Studio Neat Panobook Review

The Panobook from Studio Neat is a new spiral bound desk pad entry into the market. Started as a Kickstarter, it funded and shipped. I just received mine a little over a week ago and wanted to give it the rundown here.

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From their website, here are the specs:

Page size: 288 mm x 160 mm (11.34 in x 6.30 in)
Grid spacing: 5 mm (0.20 in)
50 sheets, 100 pages
Paper: Finch Fine Soft White Ultra Smooth 70 lb Text
Covers: Neenah LaCrema 617 Charcoal on 50 pt Black Chipboard
Title Sheet: French Paper Kraft-Tone Ledger Green, 100 lb Cover
Binding: Black Wire-O, 12.7 mm (0.5 in) diameter
Rounded corner radius: 6.35 mm (0.25 in)
Slipcase: French Paper Kraft-Tone Standard White 100 lb Cover
Typeface: Verlag, by Hoefler & Co.
Printed and bound in Dallas, Texas by The Odee Company.
Made possible by 3,623 backers on Kickstarter.

Let's start with the cover and slipcase. The slipcase is white and dot-grid, like the pages, but on 100# French Paper Kraft-tone cover stock. Field Notes fans may recognize this paper as the cover paper for the Workshop Companion series. There is minimal branding and a few spaces for you to write the book contents for easy cataloging and storage. The cover itself is black and has a chipboard duplexed with a faux-leather-ish cover. Check out the Neenah page on this material. It feels nice to the touch. The only branding here is they've subtly stamped the Panobook logo on the back. The whole cover is sturdy and can definitely be used in your lap or holding it if you needed to.

The double Wire-O binding is sturdy as well. I didn't throw this in and out of my bag a million times, because as a desk pad it pretty much lived on my desk. But I feel like it will hold up to a mobile office situation.

Slipcase is dot grid too!

Slipcase is dot grid too!

Inner cover sheet.

Inner cover sheet.

Explanatory page.

Explanatory page.

The inner cover page is mint green and explains the dot-grid system for you. They've done a few clever things here, adding some corner dots so you can draw out 3 large rectangles that are perfect for storyboarding or smartphone UI design. They also have some dashes in the center along the edges, so you can split the pages if needed.

The paper is 70# Finch Fine Soft White Ultra Smooth, 50 sheets worth. It does really well with most writing instruments and fine line markers, like the Pigma Micron or Sharpie Pen. Fountain pens in my testing did ok, but I've seen others who had issues. Some fine nibs and drier inks will do just fine, but anything wet or thick should be tested first. I've seen photos where stub nibs feathered and bled all over the place, but that didn't happen in my testing. My Lamy Al Star with a 1.9mm stub didn't bleed or feather at all, nor did any of my really wet M and B nibs that usually do. Your mileage may vary. They claim they chose the paper to prevent smudging and bleeding. I've yet to find a paper where a soft pencil won't smudge at all, because I'm certain that black magic doesn't exist. But it's not super-toothy, so the paper doesn't take more graphite than it needs. Standard HB pencils won't smudge unless you try hard, and softer pencils smudge less than they would on toothier paper. You'll still get some transfer between pages if you're using pencil without a sheet between them, but you won't smudge graphite everywhere just by rubbing the pages together. It's a really nice paper, for sure.

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The orientation can be used either portrait or landscape. I feel like because of the layout of the corner dots it's meant more to be used in landscape. For people designing in this book that want to use the grid system, you'll benefit more that way. Plus, the inner cover and even the logo on the cover is laid out in landscape. But if you're more of a desk-pad-scratch-pad person, the benefit of the dot grid is that it can be used in any orientation. I'm more of a "list next to my mouse hand" kind of guy, so portrait was the way I used it. I do graphic design for my day job, but I don't really do smartphone UI design, so the corner grid system wasn't really necessary for me. Portrait "mode" is better for me to layout a single scroll webpage, for example, while still benefiting with the grid system.

At $20, depending on your needs, there are cheaper options out there. This fits a very specific use-case, in terms of the grid layout and using it for the intended purpose of app/storyboard layout sketches, so if you don't need it for that, you probably don't need it. But for archival purposes, the wire binding allows you to move on without ripping out the page or doubling the size by opening up, while something like a bigger A4 size Rhodia pad would be cheaper, you'd also have to tear out the pages. Or you could get the Baron Fig Mastermind desk pad if you just want some dot-grid scratch paper that can be torn away at the end of the day. The price does include the paper slipcase. I just wish there were a few more pages, maybe 75 or 80. I backed it on Kickstarter because I like when new points of view are added to the stationery space, and the Studio Neat team makes some fun and clever products. But I probably won't buy another one of these because it doesn't fit a need I have and the price, for me, is a bit prohibitive for just to have it laying around unused. I'll finish this one and if that changes and I find a use-case that causes me to, I'll update the review.

Available from Studio Neat, $20.

Started Lunch Table with all his jackass friends. Owner/operator of Hagan Design Co. Blogs about all things stationery over at Lead Fast