a binder, laptop, and tablet; before settling on blank printer paper. Something about the white pages felt refreshing after so many years of taking notes on lined paper, but I wanted my spiral binding back.

I don’t know how many hours I spent searching for a notebook without lines, but I do know that it was hours. Between looking at journals, expensive sketchbooks, and forums full of frustrated users, I couldn’t even find a pad of unlined paper! I spent $15 on a heavy 9 x 12” sketchbook and swore that someday I would make my own blank notebook. Now, after nearly 2 years, I’m finally on a team of students crazy enough to join me.

"I spent $15 on a heavy 9 x 12” sketchbook and swore that someday I would make my own blank notebook."

The Unruled notebook is a response to the frustrations I’ve had in my own learning experience. I wish I had accepted my own independent learning in high school, rather than shying away from learning altogether. I was never meant to think in lines, and it took me until college to realize that. My dream is that Unruled can inspire more students to think confidently the way they were meant to think, ruled or Unruled.