Review of 2011 Daycraft Planners.

Today’s review comes from Frankie in Baltimore, who reviewed the Ecosystem Architect book for us last month.  Mr. Lee sent these three to PR HQ this autumn, with other very nice notebooks.

It’s the end of January, which makes it the perfect time to report back from test driving a trio of 2011 planners from Daycraft. Should you decide to make one of these your constant companion in 2011, you’ll still have eleven months of pages to fill with your appointments, birthdays, (hopefully) vacation time, and other reminders.

What with this being the New Millennium and all, there are any number of electronic ways to keep yourself on time and on schedule. If you’re like me, you probably have a combination of both paper and virtual methods. I have a wall calendar at home and at work to lay out the month at a glance, followed by my work calendar on Microsoft Outlook (partly required because it is also shared with my boss). But I can’t part with the old-school romance of a paper-and-pencil weekly planner that goes with me wherever I do. Because I need something I can carry with me, portability is a must –- which leads to the conundrum of allowing enough space to write without making the planner the size of a phone book (remember those?). Each of the Daycraft planners I tried achieves a balance between space to write and compactness. And each of them comes with particular designs and features that you can select to fit your personal and professional needs.

Daycraft Vogue Diary

Cover Material: Stitched quilted polyurethane.
Binding: Case.
Size: Assorted; 4.5 ” x 7.5” (pocket size) as tested.
Page Count: 248.
Colors: Ivory (tested), Blue, Black.

Unique Characteristics: International guides featuring holidays, telephone codes, airports, taxes, even driving conventions; list of international golf courses; vintage chart for the wine lover.
Origin: China.
Availability: Asia, Europe, and Australia. But Yanks can buy them online with international shipping here.

With its fashionable quilted cover and slender profile, the Vogue diary would look right at home inside my (or your) girlfriend’s evening bag. But don’t let the slightly Sex and the City look fool you – the Vogue diary is a hard worker. Mine has been in heavy rotation lately -– in and out of my bag, tossed across my desk, shoved in between other notebooks -– and I can attest to its durability. Its format covers one week in two pages, with each month distinguished by a sheet in a different color. You can keep your place with the red-orange velvet bookmark. Within the week, there are about 1.5 inches of space to write (less for Saturday and Sunday). The week-to-week format is great for plotting out appointments and distributing your workload. I’ve often found that with a page-a-day planner, items I don’t get around to on one day tend not to make it to my to-do list on another day. For all three planners under review here, the paper is smooth and takes to pencil well with no issues with ghosting or smearing. That has held true for the variety of pencils I’ve used so far, including the Palomino, Golden Bear, and Mirado. The international guide at the front of the planner is helpful for the global traveler. I appreciate that Daycraft acknowledges that not all of us have — or want — smart phones.

There are definitely days when I could use a little more space to write, and sometimes I resort to post-its for an extended to-do list. But the portability of the Vogue is tough to beat, and it remains my planner of choice for 2011.

Daycraft Chromatic Days Diary

Cover Material: Fine Italian polyurethane.
Binding: Case.
Size: Assorted; approx. 5 ” x 7”
Page Count: 128.
Colors: Orange (tested), Green, Yellow, Blue, Red.

Unique Characteristics: Four-color printed edges.
Origin: China.
Availability: Asia, Europe, and Australia. But Yanks can buy them online with international shipping here.

The Chromatic Days Diary was serious competition with the Vogue Diary to be my lieutenant for 2011. It’s slim and sophisticated, with a smooth, flexible cover and a modern look. The four-color printing on the edges also makes it colorful without being garish or obnoxious. The orange cover and orange ribbon bookmark are especially aesthetically pleasing. The Chromatic Days Diary lays out one week per page (not per spread), beginning at the end of August 2010 and carrying its user all the way through 2011. It contains fewer additional features than the Vogue but includes international holidays, a year at a glance planner, and pages for notes and a venue list. Its week-per-page layout makes space to write a bit smaller in the Chromatic Days diary -– only about three quarters of an inch. But if you don’t tend to write copious amounts of information in your planner or only need it to track certain things, Chromatic Days is a terrific option.

Daycraft Make My Day Diary

Cover Material: Cloth.
Binding: Case.
Size: Assorted; approx. 6.25 ” x 7.25”
Page Count: 216.
Colors: Black (tested), Black/Yellow, Blue, Blue/Yellow, Red, Red/Yellow.

Unique Characteristics: Black printed edges, perforated memo pages
Origin: China.
Availability: Asia, Europe, and Australia. But Yanks can buy them online with international shipping here.

