The Standard Issue Note Pad from DesignWorks is, despite the bland name, a remarkable notebook from a small Franklin, TN stationery shop.
The No. 11 note pad is a 3.5 x 5.5 inch reporter-style notebook that features a clean spring aesthetic and a smart elastic band to keep the notebook closed when not in use. With 120 lined sheets, there's plenty of space to fill up on these ledger-lined pages. Unlike a lot of the popular pocket notebooks these days, the inside covers are completely empty. According to Vanness, the paper is acid free with a light blue-gray soy ink for the lines. Overall, it's a neat little package that looks great sitting on your desk.
The notepad is a bit on the chunky side due to the number of included sheets, but it's not so thick that you can't slip it into a pocket. The sheets are all firmly attached to the strong glue binding and does not include any perforated sheets at the back. You can tear sheets out of this notebook, but I wouldn't recommend it since it will start to look a bit weird. The notebook is built well enough that it could take the abuse, but I also like that it's pretty.
Inside the notebook, you're greeted with a friendly ledger-style ruling printed in a light gray/blue ink. The paper is smooth and perfectly aligned. I've really been impressed by the build quality in this little notepad. A lot of attention was given to the small details of this product, and it shows. Speaking of quality, let's look at one of the best attributes of this book: the paper.
With small notebooks in this price range, I don't typically expect great things in the paper quality department. I'm happy if they handle gel and ballpoint pens well and don't completely fail in the fountain pen area. In the case of the DesignWorks notebook, the paper is exceptional. It's a smooth paper that handles fountain pens wonderfully. I haven't noticed any feathering whatsoever — even with wider nibs. There's a small amount of show-through, but it's minimal and leaves the back of the page perfectly usable. Nibs glide over this paper with little effort, and ink seems to dry moderately fast. I have to admit I was surprised by the quality of the paper because there was no indication on the notebook or their website as to what kind of paper was used. Typically, if a brand doesn't boast about their paper, it usually isn't fountain pen friendly. That's not the case with this notebook; I'm not sure what paper they use, but it's great for fountain pens.
Despite the excellent build quality and paper used in the notebook, there are a couple of downsides. My biggest complaint is the limited ruling options. In the "Note Pad" line, you only have one option: ledger lining. It's a bold choice, and one that I've never willingly picked. I find it clutters the page since I use notebooks as actual ledgers 0% of the time. A standard lined paper would have been a much better choice, but I'm not the designer. Despite the heavy lining choice, it's still a fun notebook to use. And, as far as ledger lining goes, it's somewhat minimal with only two columns.
My only other complaint has to do with the binding. It's a strong binding, but it also prevents the pages from laying flat without assistance. This isn't a huge problem for a reporter-style layout, but it does bug me. Over time, I think this will improve, and I'll probably appreciate the strong binding as the notebook ages and continues to hold all its pages in place.
The Standard Issue No. 11 note pad from DesignWorks was a pleasant surprise in a vast sea of pocket notebook options. At only $9, it's a good deal, especially considering the paper quality.
(Vanness Pens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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