Sunday, September 13, 2020

Planner product research

Oh wow, I didn't realise how long it had been since I updated! Because I'm not uploading everything to Instagram as soon as it's finished for my experiment I keep forgetting to post anything to anywere! So a giant catch up is definitely in order. But in the meantime, some fun research!

Now it's autumn stores are full of 2021 diaries and planners which are one of my favourite things to browse. It's such an exciting time for me, getting to pick which planner I want to stare at for the next 365 days! Which is the most practical, and will fit my needs? It's particularly exciting as I currently live in Japan so it's interesting to me to see how planners differ here.

Because I'm really into the whole planner thing it's always been a dream of mine to one day create my own featuring my illustrations. So I figured as Japan has a lot of cute illustrated planners I'd make the most of being here and buy a few as research so that I've still got them for reference when I eventually have the time and money to invest in creating my own. And I thought I'd share them here, partly because I know this stuff isn't accessible and maybe it'll help others with similar research, partly in the hopes of getting some feedback in what you look for in a planner, and also just to nerd out over planners a little because stationary and art supplies are my favourite thing in the whole world!

These are the three I bought! They're not full planners, these 'schedule planners' seem to be far more popular over here. They're like little exercise books and show each month at more of a glance. For me this isn't detailed enough and I would make more of a full planner with weekly spreads, but these are a nice kind of thing to slip into your bag and take on the go, allowing me to leave my larger planner at home.

I was particularly drawn to this one because I thought I could reuse the faux leather case with a plainer diary some other year. This obviously isn't a feature I can recreate in something I make and more of an "I want that", but the diary inside is really beautiful.


Each month has different illustrations, and I love how the illustrations interact with the monthly view with the soot sprites disappearing into the 'crack'. This is something Tove Jansson did a lot with her Moomin comics too, where she'd incorporate the set into the frame of the comic instead of simply drawing boxes.

These are my favourites - full colour spreads for the note pages. This is definitely something I want to incorporate. The smaller illustrations in the image above are perforated around the edges of each one, so they can be torn out to make smaller note papers. All of the journals feature this, and it's a really great addition but I'm not sure how easy it would be to recreate independently unfortunately. Again, it shows the illustrations interacting with the practical elements too - the Catbus is walking across the lined paper like they're electric wires, or the lines are the pattern on the screen door.

Totoro is my favourite Ghibli movie (hence my username!) so obviously I picked those - they had other movies but they were all the same set up so I figured I may as well get the one I actually like. This one is larger than the previous - that one was about A6, this is a similar in size to a Moleskine sketchbook.

This one features a yearly overview at the beginning, with a much simpler two tone style to the illustrations which are much simpler and don't interact with the layout.

I do enjoy the watercolour theme of these illustrations, but they do overall feel less impressive than the previous planner - and they were the same price! But it's still good to see how the same features can be simplified down as not everyone's illustration style would suit the first full colour planner. Also I'm not far enough into the process yet to have researched manufacturers, but obviously when designing any product the overall cost is a huge factor. So although full bleed full colour spreads with a different illustration for every month sounds ideal, it's more complicated for a manufacturer to be able to do that on a smaller scale that an independent illustrator requires, and no one is going to spend £50 on a planner! I'm nowhere near the design phase yet, but I only mention it as it's probably the biggest factor as to how the end result will come out so it's useful to see how things can be pared back if necessary.

I actually have no idea of the characters of this one - I'm not into Anime or Manga so I'm a bit clueless beyond Ghlibi and Sanrio! But artistically this planner was my favourite and gave me the most to think about. I also think the style of the artwork isn't a world away from my own which helps me to imagine things better.

The zipper down the side is because the back plastic laminate is also a pocket - this is one aspect I have mixed feelings on! Just because if you fill it with anything then it will be visible from the outside as well as covering the artwork on the back of the book, so it can quickly make the journal look a bit junk-y. I prefer a Molekine-esque pocket inside the back cover.

The first double spread - I actually prefer this to the previous planners grid effect of every day being marked. I find that a bit too cluttered, and realistically the boxes are too small to be able to write anything in so this is much cleaner.

The beautiful monthly spreads! Every single one has a different theme, and I love that it incorporates to-do lists and note sections so it's as practical as it is pretty.

Each month also shows the moon phases, which I adore. Realistically any planner I create will likely be un-dated as it makes more sense as an investment - why create something with a limited shelf life when I can create something that can be sold continuously until it sells out? So I probably couldn't do this, but I think a way around it could be to include moon phase stickers so that the user can put them on the right dates.

This planner doesn't have any weekly spreads, just these double pages between each month for notes.

And again with the full colour patterned note paper at the back.

This is my big boy planner that I use - it's by Mossery (unsponsored, I bought it myself!) and I've been using them for years. Whenever I try another brand I always end up coming back, so feature wise this is definitely more of what I prefer but I'd like to be able to create something with more of a middle ground - fully illustrated throughout, but as practical as my big boy planner.

Now to decide which of these planners I actually use next year! As I may as well make the most of having them. I think I'll likely use the Catbus one for 2021 as my smaller overview planner to take on the go, and then use the other Totoro one the following year as I figure it'll be easy to change the dates on the monthly spreads as it's more plain. I'll likely not use the third as it's so pretty anyway, but I don't know!

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