Well, the whole Mark+Fold project began with this question. I've been a really keen notebook user since the age of about 10. I have a huge collection of diaries that I've kept ever since then, and they mean a lot to me. I've collected so many different ones over the years, and the reason for setting up Mark+Fold was that I was really struggling to find any good ones. This was in the 2000's, when I think the world was in a bit of panic about what a post-digital world would look like. We all had Blackberries, and I think the notebook companies were worried they were becoming obsolete, so they doubled-down on what they thought would make them the most profit: the designs were all floral and decorative, and the quality just dropped off a cliff.
In 2015, I set out to make the first Mark+Fold notebook and it was a dreamy process for a notebook-lover like me to think about what mattered:
1. Good quality paper: how it feels to write on, but perhaps more importantly for me, the opacity as I hate bleed-through and I like inky pens.
2. Proper binding: I have to be able to open it fully flat, without having to force it, and without pages falling out (my experience in book production taught me this means it has to be thread-sewn with cold glue, a process that is frustratingly hard to come by).
3. Flexibility: I want to be able to make it feel like my own, so in my case that means no decorative floral patterns, owls or butterflies! I want to be able to put my own mark on it, so it needs to be quite neutral (yet classy). I also don't need it to tell me "write your to do list here" or "set your weekly goals here." For me it has to be plain, I want full control of what I'll write where.
4. Quality: Not just the paper but the overall feel, and the whole experience of unwrapping it. Aside from the sustainability considerations, I'd like the whole unwrapping experience to feel tactile and enjoyable, no unnecessary plastic.
5. Sustainable transparent production: I want to know how and where it was made, in part because I'm fascinated by all things print and book-binding, but more than that I'd like to know for certain that it's been sustainably made. The idea of "cutting down trees to make notebooks" is no longer accurate, when you look at things like Bamboo paper where the extremely fast-growing crop is harvested and just keeps growing, or GF Smith's brilliant Extract made from coffee cups, which we use often at Mark+Fold. There is always a story there, and if they choose not to share it that probably means it’s not one that will make you want to buy their products!
These principles led us to creating the Notebook Mark One in 2015. Still our all-time favourite, this had it all: the paper, the binding, the details that make it sing. All of the notebooks and diaries we have made ever since, have stayed faithful to these founding principles. We will never waver on quality.