Buchan's Exclusive Interview with the Paperblanks Design Team


Paperblanks is a Vancouver-based journal & accessory brand. Their products are designed to inspire creativity in all aspects of our creative processes. As a result, we at Buchan's Kerrisdale Stationery proudly carry Paperblanks in-store and online. Recently, we were presented with an opportunity to hold an interview with a member of the Paperblanks Design team. Interested to learn more about Paperblanks? Read below for an intriguing Q&A with the Graphic Development Manager and the Associate Marketing Director.  

Thank you for doing this. Before we start, may you please tell us a little bit about yourselves and your positions at Paperblanks?

Thanks for this opportunity to connect! Today we’ll be introducing you to two members of the Paperblanks team: Adina Costiuc, our Graphic Development Manager who helps source new cover art and bring it to life with the rest of our Graphics team, and Robyn Brown, our Associate Marketing Director, who helps to tell the stories behind the designs and supports our community outreach alongside our North American sales and marketing team.  

How would you describe Paperblanks to somebody who has never heard about the brand?

Adina: Paperblanks is a West Coast Canadian/Vancouver company that makes high-end journals, planners, and accessories that are sold successfully all over the world. Our aim is to bring to the market designs that come from unique and/or prestigious sources, have a lot of fine details, and a high level of harmony and beauty in its composition.  

Describe a day in your life at Paperblanks

Adina: Even after 18 years with the company I can still say that each day is unique and exciting. The workday has a mix of tasks which include dealing with the known projects on the go and the future possible projects. On a daily base, I monitor and/or keep in touch with our visionary Art Director, Supriti Bharma, and other departments and customers regarding new artwork submissions. I go through their requests, analyze them, and do preliminary layouts to assess their potential as future Paperblanks products. Along with Supriti, we make decisions about what artists/museums/designs we will approach to ask for a licensing contract. I am also assisting the Art Director in putting together the proposed combo of Paperblanks and flexis for Future Seasons. Each day I also set aside time to work along the rest of the Graphics Design team on the designs already licensed and scheduled for release. Their skills and passion for beauty and perfection are the secret ingredients of the Paperblanks products and the mantra of the Graphics Department is “Every pixel counts”.  

How does the art your team makes reflect Paperblanks?

Robyn: Our cover designs represent an eclectic and all-embracing mix of artistic traditions and cultural heritages from all regions and eras, a diversity that reflects the team behind it. With offices and teammates all around the world, including Ireland, Japan, Australia, China, and Brazil, we truly are a global family. Since our origins in the early 1990s here in Vancouver, people have joined our team from all walks of life and corners of the world, and it is their unique histories and independent voices that bring new ideas and perspectives to our art choices.  

What inspires you?

Adina: Beauty in the world in all its forms is a great inspiration for me… It can be an intricate flower such as Passiflora or it can be an Italian velvet-like Blu Velvet series or the amazing graphic work that my colleagues are adding to the Paperblanks. A powerful story or an interesting life will also be an inspiration to pursue for a Paperblanks, for example having a Frida Kahlo or Nikola Tesla inspired design.  

What is the favorite part of your job?

Adina: My favorite part of the job is playing with a new proposed design to test if it has potential for a Paperblanks cover. It is from its composition, proportions, and its colors and how it lends itself to our formats that I can analyze and feel if it will be a good match for us. From my experience so far, I have to say that when I saw for the first time what later become best selling journals my heart skipped a beat; in time I learned to recognize that as a sign of finding a gem and to act of the new design with more confidence.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Adina: The most delicate part of my job is and always was to refuse a new design and to explain to the artist/customer why the submission although interesting it is not suitable for Paperblanks. There is a lot of beautiful art out there but not all of it lends itself nicely on the surface of a journal or is able to have the same visual impact on the eyes of the customer once it is wrapped around the journal.  

From where do you get the inspiration for your designs?

Adina: We source our designs from all corners and all cultures of the world. We work closely with a few prestigious museums of the world in terms of antique bindings; for contemporary art, we rely on artist’s submission or we find them on the internet during regular browsing sessions.  

From selecting topics to preparing to publish the cover, can you describe the design process?

Adina: The Paperblanks creation process starts with design research. While some designs are owned by our company, others are licensed from museums around the world. Additionally, we constantly receive artwork submissions from our staff members and even clients. When that artwork is outstanding we bring it into our Paperblanks family and honor the artist who has created it. After carefully selecting the designs, we work with the original images from the licensee and refine them to fit our products. In this process, we try to remain true to the artists’ intentions. We go through many rounds of testing (both in-house and with our printers) until we are satisfied with the final product. By using modern mass production techniques, we replicate the design to the standard of quality for which we are known.  

Do you have a subject matter that you keep revisiting in your designs?

Adina: As a rule, we always try to break new grounds with the cover designs, colors, or stories that we have never done before. Nevertheless, from our experience so far we know that butterflies and journals of color blue seem to be well received by the customers and also that some markets prefer the browns and dark colors.  

Can you give us insight on any new projects the Paperblanks design team is currently working on?

Adina: Hard to focus on one project alone when we strongly believe in each future series; but for the sake of this discussion I will mention two very strong designs by William Kilburn (1745–1818) who was an illustrator for William Curtis' Flora Londinensis, as well as a leading designer and printer of calico. We are charmed by its feminine and timeless designs that still look actual even in today’s world.

Paperblanks is based in Vancouver, what are some ways that you connect with the community?

Robyn: Social outreach has always been a core part of our company’s ethos, and we seek to partner with programs and organizations that help to serve the underserved. One of the most tangible ways we do that here in Vancouver is through the Bridge & Enrich Lives Society (BE). BE is a not-for-profit community center, founded by Supriti and supported by Hartley & Marks, here in Vancouver. It offers classes in disciplines such as yoga, meditation, and dance with the goal of helping individuals explore spiritual and personal truths in order to reach their peak potential. You can learn more about our social responsibility program here: http://hartleyandmarksgroup.com/Social-Responsibility We also strongly believe in the positive therapeutic benefits that journaling can have. Helping to support mental health initiatives and erase the stigma surrounding mental illness is an important part of what we do, and we devote a lot of our community outreach time to this. Whether we are sharing wellness tips or bringing in guest writers on our blog or donating journals to mental health organizations, this is a cause that is always close to our hearts. In fact, we put together a short documentary on the subject that explores the connections between physical and emotional pain, and how journaling and other mindfulness practices can have positive effects on your mental health:  

To close, what advice would you give to aspiring artists?

Adina: From my experience looking at the work of numerous artists I have noticed a few things that I made a few of them stand out from the rest: they have a large collection of artworks, the artworks are created in the same/similar style, the artworks have a rich/complex/powerful story behind, the artworks have a lot of details. Recently the artists also run their own marketing campaigns on social media platforms and they are more active in promoting themselves and that’s a trend that is increasing. Personal advice to young artists… develop a personal style that you are excited to work with. Create a large body of artworks. Run your own marketing campaign on social media. Never give up creating and promoting your work as you will just get better and better at it!  


Paperblanks Shelf We hope you enjoyed this Q&A with the Paperblanks Design Team. We'd like to thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer these questions and give more insights on what goes on behind the scenes. Thinking of purchasing a Paperblanks journal, planner, pencil case, or accessory? Shop online or in-store at Buchan's Kerrisdale Stationery.