Pens and organisers belong together. However gorgeous and tactile a binder looks and feels, it has a practical purpose, which usually invoices writing. So why are so many binders designed giving second billing to the pen? How can such expensive and (seemingly) carefully designed binders end up with pen loops of the wrong size, made of the wrong material and in the wrong place? Why are they so often added as an afterthought?
This is an age-old problem which is still around, even in the newest binder releases. The new Filofax Heritage range, for example, has a pen loop stitched in a way that means that the edge of the flyleaf juts into the loop so that the pen has to sit above or behind the leaf rather than next to it. The universally acclaimed William Hannah range introduced an optional pen loop that sticks out of the middle of the side so that the pen is outside the binder, unprotected. OK for some, far from ideal for others.
Then there’s the number of pen loops. Most binders incorporate one. I use two pens so prefer two loops, but even if you only use one, two loops allow a binder to be equally useful to left-handed or right-handed users, who can choose which loop to utilise.
A look at my collection of binders illustrates this problem well. In size the pen loops range from a diameter of just 6 mm to one of 13 mm, and in material from leather to leather with elastic to all elastic. Whilst it is hard to design a pen loop that would hold any pen of any size and shape, some thought would have prevented some of the common issues.
For example, the more elasticated a loop is, the larger the range of pens that will fit into it. My mini Finchley has an all-leather loop with a diameter of 10 mm. It is nicely positioned in the middle of the side and it is protected by the closure which loops around it.
Given the Finchley’s small size, however, this means that only a specific tiny range of small, fat pens will fit into it. Relying on a pen’s clip to keep it in place in the loop fails because this means that even the smallest of pens hang out of the bottom of the organiser. Either the loop should be smaller and be elasticated, or it should be leather and positioned higher up the side of the organiser. Clearly this is aesthetically less pleasing, but pen loops need to be practical. I love the design of the Finchley, so why wasn’t some thought given to the pen loop? Isn’t there any user testing?
Don’t the designers actually try using what they have designed? They should do. I have never been able to find a usable pen to fit the Finchley – a pencil and other small pens just fall right through - and I finally had to add a Leuchtturm elasticated loop to keep ordinary-size pens and pencils in place instead.
|My Finchley needs a second pen loop to make up for the inadequacies of the first|
My personal Cuban Zip has two pen loops, but each have been placed in the middle of the side of the binder. This means that I can’t remove the pens by sliding them out of the loop. I have to push the zip down whilst yanking the pen up! Positioning the loops lower would have prevented this problem.
Another design flaw.
In my Filofax Calipso personal compact the pen loop has been placed higher, so that it can hold a pen with its clip and the pen would not hang below the edge of the organiser. Great! Two things, though. The loop is on the left, so good for left-handers, less so for right-handers who need to reach across the organiser to get it. The other is that the compact, when closed, has very little room between the paper and the edge of the organiser. This means that the pen either squashes against the paper or one needs to pull the pen and loop out to hold it outside the closed organiser. With the compact personal Finsbury the problem is similar thought the pen loop has been placed a few mm further into the organiser.
|The Calipso compact. Great until one needs to close the binder …|
They are often designed to fit a single pen shape and size.
There are external providers of pen holders (Leuchturm, Terry, Quiver, Sloop), but we shouldn’t be relying on them, should we? I know binder designers could do better. The X47 puts the pen along the top of the paper instead of down the side – that may not suit everybody but does stop the loop and pen getting entangled with the paper and dividers.
I’m no designer, but as a user I know that it’s time that pens were given their rightful place in binder design.
What do you think?