The best notebook for designers

A notebook is one of the most important tools for any designer and, with so so many out there, it can be really hard to work out wich is the best. After tweeting a poll I decided to buy the 4 most popular and review them. Hopefully giving a decent recommendation in the process!

So the notebooks we're reviewing are all the dotted variants of the following notebooks, and we'll be covering the design, craftsmanship, features, paper quality, and how it is actually using them:

Leuchtturm 1917 Medium A5 - $19.95
Moleskine Large - $17.95
Baron Fig Confidant - $18
Field Notes Pitch Black - $19.99


Designers care about the way things look and feel, so taking a quick look at the aesthetics of the notebooks is obviously quite important. Field Notes stands out here due to its diminutive size and soft cover style, however the others also differ in small ways.

Moleskines are always incredibly well made, have great page binding and a nice smooth cover. They are effectively what you would expect from a notebook.

Baron Fig adds a touch of colour which I absolutely love, giving it a more interesting look and feel when compared to the other relatively plain notebooks. People will comment on it.

Leuchtturm's have a similar approach to moleskines, understated and simple. However they are available in a lot more colours, making it easy to find a finish you like. Plus they are slightly wider than Moleskines which I absolutely love as it gives considerably more room for note taking and wireframing. The above image is of my current notebook so it has some wear.

The actual design of Field Notes are by far my favourite. Minimal, simple and extremely clean. The only problem I have with these are always the diminutive size, making them almost pointless for anything but on-the-go notes, which is of course what they were designed for.


Being able to lay a notebook flat is incredibly important, and having the binding hold well when doing this is crucial. Moleskines get this right every time, and they have mastered their manufacturing process over the years.

The Baron Fig falls slightly short here. They theoretically use the correct binding type, however, their fabric cover tends to scrunch up leaving creases over time. This is wear the bonded finish of Moleskines and the Leuchtturms really shows.

The Leuchtturm probably just pips the Moleskine in its build quality. Incredibly well stitched pages mean this thing isn't going to fall apart any time soon.

Field Notes always feel quite cheap and cheerful due to their soft cover and simple stapled binding and this means they don't lay flat and generally feel rather disposable.


Moleskines have a single bookmark and a tight elastic strap to hold everything together in your back. Again, these are really the baseline of notebooks and they do get the simple things right. They also have a little folder in the back to drop in receipts or business cards in as well.

Baron Fig does lack an elastic strap which means they do sometimes open up and flap around in your bag, leaving scrumpled pages at times. But they do have perforated pages at the rear for quick tear off notes if you need to give them to someone.

Leuchtturm Notebooks have a double bookmark which is surprisingly useful (one page of something you need to remember and another page of where you're currently at), plus they also have a very well made elastic strap. They also have a full contents page, numbered pages, and a few perforated pages at the rear book if you need to tear something out to give to someone. There's also a place for business cards and receipts as well.

Field Notes has some pages in. That's about it really. They're just plain, simple, small notebooks.


Moleskines have a great quality paper that seems to work well with most mediums. However the dot grid doesn't line up well with the edges of the paper which can be quite frustrating at times.

Baron Fig notebooks have potentially the best paper texture, however there seems to be only a vague attempt to have the dot grid line up. And the dots are actually quite large even though they are subtle in colour.

Leuchtturm is miles ahead of the competition with the layout here. The grid lines up perfectly on every single page, and the little numbered pages are such a nice touch as well. The dots are incredibly fine and printed in extremely high quality. The paper pulp is also extremely tight, making it great for fineliners.

The paper is OK, but the dots don't even remotely line up and the corners aren't very well die cut either. Probably the worst paper of the bunch.


Moleskines hold ink really well with minimal bleeding, and the dots give a decent guide on the page.

Baron Fig paper seems to leave slightly furry lines due to ink bleeding, but I do like how the dots fade into the background as they are a light grey, instead of a straight black.

Leuchtturm has the crispest ink hold and the dots are incredibly fine which makes sketching with them easy. However, if they were a lighter grey like the Baron Fig, they would be even better.

Field Notes have quite a textured paper finish, but surprisingly hold ink quite well!

Final verdict


Design - 3
Craftsmanship - 5
Features - 4
Paper - 3
Usage - 5

Overall - 4

Baron Fig

Design - 5
Craftsmanship - 3
Features - 4
Paper - 3
Usage - 4

Overall - 3.8


Design - 4
Craftsmanship - 5
Features - 5
Paper - 5
Usage - 4

Overall - 4.6

Field Notes

Design - 5
Craftsmanship - 3
Features - 2
Paper - 1
Usage - 2

Overall - 2.6

The Leuchtturm notebooks hit all the right boxes with a great build quality, amazing attention to detail (a nicely aligned dot grid and page numbering) and incredibly paper quality. If they had the same visual style of the Baron Fig notebooks and a slightly lighter colour dot grid, they would be the perfect notebook. If you want to win one of the above, enter below.