[Company Update] The First 3 Years of Code&Quill—and What's Next
At our last meeting, somebody asked: when is Code&Quill’s birthday, exactly?
Harder to answer than it sounds. Brands enter the world over a period of time, unlike people. If you have to declare a single day for a brand’s birthday, which one do you choose and why?
You could say it’s when the brand idea was first entertained—but that’s hard to pin down (in our case). You could say it’s when certain papers were filed—but that’s much too clinical (for our taste). You could say it’s when our first products were made—but that doesn’t happen in a single day either (with our paste).
We decided that Code&Quill’s birthday was best defined as the day we crossed our Kickstarter goal, since that specific milestone granted us both the resources we needed to begin AND what became the foundation of our customer family.
By that standard, Code&Quill’s birthday is “officially” January 14, 2015.
This is our birthday week—Code&Quill turns 3 on Sunday! In this post we’re looking back on the past three years, naming our hopes and dreams for the next three years, and showing you how YOU have changed in the short but meaningful history we’ve shared.
A Conversation with the Team
In the beginning, Ronak was a team of one. But one became two, two became three, and three became five—so Code&Quill’s “personality” is naturally more blended than before.
We’ve asked each member of the team to comment on Code&Quill’s first three years. We've included all of their responses to the questions below.
1. Why Code&Quill?
RONAK — What sets Code&Quill apart for me is knowing that, at the core, what we do is create an experience. We want to craft a story for everyone who checks us out, and we want those people to be able to engage for life—both with us and with other members who've discovered us. This brand is very personal for us (certainly for me), and it makes this work very rewarding.
We see ten trillion water molecules and call it an "ocean"; hear sounds across a room and call them "words". We are constantly taking incomplete information about the world and using them to create our own stories of reality. Sometimes we get it right. Others... yet to be seen.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #art #journal #daily #design #calligraphy #typography #perception #human #blank #quantum #senses #sight #sound #taste #touch #scent
KEVIN — Everyone uses paper; it's highly commoditized. But, as a result, I don't think most people fully respect the purpose of paper as a human invention for storing insight. By nature it's meant for important thoughts. (This is my "inner history nerd" speaking.) I always believed in Code&Quill because it was always made with the user's mind in mind, and to me that's a fundamental difference.
DAN — It's our community that gets me out of bed on Monday morning, so to speak. I always love seeing the art, wireframes, blueprints, sketches, and everything else that our customers send us from their books. It's an instant shot of motivation seeing the passion and care our users put into their work and it makes me want to do the same.
CAROLINE — What drove me to join this team (almost a year ago) was their shared passion, and that's still one of our best qualities. These guys and gals care deeply about their products and want to do the best the customer has seen. They get more excited about an ecstatic 5-star review than they do any big numbers, and by now I'm right with them. If our customers are happy, we are genuinely happy, and I’m not sure the same could be said for other notebook companies.
2. What’s your creative superpower?
RONAK — Finding small solutions to common problems. Everyone has day-to-day annoyances and delays, but because we're used to compensating for them, we often don't notice them. If you can notice and correct day-to-day issues, even simple ones, you can change the game. I've got an eye for those kinds of tweaks.
KEVIN — Probably analogy. For whatever reason, my brain is really good at detecting patterns and comparisons (even within abstract subjects), then putting language to them. So yes, I can craft a mean metaphor if I want—but in everyday use, analogy as a skill is also mega-useful for remembering, understanding, and explaining things.
DAN — This might make me the Aquaman of our creative Superfriends—my powers are really cool guys, I promise!—but mine would have to be sales and marketing copy. With so much noise out there, you have to earn your audience's attention and time... writing creative copy is one more way to do that, and I seem to have a knack for it.
CAROLINE — I’m good at writing. I’m not great at it, but I write the way I speak, and people seem to like and connect with that style. I'd also say I'm fairly witty, but I suppose that's not for me to decide. =P
3. What’s your favorite part of the creative process?
RONAK — Brainstorming. There are so many ways to reach most goals, and taking the time to consider all possible outcomes is definitely my favorite part. Sometimes, too, you come up with crazy ideas that give you a big rush of “what if…” and get you excited about the future. When you get the chance to actually try something new, and it works out, that’s a feeling you can’t beat!
KEVIN — I most enjoy "the middle part" of writing. I respect the usefulness of a good outline, I write down ideas lest I lose them, and I don't rush the editing process—but the fun, instantly-rewarding part is somewhere in the middle when you're composing complete sentences and paragraphs. To me, writing longhand is like the best parts of sudoku and cooking smashed together: there's a logic and wholeness you have to abide, but the rest is improvisational and meant to be enjoyed as you go.
