doane paper

Doane Paper

A previous post mentioned a successful stationery shopping trip. One of the brands I picked up was “doane paper”. I had definitely heard of these fine folks via The Pen Addict. The Addict uses doane paper in all his reviews. It may be an addiction. The paper’s grid combines traditional lined ruling with squared (graph paper) ruling.

While the doane paper website offers online ordering, the economics of their flat rate shipping to Canada aren’t too appealing to potential customers who just want to try a pad of paper. It may make sense for large orders.

So count me lucky in that I stumbled across one of their few brick and mortar retailers – Laywine’s in Toronto. I picked up packages of the 8.25″x11.75″ and 5″x8″ paper pads and the 3.5″x5.5″ stapled notebook. (1″ = 25.4mm, and I’ll continue to use Imperial measurements here because they turn out to be integral to the product format.)

Doane Paper

The paper immediately struck me as appealing in design, as well as offering a nice heft. What I wasn’t so pleased with were the thin cardboard backing and the bright shiny blue top section. The thin back means the pad can only be used on a desk or other solid surface, and the super glossy blue section struck me as being a distraction.

Doane Paper

While the paper and layout are very nice, there are a lot of elements that are so “just right” that I have to presume they are the results of careful and thoughtful design.

The paper pattern in based on 1/8th inch squares rendered in fine blue ink. The small pad is 36 squares wide and 54 squares long.

Doane Paper

Let’s note two paper design items here:

First, the smaller squares are almost unique. 5mm squares are a stationery norm, from high end Clairefontaine and Rhodia to generic office supply store paper, and the 1/8th inch (about 3.2mm) squares, with fine line rendering, have much more of a precision engineering look and feel.

Second, the squares are contained, and don’t bleed to the edges (see the top two photos). This addresses another problem – quadrille/square/graph paper almost always has the issue of randomness of the application of the ruling pattern. Even Exacompta Record Cards have this issue. (Japanese manufacturers such as Correct seem to have solved the problem, and can consistently apply the square pattern across a given paper format.)

What this means is that is that the grid layout looks more centered and even more precise than almost any other paper most of us typically handle. The doane paper pad appears so precise and exact because it uses smaller squares, and because the squares don’t bleed to the edge.

Next, every third horizontal line is thicker – these are the normal horizontal rules of most paper. The number of vertical squares (54) is of course is divisible by three, so that there are 18 normal ruled sections created by the 17 thick rules.

Doane Paper

The pièce de résistance is the thick red vertical margin rule. Something in me says it should be six squares in to balance the three squares of the thick horizontal rule section in a 2:1 ratio. But of course it shouldn’t be! It is five squares in – for a 5:3 ratio, approximating the golden mean.

The 5×8 pad in particular, which has 50 perforated sheets, with a detached sheet being 5×7.25, really is a compelling offering.

The large pad, which I also like, is 62 squares wide and 84 squares long. The margin line is seven squares in.

Doane Paper

The above stated, I’m neither a designer nor a design critic. I was taken with the paper and wanted to try and learn what elements made it so interesting and special. I hope some or much of the analysis is correct.

Doane Paper

The ‘utility notebook’ was less interesting to me. The cover is very thin, making it unideal as a travel companion. As well, the graph bleeds to the edge and there are no red margin lines – all the elements which seemed most interesting in the pads are absent in the notebook.

Doane Paper

There are other formats as well, but I didn’t see them at Laywine’s.

Now the paper itself seems to handle graphite really well. The sturdy bright white paper and blue lines combine very well with graphite – either ceramic or polymer. A super high quality pencil like the Tombow Mono Mark Sheet just pops on the paper.

Doane Paper

I recently used the small pad to help prepare for a presentation, and I found the format to promote conscious, organized note taking. Speaking to an audience, where content and time management are parallel tasks, was a challenge ably addressed by this format. I said to myself, “Content goes on the lines, timing and technical notes on the grid”. I really didn’t have to think about it – it just worked.

