Notebook Review: Baron Fig Askew, Work/Play II and Planner 2017

I’ve developed quite the stack of Baron Fig products to review so I decided to roll them all up into one big review. Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten the Work/Play II ($20), the Planner 2017 (sold out) and the quite controversial Askew ($20). So, let’s work through the list.

Each book is similar in size (5.4″ x 7.7″)  and design to the Baron Fig Confidant with a bookcloth fabric cover. I love the feel of the cloth but the black cloth on the Work/Play II edition attracts dust like nobody’s business. I know lots of people have begged and pleaded that Baron Fig make a black edition. You got your request, now be sure to carry a lint brush. I lint rolled this cover twice in the process of photographing this but it the pursuit of truthful reporting, I’m leaving the dots of dust for you to see. Its beautiful, it looks great, but if you are OCD like me, its going to make you crazy.  I can now see the appeal of the slate grey covers of the original Confidants. What I cannot see, cannot make me crazy.

I love seeing all the ribbon bookmarks. I particularly like the pop of red for the Askew marker. I love the wide cotton and the finished ends so they don’t fray. I just wish the were a smidgen longer so that I could grab the end and pull it to the right corner to open the book. Sadly, the bookmark is too short to do that. It need to be about an inch to two inches longer.

(Ah, the lint!!!) The Work/Play II edition is blind embossed on the cover with a pencil and a paper airplane. The graphics are simple and playful and are repeated inside on the “bookplate” on the flyleaf.

The paper inside is printed on the lefthand side with dot grid and is blank on the righthand side. I joked with my husband that as a lefty and an artist, my “work” is usually more drawing so I need the blank pages on the left so the book is actually backwards, “Why did they put the embossing on the back cover?” Otherwise, the book is utter perfection! I was worried the dots were too wide or too big but once I tried them out, I think they are perfect, even with my tiny penmanship.

My big moment of joy was discovering that, after several previous tests with the Vanguard, there has been some substantial improvements with the Confidant paper. It’s not the same stock that’s in the Vanguard for starters. Nor is it the same paper that I’ve previously tested in earlier Confidants. Oh, Baron Fig… You’ve come a long way!

Hence, the lazy pen tests… I wasn’t expecting much in the pen tests. But I turned the page and there was no bleeding. And none of my fountain pens feathered. I didn’t smear my inks. Even my brush pens worked. Holy pen tests, Batman! What’s going on?

So, I pulled out the Planner… It’s dressed in the Confidant’s dress greys with the date blind embossed in the corner. All subtlety and understated.

I penned my name in the front feeling all “Confidant”. Maybe I might finally get my act together. 2017 hasn’t started all that auspiciously for me thus far.

The planner starts with month-on-two-pages calendars which, in my haste to “get down to business” I forgot to photograph. With January practically over, I decided to use the first few pages for pen tests. Again, its the same paper as in the Work/Play II. Its ever-so-slightly, warm white with lots of open space for your Monday through Friday activities though they do split Saturday and Sunday on  one block which I’m not crazy about. Doesn’t anyone else have busy weekkends?

There’s also a lot of grey space at the top of the page which I don’t quite get though after a couple pages, I did see the advantage of sticking my magnetic page markers up there.

I did like the shaded month “tabs” along the righthand side to make it easy to find the month. There is also a dark page marking the end of the weekly pages and the beginning of the motes pages in the back of the book. All-in-all, if you had previously used a Moleskine planner, this is a vast improvement paperwise. The typography and overall layout is good as well. The book provides quite a few notes pages as well and the bookmark is considerably more durable albeit not as long as I’d like.

Finally, the controversial Askew notebook. I’ll start by saying that I am a graphic designer by trade and I know who Debbie Millman is. She is a well-known designer in my field. She publishes books, hosts a podcast, speaks at events, judges design competitions and is generally regarded as an expert in her field. In graphic design, she’s one of our celebrities for her merit. That said, I’m also familiar with her aesthetic and knew she would do something quirky. So, I was not all that surprised to see the Askew as it came to me, and I did receive it as a review copy not as a subscriber so that might change my perspective a bit (all the other notebooks reviewed here today I paid for).

I love the brilliant blue fabric cover, and the hand scribbled end papers (even though, in general, ballpoint pens give me the heebie jeebies). That red ribbon bookmark! Brilliant! All reminiscent of notebook paper but tilted on its ear. And then each of the pages hand drawn and ever so slightly “askew”.

Again, the paper and size was the same as the other notebooks. While others complain that its too quirky, I think this is a great book for creative play, for travel journaling, for collage, for doodling and for breaking out of rut.

I had fun putting the wonkiest page to good use. Because Monday was in serious need of a do-over.

So, my bottomline, I am loving the Baron Fig Confidants. These are definitely moving the needle on the A5 (-ish) hardcover notebook and have whooshed to the top of my list of favorite notebooks up next to the Moo notebook. And while the Askew may have made other folks reconsider the Confidant subscription its made me CONSIDER the subscription because this is the kind of notebook that surprises and delights. I don’t think I’d want an endless stream of plain dot grid notebooks to show up every quarter but if once a year, something like the Askew showed up and really shook things up, then its totally worth it.


DISCLAIMER: Some of these items were sent to me free of charge by Baron Fig for the purpose of review and some I purchased with my own money. Please see the About page for more details.

Written by

7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Didn’t realize they started changing the paper in the Confidants! Might have to give them a second try! (tho they do have more grain than I’d like..)

  2. I agree with you about the Askew notebook – I wasn’t all that excited for the various Baron Fig subscriptions, but if they mix it up with this kind of thing now and then, I’m intrigued and interested.

  3. I have been reading and hearing a lot about the Askew. You nailed it! What’s the point of claiming to be creative and then freaking when someone actually is? While I have only seen sample pages online, I think we could all use some inspiration to think outside the box/straightl line.

  4. I just love.love.love the 2017 planner. Paper, layout, size, color, what more can I say in addition the dot grid confidant notebook..love at even the second and third glance. Can’t be without them anymore! Thanks for this very nice review!

  5. What??! The paper has changed? Wow! I wonder if the newer paper is also in the softcover Vanguard, which I prefer. . .? Must investigate! Thanks for the thorough review. By the way, I’m not buying the Askew, but it has inspired me to make my own! 🙂

  6. P.S. I love the “lazy” pen testing and stream-of-consciousness random notations on the planner pages! More like real life. 😉

Leave a Reply