DAN — Beginnings are the best. For the split second (or eternity) you're seeing a blank page, you might go in any direction and you just don't know how everything will look at the end. I love the sensation of all that bound-up potential.
CAROLINE — I write ads, so for me the magic of the creative process is piecing everything together: the copy, the image, the targeting. And then to see everything work together to actually produce results... that’s my favorite part.
4. What’s been your favorite Code&Quill community moment so far?
RONAK — Our notebooks were on an episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley! This might not seem like a “community” moment, but I totally believe it is. We’ve often said that Code&Quill was built for creative professionals, and seeing that intention so accurately reflected—on a show about the world of fast-paced startups and new technologies—showed me that what we do really resonates with the intended people, and that feels incredible.
KEVIN — This is a type of moment I sometimes have as the main thing-doer for Customer Service and Logistics. Most people writing in are chill, but occasionally someone's upset and they want you to know it. When that happens, I sense that (1) they've been shafted before, (2) we've actually made some mistake, and/or (3) they just don't know something I know. I've worked in customer service my whole life, and there's no better feeling than turning enemies into friends—but the response I've gotten from Code&Quill customers is uniquely conscientious and intelligent, and that tells me I've found my people.
DAN — Earlier this year the custom team put together some beautiful Travelers—white covers, baby-blue wraparound logo—for a tech conference in St. Louis. At some point during the conference, someone snapped a photo of a room full of people (hundreds of software developers) all jotting notes in brand-new Travelers which, the month before, had been only concept art on a piece of paper. I've filed that image permanently under "Why I Do What I Do."
CAROLINE — Ads are tough to get right. One big challenge is reaching the right audience, another is saying the right things… so it’s sometimes a lot of trial and error. That's why my favorite Code&Quill moments are when customers write a positive review and say they found us through our Facebook ads. Recently someone wrote in: she was targeted by an ad for a Monolith notebook, she ended up buying one for her husband as a Christmas present, and he LOVED it! These are the kind of micro-moments that make my job so rewarding.
5. In 3 more years, where do you hope Code&Quill winds up?
RONAK — I’d love to see Code&Quill grow into an established brand that people look at and say, 'I can’t wait to have all of their stuff in my workspace.' I’m looking forward to seeing our community across our all of our favorite channels—like Facebook, Instagram, and email—grow into the hundreds of thousands of people, knowing that we’re making some impact on day-to-day life for tons of people around the world. We’re getting closer every day ;)
KEVIN — I want us to have invented something. The "best version" of something old is still worthy, and we aim there with our notebooks, but we can never claim to have invented notebooks. We're a generation still needing quality goods, but whose needs have never changed faster. I'm curious to see what we cook up in the next three-ish years.
DAN — In the next 3 years, I'd like to see the Code&Quill community become a place where our users can share their work and connect with each other to collaborate. Our team got its start because a bunch of different skill sets teamed up to build something we believed in. Making a place for others to do the same would bring the beauty full-circle.
CAROLINE — I want Code&Quill to be the go-to notebook for everyone who works with pen(cil) and paper. As we continue to grow and create new products, there is no question that we will have a notebook to fit everyone’s needs. (AND we have custom notebooks! Literally something for everyone.)
6. What do you use your Code&Quill notebook(s) for?
RONAK — A lot of ideation. There’s literally nothing like putting pen to paper whenever you’re sketching through new product ideas, or when you’re doing some quick math on whether or not a new campaign or initiative will work by the numbers. I use my Code&Quill numbers to explore new thoughts, ideas, and ways of approaching problems because it’s a more personal, tactile experience that really helps my brain explore.
KEVIN — I have two notebooks, both Monoliths. The work notebook (line/line in white) is basically a series of short takes: one topic per page, but otherwise no pre-determined structure. The personal notebook (dot/line in gray) is more of a bullet journal, with much more organization along the topics I frequent. I write consistent tidbits in my work notebook, but my personal notebook is more binge-and-purge (I'm likeliest to use it Saturday, since I try to avoid technology most Saturdays).
DAN — Right now I am running 3 notebooks. The gray Monolith is my "taskmaster" for storing all of my client notes (if I've ever worked with you on a custom order, you're probably in my Monolith somewhere). My white Origin is my personal notebook for goal tracking, spitballing ideas, travel notes, creative writing, you name it; of the three, this is my most chaotic. Lastly, I have a prototype Limited Edition that I share with my fiancée for wedding planning; I'm learning rapidly just how many pages can be filled with guest lists, decoration ideas, and cake-tasting thoughts (easily the best part of wedding planning).
