By Enon Avital, January 11th, 2021
Today marks the fifth anniversary of me selling my very first handmade pocket notebook. It was when the first one sold, but not the first one made. I'm going to walk through some highlights of this very rewarding journey and celebrate with you all in a special way (you can skip to the end if you'd like). So buckle in for the ride. But first, let's talk about why I'm celebrating today.
Five years is a BIG deal
Marking calendar dates and celebrating them with extra significance is not something I'm super into. Every notebook release is a special moment for me, more than the date it all began. I prefer to celebrate the present and what's next, but today I am going out of my way to mark five years because it is a pretty big deal.
Right when I started making Dapper Notes, Diane Gibbs told me something very important that she learned from a professor of hers. She told me that if I want to really stick with something for the long run, I need to commit to it for five years. Then, once I set my mind to doing it for that long, I'd be able to stick to it no matter what challenges I faced along the way because I knew I'd have to make it to the five year mark. Five years is a long time to be making something, especially if it's just one thing that also has to compete for short attention spans, both yours and mine.
I knew I'd somehow have to coerce myself to stick to the long-term plan. A five year promise seemed pretty daunting, to be honest, which is why I came up with the Bookhead Club. Having a subscription service where I'd owe you a new notebook design every other month was my surefire plan for sticking to the five years, and I'm happy to report that it worked out splendidly.
And now, without further ado, here's a condensed history of Dapper Notes:
A timeline of key milestones
It's safe to say that had I not taken two courses titled "Artists' Books: Bookworks (I and II)" while enrolled at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Dapper Notes would not exist. Thanks to book artist Benjamin Rinehart I learned all about working with paper and book making, and I am forever grateful for everything he taught me.
While working on Flatirony with a friend, we decide to create products beyond t-shirts and posters. Since I have experience with bookmaking, we buy a bunch of materials and equipment, and experiment with early versions of what eventually would become Dapper Notes. We call these experiments "implausibooks."
After getting attention for my Hebrew typography artwork, I open up a shop to sell prints of that work. Once again, I'm filled with a desire to create something more tangible than art prints, and decide to dust off my bookmaking equipment for a new round of experiments.
I’m pretty happy with the product of my experimentation this time around, and realize that fabric-covered notebooks really speak to me. I enjoy making them, and it seems like something others might like too. I design a few small batches using a couple of different materials, and put them up in my shop to see if other people do in fact like my pocket notebooks. Since this is only an experimental add-on to my Hebrew artwork store, I call the notebooks "Hebrew Type Books."
Leading up to January 11th, I announce a new email list along with a note that the one-of-a-kind A Fly Went By edition will be given to one lucky subscriber.
Then for four days straight I launch a new design every single day. On Monday, January 11th 2016, the very first notebooks go up for sale with the Pinot Gwar and Corkcupine duo (both cork covered, but with different colors inside). Tuesday sees the release of a faux leather Sleeping Tirana, followed on Wednesday with the bright yellow Queen Vespa and King Dart, and closing the launch week on Thursday with the Gardiners Bay and Island pair.
I don't remember the exact numbers, but each day between three and 15 notebooks go up for sale, and every single day they sell out right away. I am a nervous wreck all week, but after mailing everything out that Thursday, I remember realizing that I'm finally on to something.
The Bookhead Club is announced, thanks to the sound advice of Diane Gibbs, and ensures that I'll be making notebooks for at least the next five years.
The first Bookhead Club edition comes out, and is delivered ahead of time to a handful of early subscribers.
My friend Jason is running the Creative South podcast (now Feasting on Design), and offers to give me an ad on one of the episodes leading up to my interview on that show. I'm pressed for time, so after a night of brainstorming I pick the name "Dapper Notes." It sounds right, the dot com is available, as are the social handles. And so on December 12th 2016, I register the domain name dappernotes.com, I open up a dedicated Facebook page, an Instagram, and a Twitter account, and finally start calling these notebooks by the name you know today.
