Sketchbook/Notebook methodology by Conánn FitzPatrick

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 22.17.48.png

Sketchbooks and notebooks are one and the same when you are an artist. Sketches are notes and notes illustrations of moments of inspiration and enquiry.  The most important part of any system is to stay out of the way of creativity and spark that lights our fire. Pages of drawings can be free conventions unless deserving of categorization. 

Notebooks will have pages numbered before starting so as to allow for greater flexibility. This way, any page can be used day to day. 

Each page should be dated, have a heading and list attendees where applicable.

Index may be a useful addition if it doesn't waste pages. Index could be a list of projects and relative page numbers listed in a row.

Daily list

Notebook is a perfect place for daily list management and lists should be rewritten at the end of each day.  TO-DO items can be generated organically or come from another system. Daily goals, targets and to-dos should be achievable in the time available, with new items being added organically throughout the day.  

Daily sweep

Lists and notes from the day should be reviewed and reorganized into a new daily list for the next day. Items rolling over should be assessed and or transferred into another system. 


Projects can be fleshed out and ideated in a notebook but should ultimately live in a more robust system where they can be managed and assigned effectively.

Notes are blocks of text without actions and can be of any length and can end in a page number at a later time to expand on an idea. p 22

Lists start with a bullet "•". List items are assumed tasks that can be assigned or escalated to a project on another page. Events are denoted with an "o" URGENT items "[]" should be handled immediately or placed in a system/page better equipped to get it done. 

•     item one
•     item two
>    assigned - Fred
<    escalated to project p3
O   Meeting with Bobby
[]   URGENT to priority page or other system
✓  completed tasks get a tick
X   cancelled tasks get an x
-    waiting for others tasks to complete

List capture should be organic and free flowing with items being reprocessed, reconstructed or cancelled on the fly. As with a sketch it is vital that thoughts be able to flow rather than seeking perfection in either tone, structure or clarity.  


Post-its, napkins and other scraps of paper are an inevitable and valuable part of any functioning system and should be included in the daily sweep where the can become more permanent in nature and part of the broader system. 


No More Managers. Everyone Leads by Conánn FitzPatrick

An engineering researcher was clairvoyant when he said in 1994 that subordinates often make the best leaders:

Often with small groups, it is not the manager who emerges as the leader. In many cases it is a subordinate member with specific talents who leads the group in a certain direction.

Leaders must let vision, strategies, goals, and values be the guide-post for action and behavior, rather than attempting to control others.

Daniel F. Predpall

Teamwork Ground Rules by Conánn FitzPatrick

Good advice from Kristof Kovacs

There's only three things:

  • ASK: If a task is not clear, or more information is needed, please ask as soon as possible. Asking is always ok. Doing the wrong thing (or doing nothing) because you didn't ask is not ok.
  • DEBRIEF: It's not done until you reported it done. This is often just a one-sentence email to me or to the client, sometimes a "100%" mark in the task list, or a ticket closed. It is done, completed or fixed only when whoever needed it done knows about it.
  • WARN: If a deadline you know is important will likely be missed, warn me soon, as the situation is evolving, and then we can usually figure something out. If I have to learn at the moment of the deadline that it was missed, that's not ok. (In multi-boss situations that occur frequently in matrix organisations, or if you're a freelancer, also warn me if your workload is above what you can actually do, instead of not doing certain tasks.)

The Creative Brief by Conánn FitzPatrick

Don't let the question predict, limit and/or hide the answer. It is very important when creating a brief for a creative project not to be overly prescriptive as it will limit the possible creative outcomes. Trust the team and the creative process to deliver unexpected results that fill your requirements.

When engaging in a new project we want to get the ball rolling quickly, layout expectations early and agree time-scales and budgets. Removing ifs, buts and maybes from the process greatly increases the chances of the creative partnership surpassing the client's expectations and the development of a lasting relationship.


  • What your organisation does?
  • What your niche market is?
  • How you fit in your industry sector?
  • General project information?
  • Aims & Objectives?
  • Desired Deliverables?


Detail on desired target market, including demographic information where possible.

  • Choose a typical audience member or group and profile including; occupation, age range, gender, what their day looks like etc.
  • How will they use your product?
  • What do the audiences believe or think?

Messages, Features, Benefits and Values.

  • List top desired (these may include must have/mission critical) features and/or facts about the product and its value to target audiences.
  • Who is the competition?
  • How should this product stack up against the opposition?
  • What is the primary message?

Budget and Schedule

  • Has the budget been approved?
  • Is establishing the budget part of the brief?
  • What is the product release date?
  • Are there specific milestones that need to be achieved?
  • What is the due date for the finished project?


  • Who is the primary contact for the project.
  • What content will you be providing? logos, style guides, measurements.
  • What are the internal review and approval processes.
  • Who will sign off on the final design.
  • How many revisions are expected? (unlimited is not an option)
  • What format will the final design need to fill.

Rules of engagement by Conánn FitzPatrick

Before work can begin with a new creative team or group of teams it is important that some ground rules are established and very clearly and consistently enforced (enforced may seem harsh, but clear boundaries are not a bad thing).

  • One conversation at a time
  • There are no bad ideas
  • Fail early and fail often
  • Encourage wild ideas
  • Go for volume
  • Be optimistic
  • Collaborate
  • Listen
  • Inspire
  • Encourage
  • Steal ideas, build on the ideas of others
  • Recognise others
  • Think with your hands
  • Defer Judgement

The initial success of project flowing through the creative process is influenced heavily by culture. Culture can be of any scale, department, organization, region, country and needs to be considered and adjusted for. Not all people/peoples are preconditioned to finding solutions, opportunities or problems worth exploring. Not all people are hardwired to be difficult but some are, find a way around them. If you have to take them head on, play to win but don't make a hero out of them.

Need to write a creative brief? by Conánn FitzPatrick

Bellow are guidelines for anyone wishing to write the perfect creative brief. When engaging in a new project we want to get the ball rolling quickly, layout expectations early and agree time-scales and budgets. 

Removing ifs, buts and maybes from the process greatly increases the chances of the designer surpassing the client's expectations and the development of a lasting relationship. 


Read More