BaronFig is a pretty interesting company that I was not really aware of until recently. They do not seem very present on Middle and Northern Europe, at least not in those spaces in which I move. That is when I got in touch with James @ BaronFig, who generously provided me with a sample of their notebooks for review – many thanks for that.
Besides producing notebooks, they do also have a pen (the “Squire“) coming out soon. Also, there is a protective leather case (the “Guardian“) available for their flagship notebook called Confidant – which we are going to look at now. After that, we will look at BaronFigs pocket notebook – the Apprentice – which I, I can already say that here, find very interesting. Probably more interesting than the flagship notebook that we are going to look at first.
There is something that becomes apparent at first sight, even when seeing the cardboard box of the notebook only: the journal is packaged and marketed in a fashion very similar to a technology product. BaronFig emphasizes that the product is always improved (under constant construction, so to speak) whereas they iteratively incorporate customer feedback.
We’re treating an analog product like a tech one—by continuously taking feedback and iterating the design.
This is generally an interesting approach, I guess (see also: Open Innovation).
You can see this theme going on as you open the packaging. You will be presented with a small brochure on top of the actual notebook – all of which looks pretty “tech” and minimalistic. The image of the Confidant notebook on the right side of the brochure might well be a MacBook or something like that – at least at first glance.
Remove the brochure and you will be presented with the Confidant hardcover notebook itself. Here are the specs:
- Opens flat due to thread binding
- Available in blank, ruled, or dot grid (making it an aspirant for Bullet Journaling – I have the blank ruling here, however)
- Available in grey or charcoal
- 192 pages
- 12 detachable pages at the back of the notebook
- Yellow page marker
- 16$ (free US shipping)
These are pretty solid specs, I would say. Nothing that would surprise you, or in other words: just what you would expect from a better notebook. The only thing that I personally find pretty remarkable is the pricing. It is not utterly expensive, but throws the notebook straight into competition with the Moleskine Large or the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 (and almost the Rhodia Webbie). Those are all established players and their notebooks are generally accepted as “high quality” (however, some may now want contest that for one or the other). Having that said, I do find the pricing move of BaronFig – let’s call it “a bit brave”.
When looking at the notebook, it has a nice compact size – about the same width as the Moleskine Large, but about 1,5cm shorter in length (ca. 13.5 x 19,5 cm). The yellow page marker is of pretty good quality and quite wide, which I like.
The notebook has a very beautiful surface structure. The binding is sort of a fabric or cloth, which feels really nice. It reminded me quite a lot of the Paperstyle notebooks that I have once reviewed (and these are among my favorite notebooks). I do really like this grey and yellow color-combination. So these are all things I like about this notebook.
There are, however, other things that I do not like so much about the notebook. First, it has no (expandable) pocket at the back of the notebook and second (you have already noticed that, of course), it has no elastic closure strap – while this might not bother everyone, it is both certainly a minus for me. And it also does not really put the notebook in a very good position against above mentioned established competitors, all of which have those things. Another thing, and you can see this pretty clear on the picture above, is that the page marker is rather short, sticking out about a centimeter only. This is too short for my preference.
Another thing that I do not really like about the Confidant, but this is a rather aesthetic thing, is the way the binding makes the back of the notebook look. I am not sure what kind of binding BaronFig exactly uses, but it gives the back sort of a weird rippled appearance, which I find looks a bit cheap. But that is maybe just me.
Anyway, all those pointers may well serve as a feedback that may be taken into consideration for a next iteration of the notebook’s design. Let us now turn to the heart of the notebook, which is the paper.
The paper is what I would consider off-white in color. It has rounded edges and it feels really nice and smooth. As you can see, I have put the paper to test with some of the pens that I would normally use in a typical day. And I have to say that the paper passed this test without any problems. It is, in fact, pretty darn good paper.
Even on a close up, and where I wrote with fountain pens or liquid ink pens, there is very little feathering. At least not to an extent that I would find problematic in any way. But I am also not a user of very broad-nibbed fountain pens or a Pilot Parallel pen or the like.
The paper stands up to the test very well even upon turning the page. Just a little shine through that I would consider perfectly normal. No bleeding or anything.
So let’s now turn attention to the pocket notebook – the Apprentice.
I do really like the Apprentice Pocket Notebook a lot. It has a wonderful size that makes it completely disappear in a shirt pocket, for example. The Apprentice is a little smaller (especially shorter) than e.g. Field Notes or Moleskine’s Cahier pocket size. Here are the specs:
- 3 pocket notebooks per pack (8,5cm x 12,5 cm)
- Blank, ruled, or dot grid
- Yellow stitched binding
- 48 pages each
- Last 12 pages detachable
- 3-pack for 9$
I got the dot gridded version here. The Apprentice also has no back pocket, but with such a rather compact notebook, this is also not really neccessary. As with the Confidant, the paper is really nice. I like it a lot better then the paper of the Moleskin Cahiers, for instance. But I might probably not be alone with this opinion.
The covers of the Apprentice also have a little bit of a structure, which looks extremely nice. For soft covers, they are pretty sturdy, which makes it exceptionally useable as an everyday carry – and the Apprentice is most definitely a new favorite edc of mine.