The sketchbook market has a million options for consumers. I typically use field notes because they are cheap and I’ve managed to accumulate a ton, but at work while sketching wireframes, I usually have to turn to something bigger.
My current sketchbook is the Behance Action Journal, but it’s finally at the end of its life. I wanted something similar in size, with no grid or lines, so a friend recommended something from the Baron Fig line. After learning they started off as a Kickstarter brand (which can be dodgy in terms of QA), I somewhat reluctantly placed an order for the Confidant notebook in flagship grey.
A few weeks later (Canada post, yay) it finally arrived. True to their overall design philosophy with their products, the packaging was also pretty straightforward.
Flipping the box over reveals a little bit more about the brand and product.
Inside the box is a small bifold that goes into more detail about the features of the sketchbook.
I like how there isn’t any branding on the exterior of the book, and the splash of yellow contrasting against the grey is a nice touch.
At 5.4″ by 7.7″ with 192 pages, it’s a pretty similar size to what I’m used to with my other sketchbooks.
The outside book is a soft canvas-like material which feels great, and offers a nice amount of grip as an added bonus.
Here is where I started to notice some quality issues on the Confidant. If you look at the spine of the book, you can see waves in the material where it doesn’t sit flat on the surface.
Touching the spine produces a crinkling noise that sounds like old, somewhat still tacky glue.
The next thing I noticed was a yellow stain that looks somewhat like a fingerprint near the bookmark. It’s subtle, but I can’t unsee it now.
The Acid-free fine grain paper is excellent for pencil, but while sketching with pens, the ink shows through on the opposite side of the paper.
One of the features of the book was that it opens flat similar to this image (referenced above) from their product page.
While it can eventually open flat, you need to apply some decent pressure to it, which audibly creaks and groans as the spine gets bent into place.
The binding looks great overall, minus the spine.
Here you can see the binding and glue treatment on the inside of the book.
Opening the book shows another brand-free minimalistic inside cover, leaving room for you to write a title, or anything else to remember what's inside.
On the back page, you can finally see their logo, and some details about the book — Designed in New York City, Assembled in China.
The “stay-flat” feature when the book is open has a byproduct of a “Stay kind of open” look when it’s closed. It feels like if you pus the "stay flat" feature, it shouldn't be a struggle to do so.
Overall, I appreciate the brand-less approach and simplicity to the design of this book. They have a couple of options depending on what paper type you want, and also includes 12 perforated pages at the back so you can easily rip them out. The price point is also pretty good at around $16 at the time of this post, which is almost $10 cheaper than something similar from some of the pricier guys likes Moleskine.
While the build quality overall isn’t terrible, it’s the noticeable things like the spine noise and the yellow stain that kind of threw me off. The value is there, but I hope they can tighten up QA as their company matures.