For many readers of this blog, I think doane paper is well worth examining. Have you seen it?

Notebooks from Laywine’s

Notebooks from Laywine's in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Between online selling and big box stores, many types of smaller businesses are feeling the pinch today. The independent stationery store is unfortunately a relic in many places. One exception may be New York City. (See these posts at Pocket Blonde. New York looks great!)

One way of fighting back is to move up the food chain and specialize in higher profit areas like custom stationery or fountain pens. Yet even that is getting tougher as online selling grows. I often read that the Lamy Safari is a great $20 fountain pen. But every retailer in Canada that I’m aware of charges between $42 and $46 for this pen. At $46 plus 13% sales tax, that is $C51.98 (or $US51.08 at today’s rate). So is it a great $51 pen? And just where is it sold for $20? Well, online. Yes, it might actually be $21 or $25 plus shipping, but that’s still nowhere near $51.

So you can see the challenge that a brick and mortar retailer might have. Now think about $200 vs $500 for a pen. (I think this ratio continues to hold up, from what I’ve observed.)

Laywine’s is a store in Toronto that I recently visited. I think they’ve found one good way of competing with online retailers – by comprehensively stocking a broad array of all these brands that we see promoted online. In fact they had many products that I’ve not previously heard of, despite my keeping up with several stationery websites and blogs.

I’m not mentioning looseleaf paper, agendas, fancy journals, or correspondence oriented stationery – and trust me, they have plenty of items in those categories as well.

So let me mention some of the notebook brands and items they have:

Clairefontaine and Rhodia – they’ve always stocked these brands, and comprehensively – the Rhodia pads from the tiny jotters to (my favourite) the mighty A3 sized No. 38. The ring-bound Clairings and Pollen paper and new tobacco-coloured (age bag) 9cm x 14cm formats were standouts for me.

Moleskine – This store was selling this brand when they had fuzzy faux animal print covers and we thought they were made in Italy. They still have a full line, including the new A3 and A4 formats.

Field Notes – Here it starts to get interesting. Laywine’s has this brand in regular and “special edition” formats. I bought an orange pack and three-colour pack. Much cheaper than mail order as well.

Doane Paper – another brand that I associated with online marketing. I learned of them from the reviews at the Pen Addict blog. I wasn’t aware that they had a retail presence. I walked away with several formats (and wish I had bought more).

Behance – we’ve looked at Behance in the past. Laywine’s again has the full range, as far as I could tell.

Letts – I was not aware of a new notebook line from this established name, and picked up a notebook in a very pleasing and unusual dimension. (172mm x 232mm).

Leuchtturm – there were even more formats here than I’ve seen for sale online (including thick/thin versions and dotted/lattice versions).

Canteo – the first time I’ve seen this fantastic Swiss brand at retail. (I love the 4mm grey squared paper.) The offerings were limited, but they said that more is on the way.

Whitelines – Apart from the many versions I’ve already seen, they had hardcover and glued pad formats that were new to me.

Miquelrius – I’m afraid this was my biggest disappointment. All the Miquelrius notebooks I saw (some in a pleasing composition book format) looked poorly finished, and I’ll have to wait to try out their line.

Apica – another line that Laywine’s has stocked for several years.

There are other Japanese brands they stock, but whose names I’m not sure I can accurately identify.

So by bringing all these brands together, this store is creating a powerful and compelling counterforce to online ordering. They’re benefitting from the online hype without selling online. And, what a great store it is! The photo shows some of my purchase.

I don’t think any single online source has such an array – Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Moleskine, Canteo, Leuchtturm, Apica, Rhodia, Field Notes, Doane Paper, Behance, Letts, Whitelines, Miquelrius, Apica, all side by side.

So if you happen to visit Toronto and like stationery, I do recommend a stop at Laywine’s. Maybe there is a great stationer in your locale that you’d like to recommend?