CAROLINE — I keep my Monolith at work. I use it for meeting notes, SEM research, to-do lists… basically everything. (Also, it classes my desk up.) I bring my Origin with me everywhere, and I keep it on hand mostly for ideas. Lastly, I love my Scribes for to-do and shopping lists... they're the perfect pocket notebook! (Also, I doodle in them a LOT.)
Code&Quill Notebooks: a Brief History (and Near Future)
Here's a quick look at how our product lineup has evolved over time—and, at the end, some projection of where it could be going next!
Kickstarter & Prototyping (January to April 2015)
- Designed to the Detail — Ronak doesn't make notebooks with his own hands, but he knows thoroughly how they're made. Even for the first prototypes, he had exact descriptions, drawings, and specifications... very few variables, very little left to chance.
- Kickstarter Campaign — Ronak launched Code&Quill's founding Kickstarter on January 7. We passed the goal ($11,000) in seven days and finish the campaign on February 5 with just over $46,000.
- Traveler 1.1 — To be honest, Traveler 1.0 was underwhelming. Everything else was the same design-wise, but the covers were basically glossy cardstock... we decided we'd use it, but we wouldn't pay $15 for it. So when we get Traveler 1.1 and it's made with the awesome leatherette you know now, we are like WHOA and get way more excited about softcovers.
- Travel to China — Ronak, Kevin, and Dan fly to China in March 2015, principally to meet with our manufacturers and formally get started. We also have some adventures as described here.
The Original Lineup (Summer 2015)
- the Origin — The Origin's design has not changed in the past three years. The gray Origin was our bestseller for the longest time (and remains consistently popular).
- the Traveler — The only design change here was switching out the front cover's patch, though we sold the original version for a couple years before doing so (more detail under "First Re-Brand" below).
- Limited Edition No. 1 — As part of the Kickstarter, we released a light-gray-and-teal Origin (Stretch Goal #1) and Traveler (Stretch Goal #2). We continued to sell these until we ran out post-Kickstarter.
- the Scribe — Our third and final Stretch Goal was the Scribe. At first they were individually wrapped and produced only in white. Shortly after, we added gray as a color option and began to sell them in 3-packs.
First New Product: the Monolith (Spring 2016)
- Size Matters — The Origin and the Traveler were intended as mid-size, all-around books: big enough for substantive notes, small enough to grab and go. But we do most writing at our desks, and we sometimes pined for a bigger notebook even if it wasn't as portable. The solution was a scaled-up Origin—the equal and opposite idea to creating Scribes from scaled-down Travelers.
- To Kickstarter We Return — We head back to Kickstarter for the Monolith notebook's campaign. It launches on May 23, 2016 and ends on June 23, 2016 around $21,600, a couple grand over the goal. A new product is born!
- New Layout Option — We'd always known that the indentation rule was a unique twist on narrow-ruled lines... but lots of people just wanted those lines on both pages. Especially since the Monolith would appeal to wordy writing folk, we obliged them and launched "indentation rule only" as an option for the Monolith.
First Re-Brand: the Ampersand Deboss (late 2016)
- Mo' Patches, Mo' Problems — Lots of people like(d) the look of our cover patches, which were originally on every notebook type. But the patches are more prone to (cosmetic) weakness than the rest of the notebook, and doubly so for our softcover notebooks. So we decided to adjust this detail, mostly for practical reasons.
- Function > Form — Never mind how this change would look (though obviously we care about looks). On our softcover notebooks, the patches could catch and snag on things. This is annoying at best, but worse, a potential design flaw... if your pocket notebook doesn't want to go in or out of your pocket, it's not designed as well as it could be!
- Scribes Were Totally the Guinea Pigs — Since Scribes seemed to benefit most from "going patchless"—and since, as our lightest seller, they posed the smallest risk for testing—we tried our new debossed-ampersand cover on them first. Reception was overwhelmingly positive and the change reduced the number of problems, so we decided to give Travelers the same treatment later.
Code&Quill's Custom Shop (opened 2016)
- You Asked, So We Asked — We started getting questions about possible custom notebooks pretty early in our history. As soon as we had the free time and bandwidth, we sorted through the necessary details with our factory and began offering the option.
- Let's See What This Baby Can Do — We knew what the factory could do generally, but didn't have all the details at first. We've learned the possibilities for custom in two ways: by working on the (sometimes-crazy) concepts we receive from clients, and by experimenting through our own curiosities.
- The Code&Quill Custom "Lab" — We've since realized that our custom shop serves the important purpose of teaching us more about the possibilities of our own products. Some of the product adjustments we're considering for the future are based on design details prototyped in the custom shop.