Somewhat weightier than the Vogue or Chromatic Days Diaries, thanks to its cloth hard cover, the Make My Day Diary is similarly slender and portable. Squared in shape, it displays one week over two pages with a vertical layout that reminds me of the weekly vertical planner from Moleskine that I had a few years ago, but without the hourly markers that I found rather constricting (if I don’t have a meeting at 9 a.m., may I still write something on the 9 a.m. line?). The color palette inside the journal is cream rather than bright white. Each month is introduced by a sheet declaring “Make My Day” in different fonts, spelled out with different materials (including light, vegetables, and computer keys). While this planner wouldn’t look out of place on your bookshelf with your other hardcovers, the “Make My Day” pages lend a bit of subtle whimsy. Like other vertical planners, this one poses some challenge to fit your daily to-do list within its 1.25 inch-wide column. But it’s a trade-off between writing space and portability, and in leaning toward the latter, I think Daycraft makes the right choice, And any one of these three planners may just be the right choice for you in 2011.

[Text, F.G.  Used with permission.  Images, J.G.]

Review of Daycraft Signature Notebook.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Lee at Daycraft sent us a box of samples. Daycraft is a leading Hong Kong brand of planners and diaries:

Daycraft diaries, notebooks and planners are designed in Hong Kong and manufactured in Dongguan, China by Tai Shing Diary.

Tai Sing Diary was established in 1988 and has over the years won a well-deserved reputation for getting things right. (more)

I was immediately struck by two things, which where somewhat related. First, these notebooks are sort of small. By no means is that a bad thing (and they do make larger books also). Being used to Moleskines, I didn’t expect the scale with the detail that Daycraft books have. What I mean is that these are just really carefully designed and carefully made books! See the photo below showing the size, compared to a Field Notes book, which is very pocket-friendly.  But they have all the symmetry and care we find on larger, much more expensive notebooks.

Cover Material: “Fine Italian PU” — Human-Made, flexible material.
Paper: 100g cream-colored paper with 6.5mm lines in grey ink.
Binding: Sewn.
Size: A6.
Page Count: 120.
Unique Characteristics: Beautiful design and construction; colors end-papers and page edges.
Origin: China.
Availability: For now, mainly Asia.  You can get them online with international shipping here.

The book in question today is the Signature Notebook. These come in two sizes (A5 and A6 — we were sent the smaller size) and have a softly textured cover. It looks and feels like soft leather, but it’s some kind of human-made material. Aside from leather issues (if you have them that is), this means that the softness does not preclude durability, the way that soft leathers often (not always) do. The bookmarks, end-papers and edges of the pages have colors that coordinate with the covers. In our case, we have the brown cover and red-orange accents. The effect is striking, while still being nicely low-key.

The cover is completely flexible.  The binding is sewn, with a satin bookmark. The paper is cream-colored 100g, lined paper, with 6.5mm lines printed in about the same grey as Moleskine lines. The cover is slightly rounded at the corners, but the papers are not rounded at all. Because of the generous over-hang, this is not an issue. The entire book is very light-weight and flexible. At A6 size (a little larger than a small Moleskine), it’s not exactly pocket-sized. But it could fit into a jacket pocket, purse or bag easily. I carry mine in the pocket of my puffy vest with no problems, especially since the book is so light.  Once you get past the first page, the book lies flatly on the desk or table, and the binding feels very very secure.

(Comparing size to a Field Notes Raven's Wing.)

We promised Mr. Lee a pencil-specific review, and this book is a treat for pencil lovers.  The paper looks a lot like the color of Moleskine paper: cream with grey lines.  It’s much more stiff and at least twice as thick, however.  While soft pencils prone to ghosting (Palominos, Faber-Castell 9000 4B, Blackwings, soft General’s Pencil Co., etc.) do ghost, they do not ghost with the intensity that they do on thin paper.  Daycraft’s paper has a texture which is very nice for graphite, having much more tooth than Moleskine paper but slightly less than Field Notes.  It doesn’t wear your point away, but it doesn’t shy away from taking some of that graphite off and keeping it to make marks, either.  Smearability is about average, which accounts for the majority of papers I ever use.  The lines are definitely not dark enough to distract you when you write in graphite (which I’ve noticed can be a problem with some papers lately), and they are nicely-spaced for using wooden pencils.

This is a notebook that surprises you with its price tag, especially considering the design and quality upgrade over Moleskines and some other books. Frankly, this notebook (and the other items they were kind enough to send us which we’ll write more about in the future) puts to bed the stupid supposition (don’t laugh; people claim it all the time) that quality goods cannot be made in China.
While it’s disappointing to see some companies move production overseas (I’m thinking of Dixon and it’s serious American heritage), Asian production does not mean a lack of quality any more than American production necessarily means that something is better made.  There are better made than a lot of American and European notebooks I’ve used and seem more carefully assembled than any Moleskine I’ve bought in the last three or four years.

Unfortunately, Daycraft does not currently have an American distributor, but you can purchase from an Australian dealer that will ship worldwide. It’s worth it.