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

Definitions of Design

What is design?  In an Imagine More blog post earlier this year, we discussed the definitions of “design” that we had encountered throughout the World Design Capital 2014 activities that we had visited.  We also added our own definitions of design, which have been a big part of our inspiration for creating Youth Design Studio.

Now that Youth Design Studio is up and running, we can add a third perspective: our students!  On the first day of class, we asked all of them to write down their answer to the question: What is Design?  Here are some of the incredible responses we received from one class, high school learners at Ikamva Youth Makhaza.  We hope they get YOU thinking about design, what it means, and how it can be a part of your life, no matter who you are!

Design 1 design 2design 5 design 3 design 4


August 22nd, 2014 by imblog

What is “Design”?

design challengeAdmit it: we’ve all wondered.  Especially in Cape Town at the moment, the concept of “design” is thrown around with the expectation that everyone just automatically knows what it means.  On the contrary, however: it’s hard for most people to wrap their minds around, even those who deal with “design” every day.  And if you’re somewhere else – like me, for example, here in San Diego, talking about design to all kinds of people – it’s even tougher!  Because as far as we can tell, the answer to the question we’re so often asked is this: there IS no good definition.

That’s not the response you were hoping for, I’m sure.  But it’s true: everyone  you ask, every website you visit, even people who design things for a living will have a different definition of “design.”  Some people think of it as exclusively art-based: graphic design, for example.  For others it conjures images of well-made objects: product and architectural design, in these cases.  Some think of places and spaces when they hear the word “design”: for them, the concept is associated with public planning, landscape or interior design. Still others think of “design” in broader terms: for example, “design thinking” as a method of problem-solving.

When Julie and I were recently in Cape Town attending World Design Capital events, other participants would ask us if we were designers.  Well, that’s kind of a difficult question! We certainly think of ourselves as designers – we’re creating a sustainable design education program at the moment – so in that sense, yes.  Does “design” have to be explicitly in our job titles for us to be designers?

These are questions that the Cape Town World Design Capital brings up every day, and they’re incredibly important to answer: in a city dedicated to design, who is doing the designing?  It is just the artists and engineers and planners and architects?  Or is there a way that everyone could be involved?

Although it often feels like the “design world” is closed off to non-professionals, in our opinion EVERYONE is a designer. what is design imagine more To us, design is using creativity and imagination to create something that doesn’t exist; it’s using the skills and materials you have to address the problems around you in new ways.  As we’ve emphasized in our presentations, workshops, and other events we’ve conducted in making Youth Design Studio a reality, everyone has difficulties that they face on a day to day basis. Whether they’re professional or personal, we all have challenges: and we all have the power to design solutions to those challenges.  The key is feeling like you have that power.

You could say that’s our objective in being a part of Cape Town World Design Capital: we want to make sure that EVERYONE knows they have a place at the design table.  No matter who you are – no matter what age, job, city, nationality, ethnicity, or anything else – YOU can help design the world you want to live in.  Whether it’s in your home, school, office, community, city or globe, you CAN contribute to solving the problems around you!  To us, that’s what design is.

If you’d like to start a conversation on what design is to you, we’d love to hear from you!  Email us at, or get your ideas out there by Tweeting us @ImagineMoreOrg or posting on the Imagine More Facebook page!  If you’d like to learn more about us and how we use design, feel free to visit our About Us section!

April 27th, 2014 by imblog