First Partner Product: the Quiver (Summer 2017)
- We're Selective (Especially About Our First) — We explored a few partnership opportunities before Quiver, but they just didn't fit for us. We decided to join forces with Quiver because the people, pricing, and purpose all matched—not to mention the quality of their product.
- A Perfect Fit — We were pleasantly surprised at how the Quiver seemed to stick beautifully with our hardcovers in terms of both sizing and looks. True, our notebooks are based on common standards (like A5 and B5), but we were skeptical until we tried them, then suddenly we were not skeptical anymore. They were an instant hit when we began selling them... our test batch sold fast!
- More to Come — Quiver is a separate company, to be clear—so we don't have control over what all they make—but we're definitely going to be working with them on new partner products. The first candidate in line (we think) is an adapter that will allow you to affix a Quiver onto your Traveler.
Up Next: the Compass (March 2018)
- Don't Swear It... Tear It! — We felt the next addition to our notebook family needed to be something a little different. Aside from the different shape, each page of the Compass is perforated at the spine so you'll be able to jot notes down and tear them out clean—rather than having to commit all of them to permanence.
- Named by the People — We had some ideas of our own, but we asked our followers on Facebook for suggestions. The name we (and many others) liked best was "Compass," so it has officially stuck!
- Coming Soon! — At this writing (January 2018), our first run of Compass is finishing manufacturing and getting ready to head our way. Stay tuned for their arrival in the next couple of months!
2018 and Beyond
- Other non-bound paper products — think Post-It notes, but way better. And then a handful of other things too.
- Simple add-on accessories for notebooks — one example is a durable band for keeping your notebook closed in transit.
- Spreading the "indentation rule only" layout to other sizes — not sure exactly when, but it'll be headed to the Origin and/or Traveler soon. Mobile journalers and note-takers, gird your loins.
- All-new layout option(s) — the first obvious one (to us) is double dot-grid, partly because (A) it's one of the things we already do well and (B) it's something people have asked for. Like, a LOT of you.
- Writing instruments, like a pen and/or pencil. As you can imagine, this kind of product—to do correctly, as we want to—involves a great degree of precision and care. We will not rush such a thing... but we are definitely working on it.
- Products not related to paper or writing...? — Code&Quill is about more than notebooks. That's a great starting point and suitable mastery for us, but we will make other new things in our own tradition, and it's just a matter of time and concept until we're onto something else.
Our First Three Years Together
In the beginning, we defined our people as creatives or creative professionals—in large part because that's how we defined ourselves and the work we wanted to do.
And yes, many of our fans and followers fit those monikers. Some of them belong to groups we expected: developers and web designers, for instance, and perhaps artists. Other groups (like architects) were unexpected but, of course, welcome.
In the beginning, we had zero followers. Then, we had 1,188 Kickstarter backers. Once we started learning who noticed us, we beheld so many types of people we'd never known to expect—almost every single one a pleasant surprise.
We see people use Code&Quill for tabletop gaming.
We see people use Code&Quill for bullet journaling.
We see people use Code&Quill for photography.
We see people use Code&Quill for personal writing.
Only 10 pages left in my first journal! At least the writing part; plenty left to illuminate. Gonna need a new #codeandquill soon. Thanks so much for letting me share my morning ritual with you! . . . . . #daily #morning #ritual #journal #calligraphy #insight #codeandquill #itoyapens #typographydaily #selfdiscovery
We see people use Code&Quill in their studies.
We see people use Code&Quill in their travels, outdoor and long-distance.
My weekend equipment. . . . . . . #mountaintopbackpack #adventure70L #hero4 #instaFire #titanUco #fenixheadlamp #gerberlight #codeandquill #seatosummit #klymitrecon #klymitphotooftheday #swissarmyknife #tritanWare #firstAidKit #colemanBrazos #keltydridown #vapurwaterbottle #marmotrainjacket #packtowel #primuspowergas #mallomeCookware #gsicookware #msr #mountain25 #agawacanyonSaw #boreal21 #alpsmountaineering #merrellshoes
Hell, we even see people use Code&Quill for watercolor.
For the good of the record: we currently have about 10,000 email subscribers, 6,200 likes on Facebook, 3,600 followers on Instagram, and 1,000 followers on Twitter. Hardly record-breaking, but thrilling to us—since we started with zero, then a paltry thousand, and now here we are.
At 3 years old, Code&Quill is alive (and growing) beyond any doubt, and we've aged enough to understand who we are and why we're here. We are grateful, as always, for your patronage and love—and we hope to hear from you in the coming year.
2018 will be a milestone year. Keep your ear to the ground and an eye on your inbox... a lot of cool s#!t is headed your way.
If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram.