How to Make a Sketchbook with Recycled Cardboard

As part of one of our early classes, our students tackled the task of assembling handmade sketchbooks from recycled cardboard.

We talked with our students about what it means to be a designer and a critical thinker- that you are always ready to be creative and constantly recording new ideas that may help you to improve upon your design thoughts. This is part of our circular design thinking process of:

Design Thinking

In their new-found role as designers, our students will use their sketchbooks to jot down ideas and sketches as they go through the lessons in our class, and will also record inspirations that they have outside of class. Long after YDS has wrapped up, our students can continue to use their sketchbooks as places to record their ideas and dreams, and use design thinking in their everyday lives.

In keeping with our philosophy of using recycled materials wherever possible, our covers were made from cardboard boxes gathered from grocery stores.

The covers were measured, marked, and then scored with X-acto knives so that we could fold them into a cover shape.

We folded stacks of A4 sheets of paper in half to create what are called signatures, the sections that are eventually bound into the sketchbook cover. Then we used a needle and thread to stitch the signatures securely into the cover to create the binding of the sketchbooks.

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If you are interested in making your own sketchbook, or sharing this exercise with others, you can find the full instructions  at

You can simplify this as necessary if you are working with younger people, for example by using string and tying each signature separately into the cover.

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While the technique was challenging, using a needle and thread helped our students to give extra security and structure to the binding of our sketchbooks. We discussed with students that this was the way that books used to be made by hand, before machines came onto the scene! Not only are they design thinkers, but they have also mastered the art of ancient book-binding!

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Our students were patient, exacting, and careful with their sketchbook binding, and created amazing results!

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Some of our crowdfunding supporters will also be receiving sketchbooks, so look for them coming your way soon!

Stay tuned to hear about other projects our students have been working on!  If you’re curious about the Youth Design Studio perspective on design and designers, check out our earlier blog post on what design is and who designers are.  These ideas have helped shape this class, and we hope they’ll get you thinking about your world in a new way as well!

September 3rd, 2014 by imblog