A Look Behind the Design of the Blackwing Slate

Austin Kleon tells his readers to “show your work,” so here’s a look at the development of the Blackwing Slate, from initial concept, to the design, name and execution.

The Concept

The process of designing the Blackwing Slate started in January thanks, in large part, to social media. Every day, Blackwing users show off their latest creations using the #Blackwing hashtag. We were confident we had provided people with a fantastic tool to create with, but haven’t focused enough on a place to capture their creations. We knew we needed to create a journal that made it more convenient to create.

We wanted to design the definitive Blackwing journal and a companion to the Blackwing pencil. We also wanted to create something that would serve as a jumping on point for those who have not yet had the chance to try a Blackwing pencil for themselves. Once we established the initial concept, we started designing. 

The Design

Immediately, we knew we wanted to include a Blackwing pencil with every journal. We also know we wanted to keep the design simple, timeless and un-intrusive, like the pencils it was meant to accompany. Finally, we knew the materials had to be durable to be able to withstand the wear and tear of everyday use. After several design discussions, we settled on a design.


This design not only fit our concept aesthetically, but philosophically. The backbone of this entire project is the Blackwing pencil. The backbone of a journal is its spine.

The Name

By far, the most challenging part of this project was coming up with a name. The entire team here at Palomino had a hand in coming up with the final name for the Blackwing Slate, and we took many factors into consideration, namely:  we didn’t want to call it a notebook. Blackwing users choose Blackwing for several reasons, not just taking notes and writing in their diaries and we didn’t want them to feel alienated or generalized with this new item. The other big factor is that the name had to inspire something.  

As we look back at the list of names, it’s clear that we  wanted to convey the idea of capturing and storing a users’ creations. In the end, however, we decided that this product was actually much more than that. It was not only a place to capture and store a user’s creations, but something to inspire them, a blank slate with endless possibilities. Thus, the Blackwing Slate was born. 


The Details

After we finalized the name, we began looking at the details. Taking cues from the writing slate, one of the old writing surfaces, we decided to give the notebook a smooth, matte black finish . In keeping with the minimalist style, we left the front cover unbranded, opting instead to have the Blackwing logo debossed discretely on the bottom of the back cover. (To read more about this unique cover, check out our materials post.)


We then designed the bellyband and Blackwing info page found in every Blackwing Slate:



Finally, after settling on the materials (including the journal’s extra-thick paper, but you can read more about that here), we began production.

The Result


We’re still taking pre-orders for the first shipment of Blackwing Slates, so shoot us an email and place your order if you haven’t already!

Pre-Order the Blackwing Slate