Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Black N Red Day Per Page Diary (2012)

One of the habits I've tried to sustain this year is writing *something* about my day, each day.  A diary (as in a proper diary sometimes called a daily planner, with printed dates on each page) makes this a bit easier for me - an unprinted book would doubtless lead me into the most terrible backsliding.

So far, I've used Moleskine Daily Planners (2009, 2010, pocket size - they've been surprisingly ok, given how poor the paper is in their notebooks, but are expensive) and a Ciak Daily Planner (2011).  The Ciak was a bit disappointing, with thin paper that had a lot of show & bleedthrough through for some inks.

For 2012, I bought a Black N Red Day to Page diary in the A5 size.  UK readers with decent stationery cupboards will be familiar with Black N Red, who make a series of spiral bound and casebound notebooks that are generally well regarded.  The diaries use a 90gsm "Optik" paper, and come in a range of sizes up to A4 (which seems to me to be massive - even I would struggle to fill an A4 page with my pointless wibbling each day).

The front cover - I think the "Oxford" logo is new, I can't remember seeing it on Black N Red products before.

The rear cover is rather busier, with product information, barcode, and so on.

The diary is casebound, with stitched signatures, and the cover is a nicely textured cloth over board.  The contrasting spine appears taped, although it isn't. A red woven ribbon is glued into the binding for use as a place marker.  All of the pages (save the end papers) have perforated corners, which you can remove to allow quick location of the current day (assuming you remove the corners after each day, of course).

A Sample Page

The diary begins with a page for contact details, followed by a two page year planner for 2012.  After the planner, it's straight into the daily pages, an example of which is above. Note that Black N Red don't put Saturday and Sunday on one page, which some daily planners do to save space. At the end of the diary (the last dated page is 3rd January 2013) is another two page year planner (for 2013), a page of country information, a page of weights and measures and mileages, a page of international telephone codes and time zones and then 6 pages for notes.  It's fairly restrained in this respect, (no tube map, for example) and I quite like that, having never really appreciated the pages and pages of junk I never use that crops up at the beginning and end of some dairies.

The main diary pages have three months of calendar on the top left hand side, showing the previous month, current month and coming month.  The main part of the page has appointment times from 07:00 to 20:00, split into half hours.  Below this are "Quick Note" spaces.  (I should say that I don't use these planning features, I just write on the pages, so can't really comment on how useful it is).  Lines are dark ruled, at a fairly narrow 5mm spacing - the paper is a bright white that ink shows up very nicely on. 

The amount of writing space is slightly larger than my medium Ciak planner (much larger if one writes beyond the lines and into the notes spaces on the Black N Red pages), despite the Black N Red being a larger book.  This is because of the rather busier page layout in the Black N Red diary - I don't think it's fair to criticise that, because the product is, I think, intended to be a planner rather than a journal or personal diary.

I bought my diary from Ryman, for £9.99, although they're fairly widely available, and the price doesn't seem to vary much between stockists.

Note that I've done my ink tests on the "Notes" pages at the back of the diary - I'm assuming the paper quality is consistent throughout.


Showthrough (how visible your writing is with a blank page over it).

On showthrough, I think the diary is slightly less impressive than this scan shows - not terrible, but there is some ghosting through the facing page.

Bleedthrough (how much of the writing is visible on the reverse of the written page).

It's a similar story on bleedthrough, although the scan gives a fairer (possibly *slightly* unfair) picture here.  There's a small amount of ghosting, with the beginnings of bleedthrough at a couple of points from Amazing Amethyst and Pousserie De Lune ink.

The written page.

Close ups - the lower set of inks.

And the top set.

I think the ink tests tell the best story of this paper though - compare inks like Amazing Amethyst, Pousserie De Lune and Havana Brown with their performance in previous reviews, and the superiority of Black N Red's paper is evident.  I can't make out any feathering, even from problem inks in close ups, and for that, I'll put up with the small amount of ghosting on facing and reverse pages.


For the page count, and the cost, I think the Black N Red diary is a great buy - the paper is better than any day per page diary I've used, and it costs less than a lot of premium daily planners/diaries.  If you can live with the slightly utilitarian styling (these books always remind me of being at work, but that could just be an association I have), busy page layout, and lack of premium notebook fripperies (soft cover, rounded corners, elastic closure &c) you'll not regret getting one.

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