Many people ask me why Dapper Notes cost $15 for a single notebook, so I make the very first BTS video to show the materials and how every single one is handmade.
I also release the first three-pack Craft Series of paper-cover notebooks. The idea is to introduce more people to Dapper Notes paper, with three simpler notebooks for only $15.
I collaborate with another artist for the very first time. Eric Friedensohn (also known as @efdot) designs the first Summer of Sketching edition. Eric also films the behind-the-scenes and edits a beautiful video that shows how the edition was made.
Monster Noa is released as a Black Friday special, with a pre-order of the fuzziest pocket notebook I've ever seen or made.
I make the very first alternate-size notebook with J. Sugar Cube. This becomes a tradition where if an edition has excess fabric that is large enough, I make either miniature or junior-sized versions that help prevent waste.
USPS discontinues their affordable international package rates, so I partner up with Nero's Notes in the UK to deliver a better experience to European stationery lovers.
The website is redesigned with a major overhaul. I write up an article that outlines what was done and why.
I also post the first game where you're asked to guess the edition name ahead of its release.
I spend a few months experimenting with hardcover notebooks, and release ten different designs that I call Monograph Journals.
Billfold Wallet Covers also make their debut as the first threadless notebook covers, using a design that took me years to master.
Dapper Pads make an appearance as well, and quickly become my most-used Dapper Notes item.
I also realize that (thanks to an automation error) for almost three years I've been sending seven editions to Bookhead Club subscribers instead of six. This mishap was shared publicly and we all have a little laugh.
The Dapper Notes podcast is launched, and begins to chronicle the stories of every single Dapper Notes item ever made.
The @goodtype inspiration account reaches 1 million followers, and to help them celebrate we partner up with a special edition and a lettering challenge.
The website is redesigned once again, and I finally launch a proper brand for Dapper Notes.
I chat with Stuart from Nero's and ask for your help to figure out what should happen next.
Thanks to your help, I make the decision to start back up again, and catch up on lost time by releasing two editions at once.
Dapper Masks are released, my first major non-stationery Dapper Notes item. They become the top selling product of 2020, and I look forward to the day when that will no longer be the case.
I close off a tumultuous year with the most collaborations in a twelve-month period.
My infinity ampersand design is complete after a multi-year design process. To celebrate I release a one-of-a-kind ampersand-shaped journal, a bunch of accessories, and a mystery edition that contains the history of my infinity ampersand along with original sketches.
Which brings us to the end of this very brief timeline, the fifth anniversary and a special giveaway for you.
Next up: a treat for you
When I started Dapper Notes five years ago, I knew I'd be making pocket notebooks, but I never predicted it would become what it is today. I have you all to thank for supporting me from the very start. I still find it strange to think about how many of you own a thing that I've made, how many of you transformed the paper that passed through my hands into your own, how many stories and plans and drawings made their way onto the 70-pound smooth white pages. It's pretty surreal and I am tremendously thankful for every single one of you.
To say thanks, I'm running a little giveaway:
This is open to anyone who has a Dapper Notes item. Be it a notebook, cover, mask, pencil, you name it.
1. Take a photo
I'd love to see photos of you using your Dapper Notes goods.
2. Share your photos
Share your photos this week anywhere I can publicly see them (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, etc). Use the hashtag #dappernotes, and if you'd like, tell me a bit about how you're using your Dapper Notes things.
3. Win a one-of-a-kind edition
Three winners will receive their very own one-of-a-kind Dapper Notes edition. I will make a unique notebook for each of the winners that only you will ever have.
Open worldwide. Tag your photos until Sunday January 17th, 2021 at 23:59 EST. Winners will be selected randomly using archive.org, and announced Monday January 18th, 2021.
Thank you so much to every single one of you for supporting me these past five years. I could not and would not be making any of this without you, and I appreciate your support, comments, ideas, emails, and cheers from the bottom of my heart.
Here's to five more years, and who knows how many more.
♥︎ — Enon.
Get the Hamsa edition, a special release to mark five years of Dapper Notes