How To Decide On The Best Way To Record Your Ideas

Ideas, ideas, ideas. Creative professionals are brimming with them. There are many ideas we have each day that we know we may never get to actually follow through on, yet we’d like to record them somehow just in case.

Every designer has their own, special way to keep track of their design ideas. But which one is the most helpful for getting those ideas down and, eventually, turned into designs? Here are some of the most popular ways to record ideas, with the pros and cons of each.


The original method of recording ideas, before people had anything else to use. Using paper and pencil helps retain the immediacy of the idea you’re recording. There is no technology in between you and your design, which can be more cumbersome than you might think.

Using a computer or mobile device to take down notes often requires first turning it on, navigating to the proper app, and doing whatever necessary functions are required to get started. All of these actions can be a drain on your willpower, which, according to an increasing number of psychologists, is a finite resource that can evaporate much sooner than we wish.

On the downside, notebooks are cumbersome and not nearly as portable as a phone or tablet. They can also get lost or left behind just as easily as a mobile device (although you do have a greater chance of having them returned – just try getting your phone back if you leave it on a busy subway or in a shopping center).

Recording Apps

Apps are fast and convenient, not to mention sexy (and yes, this is important). With an app, you can quickly and easily record any idea you have and save it for later. Not only that, but you can transfer it almost immediately to your hard drive and plug it straight in to Photoshop or any other program you use. Whether it’s a sketching app, a note-typing device, or an elaborate productivity system, apps can take many different forms to suit your individual needs for the project you’re working no.

On the other hand, apps can be a psychological barrier to actually getting work done.You can waste a lot of time picking out the right app and figuring out how it works – without actually doing any work yourself. It can allow you to keep showing off to your friends how “productive” you are, when in reality, your ideas are simply going into an electronic vault to wither and die. You don’t have the immediacy of recording ideas “your” way, the way you would with a sketchbook. You have to utilize someone else’s method of recording ideas, and this can take away from your desire to actually access your ideas when you need them.

Voice recording

Vocal recording is easy and immediate. Technically, it can be an app as well, but there are still plenty of devices on the market that were created specifically to record your dictated notes. It’s like having your very own secretary in your pocket. All you need to do is pull it out, press a button, and voila: you’ve got your ideas down, in your own words, that you can pull out and use whenever you need them.

The downsides to voice recording, like recording apps, are subtle and mostly psychological. It may sound like a small thing, but many people are surprised to hear what their own voice sounds like in a recording. This can actually be a deterrent to using a voice recorder, since they have to switch over to listening to themselves speak. Also, you usually still need to transcribe your words or otherwise sketch out the idea in order to use it, so it can be a secondary step that can hinder your progress.

High Tech or Low Tech?

When you’re recording ideas, you want to use whatever method uses the least amount of brain power. Why? Because the energy you expend figuring out a new way to record your ideas is energy that is lost. You cannot use it to work on your actual project, and you’ll need to take a break in order to recover it.

Navigating through the apps on your phone or naming a file on a voice recording uses a particular part of the brain that involves your motor skills. That part of your brain gets worn out fairly quickly and can actually slow you down even when you use high-tech products which were supposed to help you save time.

So, what’s the final verdict? Ultimately, it’s up to you, but I and plenty of other designers will continue to swear by the good old, trusty pencil and paper sketchbook. There are so many creative and psychological benefits to writing things down and making sketches that, in my opinion, an electronic device just doesn’t compare.

Again, your mileage may vary, but if you find yourself getting tired easily from staring at a computer or mobile screen all day, go ahead and give the old notebook a try you may just find that the low tech option is all you need to create great designs.