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The Beloved Composition Notebook Gets a Slick Redesign

Composition notebooks are not great notebooks. Their covers fray, ink bleeds through their whisper-thin pages, and it’s next to impossible to get them to lie flat. But designers and artists love them just the same. Jean-Michel Basquiat was known for writing in a Mead composition notebook. Eddie Vedder allegedly scribbles his lyrics in one. The artist Roy Lichtenstein canonized the object with his Composition II painting. “I like the idea that they’re not about sitting in a museum and sketching,” says Michael Bierut, a partner at design studio Pentagram who has filled—and kept—112 of the unpretentious black and white notebooks in the course of his career. “There’s no pressure to make every page a masterpiece.”

Aron Fay, another designer at Pentagram, is obsessed with composition notebooks, too. He uses them (“it’s sort of this thing—everyone on our team has one”); he collects them (“I’m about to acquire two notebooks from France that are just exquisite”); and, for the past year, he’s been working like hell to reform them.

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