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DESIGN PROCESS | How we developed the Mark+Fold Diary | Your Feedback Counts

DESIGN PROCESS | How we developed the Mark+Fold Diary | Your Feedback Counts
Designing a diary is no mean feat. Loyal Mark+Fold stationery users will already be aware of our 9 Principles for diary design. At first glance, the pointers seem obvious, but as with all good things, they were in fact the result of intensive research. By speaking to diary users in our network (and beyond) we were able to strengthen our vision of what a Mark+Fold Diary should be, and encouraged us to stride forward with our own unique layout. 


As you’d expect, we’d already made some anecdotal assumptions before we even began the design process. There were a few points we kept coming back to:
  • The elephant in the room: nobody uses diaries anymore, because everyone has iCal (or some other online digital planning tool).

  • We assumed that people use diaries less than they used to.

  • Given we know that a lot of people use paper notebooks, we thought that a diary would normally act as a secondary tool to back up the notebook and / or digital devices.

  • We thought people would like something slim and lightweight, so they didn’t have to lug a big book around with them.

Whilst there was truth in all of these points, what we found out when we actually started to speak to people was far more enlightening (and exciting!). One phrase that was bandied around by a few diary fans was, “It's not that I use a diary because I am an organised person. It is because I am disorganised and couldn’t cope without it!”. Another went as far to say, “Losing my diary would be worse than crashing the car!”. Seems we’re not alone in our stationery dependency. 


  • People that use diaries, love their diaries. 

  • Several of the keen diary users use it instead of a notebook, and it is the basis of all of their ‘action’ lists or ‘to do’ lists as well as telling them where they need to be and when.

  • People tend to see a diary as an investment because they use it so much; and they often keep them years afterwards.

  • Often used in conjunction with a digital diary, the paper diary is the ‘master copy’ and only the diary owner is ‘allowed’ to write in (or read) it. One person described the diary as ‘protecting’ them - in sharp contrast to a laptop where people can bombard you with information, appointments etc. 

  • The diary is a private space.

  • Several people talked about using a diary to ‘train’ them to remember things and to structure priorities or actions for the day / week.

  • Diary users are aware of the value of the diary, both in terms of money spent and of the environmental impact of using up pages. So there is an awareness of space not to be wasted (perhaps implicitly the time that this space represents, too).

  • Many do not use space efficiently, with awkward areas of white space which are too small to be useful.
  • Some info is taking up space but of little use (eg. ‘Week 27’).

  • Some info is repeated (eg. saying ‘September’ more than once on a spread).

  • Sometimes what works graphically or numerically (eg. dividing the page into 8 even squares) does not work in terms of planning your days, or reinforcing a mental picture of the week.

Armed with all of this information, we created our very first diary in November 2016. Without getting too soppy, the feedback we received (and continue to receive) from newly converted Mark+Folders is humbling. Customers appreciate the fact that we provide a clear structure without being prescriptive. And of course, our diaries are produced to the same exacting standards as our other products — beautiful, sustainably-sourced papers, and our special layflat binding which makes the diary flop open perfectly flat. 
The popularity of the Mark+Fold Diary grows every year, which to us, means it’s a job well done. 
But, as is the case with all good design - continual evaluation is necessary, so please, do keep in touch and tell us what we’re doing well, as well as areas for improvement. Your detailed feedback really does count.