DEVELOP Research – Journals and Workbooks

Since I’m making some kind of publication to accompany/enhance the cards, I’ve been looking at existing publications for comparison.

I can see a couple of main avenues to research:

  • A workbook containing exercises and leaving space for these to be completed.
  • A publication containing exercises that the user completes somewhere else, using materials of their own choosing.
  • A publication containing prompts alone, that are less about creating walks and more about creating experiences.

Wreck This Journal

In ‘Wreck This Journal’ Smith gives enjoyable tasks to encourage users to be less precious about creating. I really love this approach but think it might be a bit too prescriptive for what I’m trying to do. My journal is aimed at people who already have a creative practice so I think I should give them a bit more scope to interpret the prompts.

How To Be An Explorer Of The World

‘How To Be An Explorer Of The World’ is another publication by Keri Smith. This one has a slightly different agenda, more in line with my own intentions – to encourage users to take notice of their surroundings, and to help them begin to document all the interesting things they start to take notice of. About 2/3 of the book is devoted to ‘Explorations’ – starting points and prompts for manageable activities, accompanied by quotes, examples and illustrations. The latter section contains places to document, stick or store things the user has ‘collected’.

Apologies for the terrible image quality, but this post is taking far too long to write as it is.

The Adventure Journal

The Adventure Journal

‘Simply choose a category together, then scratch off your adventure! Don’t forget to take a picture and journal your experience! When you finish, you’ll have a keepsake to look back on.’.

Sasha saw this and sent it my way, after some discussions about my project. I like the balance of spontaneity (you don’t know what the challenge is) and choice (pick from a category) that this journal offers. However, like with ‘Wreck This Journal’ I think it’s probably more prescriptive than I want for my journal.

Wellness Journal

This one seems like more of a traditional journal, with an emphasis on ‘wellness’ (not my favourite word, but I think it’s relevant to my project). It contains 12 weeks of exercises and prompts for ‘reflecting on your mindful goals, habits, meals, water intake, sleep and the things you’re grateful for.’

I like the idea of setting an intention for the day. Could users set an intention to look for something specific each day/week/month – weeds, flowers, moss, water, birds, insects…

A place that exists only in moonlight by Katie Paterson

This isn’t a journal, but I’m wondering if the format could work for me. artist Katie Paterson has created a book of artworks that can only exist in the imagination. Each page contains a single text, usually made up of one sentence only, describing an impossible piece of art for the user to imagine.

At least some of my prompts could work as standalone pages like these.

A place that exists only in moonlight by Katie Paterson

The Small Adventure Journal

The Small Adventure Journal describes itself as a ‘low-commitment field guide’ for discovering the outdoors. It contains easy ideas for exploring your environment.

Ritual Recipes for Coping With Change by Rebecca and Fan

This is a really lovely online publication of ‘Ritual Cards’, each “designed to help you transition from a state of stress or uncertainty to a state of calm and stillness.”

The clear structure – a ‘recipe’ with a beginning, middle and end – works really well, and makes it feel very accessible. I think I’d still like to keep most (if not all) of my prompts short and to the point, to allow for more interpretation by users. However, this does make me think I should put some more general instructions at the front of the journal about how to prepare for the walk, similar to what Laura Harrington did in Don’t just do something, sit there, 2020 which I discussed in this post.

The Crossroads of Should & Must by Elle Luna

The Crossroads of Should and Must is a kind of workbook by Elle Luna to help readers to figure out how to live a more fulfilling life. It contains different exercises to complete as well as having passages of text to reflect on.


Ella and I are both looking at journals for our projects, and she sent me a link to this beautiful one by Patternity.

Be Great Be Grateful, explores how design and pattern might shape the way we live our lives, using the format of a gratitude journal to create positive thoughts and habits, underpinned by conscious rituals and the simple act of taking time to notice the world around us.”

So in terms of intention this journal is quite well-aligned with mine. The design manages to showcase the visuals without being overwhelming – I especially like the quote spreads that break it up. I also think that having 3 sections (this journal describes them as ‘phases’) really helps the user to understand the intentions of each activity. This kind of structure would help me to make sense of the content which is currently just a list of ideas.


I think I need to narrow down what the purpose of the journal is. After reading this essay by Michael McCarthy, I was especially struck by the following sections:

An urban life, especially if you are poor and your town or city is big, means that you are much less likely to have access to the rhythms of the growth cycle…

Perhaps the biggest loss of all in living an urban life is the intimate feel for the natural calendar…

Not entirely lost, perhaps: even in a world of high-rise blocks you know it is warmer and sunnier in summer than in winter—but something subtler has gone. I mean the feel for the switches and the transformations, for the tiny signs, easily stifled by traffic noise and electronic music or submerged by pollution, that changes are underway with the Earth, above all in the great rebirth of spring—signs that have produced intense pleasure, excitement, and indeed reverence in us since we began to be human, and that even today can be among the greatest generators of happiness and of hope.

In this post I began to break down the prompts into categories, some for the cards and others better suited to a journal. I think perhaps the publication would be well-suited to the kind of observations made by McCarthy above – encourage users to notice seasonal changes, big and small. Tasks can be repeated multiple times throughout the year to allow users to compare and contrast, which can form a kind of self-made almanac.

Details from ‘The Almanac 2021’ by Lia Leendertz

I think I’m going to take some of the prompts from the ‘Observation’ and ‘Creation’ categories and expand them into journal prompts, to be repeated throughout the year. See below (copied from a previous post).



These are the prompts which encourage a closer/deeper look at your surroundings

  • Find something growing in an unexpected place.
  • Look for water 
  • Find a reflection
  • Find an empty lot or construction site and document whatever is growing/living there. 
  • Look for something decaying. Document it and try and find it next time you go for a walk. 
  • Find something which has been enclosed which shouldn’t be
  • Find something that has been trodden on or snapped
  • Find a trail or track
  • Find something growing up/through a fence
  • Document a pattern or trace that isn’t manmade
  • Put some film in your camera or buy a disposable one. Take one photo standing by each lamppost in the street you are in. 

These should help the user start to build up research and documentation, and hopefully provide a spark for some creative projects

  • Document the nearest tree
  • Make a rubbing of
  • Capture the texture of
  • List 5 things you can smell, feel, hear
  • Draw the smells, feelings, sounds – be as abstract as possible with your marks
  • Document the 5 main colours you can see
  • Draw yourself in the landscape
  • Draw your surroundings with your eyes shut
  • Do a 1:1 scale drawing of something you can see right now.

Next Steps

  • Expand some of the journal pages
  • Put together some wireframes
  • Send out for feedback
  • Begin visualising the journal, and adapt style guide to suit