Designing the Note-Taking Kit
For the last two years, we've been working closely with our good friend Matthew Encina to design the Note-Taking Kit. We documented the process and Matthew created a video showing behind the scenes from start to finish. Watch the full video, and read along in the story as we tell how this product came to life.

In 2021, I quit my job to explore new opportunities as a creative. At this same time, my friends at Grovemade asked if I wanted to collaborate on designing a desk accessory product from scratch.

Matthew Encina
Mod Musings

KEN TOMITA (Grovemade Co-Founder): We'd been working with Matthew for a while, and the idea of turning the collaboration toward a product made sense—it's what we do!

Matthew is a Los Angeles-based creative director, who loves to build things and make content on productivity and creativity through his company, Mod Musings. We share a passion for improving the way people work—we love his content, he loves our products, and after years of working with each other, we finally decided to design something together.
Grovemade's design team meets with Chris Do.
Grovemade co-founder Ken Tomita and lead designer Sean Kelly
Notes and sketches from the design conversation.
Research & Discovery
To kick off the project, Ken and Sean flew out to LA to study Matthew's work environment—observing how notes were taken, how information was processed, and what tools were being used. We did the same study with Matthew's mentor, Chris Do, the founder of The Futur. From both of these sessions, we noticed some overlap and challenges when it comes to note-taking, a big part of our daily work.

SEAN KELLY (Lead Designer): We learned so much from watching—it's how we start most of our design projects.

As a follow-up to these in-person interviews, we conducted several surveys with Grovemade’s customers. We asked questions to learn how people take notes, what their workflow and tools are, what challenges they face, and to identify any possible opportunities to address them.

From all of these, we were able to make the following observations:
  1. Taking notes is essential to our daily work—usually while on calls and when consuming information, using notepads or whatever paper is on our desk.

  2. We don’t have a good way to store our notes, which usually leaves a mess on our desks, or are hidden out of sight and out of mind.

  3. People tend to keep important notes for 3-5 days while processing them.
Next, we make sense of our discoveries and focus on the right problem to solve. While the previous phase was all about expansive thinking, now we’re narrowing things down until we have a clear design challenge.
Early rough sketches for the Vertical Organizer spread across the Grovemade design area.
Matthew flew up to Portland to review our insights. We kick things around and ask ourselves:
  • What are the common insights and pain-points?

  • Does this seem like a big enough problem that others face?

  • Are there already solutions on the market?

  • Is this something we’re excited about?

We distill our work down to:

How can we design a better way to capture, review, and store notes?

Now we're back into an expansive way of thinking, exploring potential solutions. We continue to work remotely, running whiteboard sessions digitally in Miro. For a few weeks, we set time aside to sketch ideas, share research, and add to each other's work.

MATTHEW ENCINA: For me, this is the fun part of the process because it’s loose, fast, and is exciting to see possibilities.

KEN TOMITA: Sean and I have been designing products together for over 10 years—we were able to integrate Matthew into the process really well, which is crucial for any design team.

At this stage, Sean is also making quick prototypes of cardboard, old scraps, and 3d printings, which we send Matthew for review.
This entire process takes months to complete, with several cycles around and around. We refine ideas we like, test them out, then make adjustments to the form and function, dialing in the details of dimensions, angles, and materials.
The Kit Coming Together
We settle on a direction that involves a set of tools that work together: an updated notepad size from a previous Grovemade design, a stand to hold notes, and a divider to store them.
Ken, Sean, and Matthew reviewing multiple generations of prototypes for the note-taking kit.
Matthew pins a sketch to the design board.
Sean sketches the Display Rail on an iPad.
Chipboard mockups of the vertical organizer.
Ken in front of dozens of rough physical mockups.
We realize the stand we're designing also holds devices (iPhones, iPads) and Grovemade sketchbooks. It’s unintentional, but a nice feature we include in the development. An unexpected challenge comes up with the notepad paper stock. We spend a few weeks trying to find the perfect thickness that will stand up on its own, without feeling excessive, like card stock—it has to match the feeling of the quick notes and ideas that will be written on it. As we get further along, we have to make a lot of tough decisions, but we land in a place we’re all happy with.
Making it Real
Now it's time to implement and bring the product to life. We know what the solution is, now the focus is building it the right way.
This whole process takes months. We source the materials, develop how each piece will be made, and finalize the processes for assembly. This slightly influences the final design, but not by much since Sean and Ken kept manufacturing in mind throughout the earlier phases.
All Kitted Up
After two years of design and development we're proud to share the Note-Taking Kit by Grovemade and Mod Musings. What started with an exploration of the note-taking process, resulted in a set of tools to help you capture, review, and recall your notes. We learned a ton along the way, and couldn't be more excited with how the product turned out.

The collaboration has enabled me to explore a new side of my creativity. Now, it’s time to get back to work.

Matthew Encina
Mod Musings
Oak Note-Taking kit with matching desk shelf and dark wool felt desk pad.
The Maple Display Rail propping up an iPhone and notes, and acting as a home for an AirPods case.
Profile view of the Walnut Display Rail with custom note card.
The Walnut Vertical Organizer with notes filed into three separate divisions.
Get the Kit
The Note-Taking Kit gives you the tools to take in, store and use information in a thoughtful, analog way. Available in a special white oak and leather launch edition, as well as walnut, white oak and maple versions.
The slim brass notepad in use with the Grovemade Brass Pen.

Designing the Notepad

The reusable Grovemade notepad is an essential piece of our desk collection—but it took a happy coincidence between researching notebook sizes and dissatisfaction with disposable notepads to bring it to life.

Further Reading