26 June 2017

The Perfect Organiser - Part 3 [Design]

The design of your organiser is a very important thing. If you are buying a custom designed organiser from Van der Spek, then you have a large range of options to choose from. Other manufacturers give you a fixed design with no options to customise so you are left to hunt around for the perfect design for your own requirements. Hopefully this post will help you decide which is the best for you.

If you have never designed your own organiser or planner before then number of configurations are endless, but there are a few design rules you have to apply. Some of the terminology used might be new to you as well.

Let us show a variety of design features and try and de-mystify the terminology, sorting out your slip pockets from your secretarial pockets, and how many variations can there be of credit card pockets?

Read on, this going to be fairly picture heavy.

Credit Card Slots
How many of these do you need? Which format do you want horizontal or vertical?

In this A5 there's space for two columns of vertical card slots.

A variation on vertical card slots with side entry.

Or horizontal card slots in this layout.

The placement on the inside front cover isn't always fixed either, you can have them on the rear inside cover as well. I've also seen designs with them front and back.

But if you choose horizontal card slots and only small ring personal size, you do break one of the design rules. Look at the ring indentations on this compact size organiser card slots. Therefore on small ring personal size organisers vertical slots are more the norm.

As the ring size increases the cover widens, so this problem is less likely to occur, here is a 30mm ring size personal with horizontal card slots.

On an A6 (Senior) you are fairly safe with horizontal card slots.

With Pocket or Mini Size you are forced to have your cards vertical.

This Pocket Eton has a mixture of top access and side access vertical card slots

OK enough of card slots!


There are a variety of types of pockets you can have in an organiser, again placements can be front or back or outside even.

You can have a popper pocket.

This is a notepad pocket but you can use it for other things as well. A small tablet computer or eReader will slot in.

A secretarial pocket which is a slip pocket that is open at the top and side, this one with four credit card slots built in to the face

Slip pockets are size entry pockets, you can have more than one. However you again have to be cautious about how many you have so that the opening isn't too close to the rings, you need space to get things in and out of the pockets, as well as ensuring the pockets don't clash with the rings when the organiser is closed.

Another example of how slip pockets can be mixed with other pocket options

You can also have zip pockets too. The placement of the zip can be on the inside or outside edge,

Outside edge is easier to access, this one is combined with a secretarial flap pocket and other pockets.

On Zip organiser and occasionally on clasp closure organisers you can have outside pockets too, these save you having to open your organiser to get to some papers.

A slip pocket on the outside of a Filofax Lockwood Zip

And on the other side a zip pocket.

Some organisers can also have a full width back pocket which you can use to store papers in.

These are more common on Pocket size organisers because it makes them ideal as a wallet/organiser combination, but you can have a full width back pocket on other sizes too.


Clasps come in all shapes and sizes, what size/width and shape is very much a personal preference really. Some show the popper, others hide it, some are padded others not padded.

Alternatively some people don't have a clasp or they prefer zip closure organisers.

The Zip closure organisers do tend to be factionally bigger than a clasp closure organiser to allow for the zip mechanism.

Pen Loops

One two or none. Yes some organisers don't have a pen loop. Generally these are on the outer vertical edge, but there are some variations.

In most cases if there is only a single pen loop it is located on the rear cover, but an exception is the Filofax Chameleon which had its single pen loop attached to the front cover. I think they did this so that the zip pocket in the rear cover was not obstructed by the pen. Someone was thinking!

This is an M2 with no pen loop

Not all pen loops have to be vertical either, again the M2 because of its reduced height has a horizontal pen loop. I've seen this on other sizes as well. It actually helps solve a well known issue of the pen hitting the tabs as well.

Instead of a loop the Gillio Mia Cara has a slot for the pen in the spine of the organiser.


The flyleaf is really an accessory rather than a design feature of your organiser. They are primarily intended to provide a smoother writing surface to write against, but they can also feature a pen loop in one edge.

Ring protectors

These are strips of leather either side of the of the ring mechanism that cushion the rings and also prevent the interior of the leather from being dented by the rings over time.

On the Gillio A6 Compagna they are held to the organiser/ring mechanism with plastic tabs, an initial good option, so you can replace them easily, but in practice they fall out. I have took out the ring mechanism on mine and secured the ring protectors with tape to the underneath side of the ring mechanism, problem solved.

They are also an option on Van der Spek Customs, these are sewn in to the interior

They have been fitted in a variety of Filofax organisers as well, here in the Pocket Eton.

I hope I've explained all the various options you are likely to come across. If there is anything you need more details on, please leave a comment below.


  1. Nice round up thank you Steve. The illustrations really bring it to life.
    I have always wondered about what we commonly refer to as "ring protectors". I am not convinced that metal rings are in any need of "cushioning" - the only damage I can see that the softer leather could ever really cause would be if the organiser as a whole gets crushed, and you could argue that the extra contact point of the "protectors" would actually result in more pressure on the rings in those circumstances.
    Slightly more plausible is that they are there to prevent indentations in the leather, but the "protectors" are generally made of the same leather that one would be trying to protect and again may encourage a greater degree of indentation as the organiser is pressed shut.
    In an older Filofax catalogue I've seen those on the Winchester described as "central flaps to hold items securely". To me that makes more sense.
    I think, as a design feature, they may somewhat have lost their original purpose, such as in certain organisers where the flaps are no longer flaps but are instead stitched on all sides.

    1. Yes 'Leather Protector' might be a more accurate description of their function. I'm not sure where the term ring protector came from originally.

      Yes I like the way they used them on the Winchester as a pocket flap, sort of dual purpose.

    2. I've had a Succes Senior with ring protectors and have been glad they were there. They are there to protect your documents. Over time, rings can leave marks (grey/black) on white paper. The protectors make sure your documents are safe. My current organizer doesn't have them and the documents I put close to the rings do tend to get ugly.
      Love the post, since I'm thinking about getting one made by Van set Spek!

    3. I think the Van Der Spek term for them is Dutch for "ears", which is quite cute.

    4. I would still wonder how to protect the leather of the protectors!
      The removable ones you show could at least be replaced.

    5. Yes, it was a good idea in theory, but in practice they fall out too easily! I tried a couple of improvements to get them to stay put. In the end I swapped the rings for slightly bigger Krause rings from the usual source! And at the same time I taped the tabs of the ring protectors to the underneath side of the ring mech with parcel tape! It was fiddly putting the rings back on but once in place the ring protectors haven't come off since!

  2. Nice set of illustration for these concepts!

    One feature that I wish the European organiser manufacturer's would adopt from Japan - the pen loop higher up, so pens can clip on without dangling below the binder bottom. VDS has moved the pen loop up for custom requests.

    Raymay's DaVinci line, and the FranklinCovey binders imported from Japan have all had the higher pen loop. I greatly prefer that.

  3. I enjoyed this post and the pictures. I didn't know I could order a custom made binder! I went on the vanderspec website, but I'm unclear if I can place an order as I'm in the United States.

    1. Yes Van der Spek ship worldwide. Are you a member of the Van der Spek Facebook group? You will get a lot of help and advice there.