Derek Birdsall on index cards

“To designers who find writing as difficult as I do, let me suggest writing or typing your ideas, notes, thoughts – as they occur – on small index cards.

A6 cards are best – they will fit in a pocket and the restricted size helps to concentrate thinking and writing. The cards can be edited, added to and filled under any heads and in any sequence you choose. You can put your thoughts in order using a hand-made database. They will not get lost or mslaid.

This simple idea occurred to me after buying a manual typewriter. I noticed a card index in the studio which we had used for filing and numbering transparencies for a job. Within a few days I had transcribed on to index cards boxes and drawers full of notes going back years – written on page proofs, the corners of layouts, in the margins of books – together with fragments from magazines and photocopies of articles. Even notes on writing – notably those of George Orwell.

Adding and editing as I went along I then filed the cards in sections for this book. And before anyone tells me I could have done this on a computer, let me remind them that this machine will not crash. It does not have to be switched on. Like Gutenberg, it does not need electricity.”

— Derek Birdsall (via Notes on Book Design)