12 July 2018

Design Study - Improving on an existing design?

It is nearly four years since I reviewed the Gillio Mia Cara in medium size, you can read the full review/description here from 2014.

There is nothing basically wrong with the design of the medium size Mia Cara as supplied. It holds the pages on 25mm rings just fine. There are no serious issues with using the organiser section on its own either.

However, I wanted to take a closer look at it from the point of view of what improvements could be made to the design if any. Some people might not like these suggestions, that's fine, read no further!.

The outer jacket I think should remain as it is now. It has a huge number of pockets, slots and full width back pocket. It does however add to the weight and bulk of the organiser you are carrying.

So my attention then turned to the organiser section and how you would use that on its own a lot more.

The front inside cover of the organiser section only has three card slots and a larger slip pocket at the foot of the cover. This is the area that I think could be improved on most.

As well as a slightly different pocket layout I would add a pen loop to the front cover so that when used on its own, the organiser section has a way of carrying a pen or multi-pen easily.

As standard the medium Mia Cara comes with just 25 mm rings. It is fine with those, it is the correct size too... (Shock!) but I've fitted 30mm Krause rings to mine. With those fitted the tabs do stick out beyond the edge of the organiser section. So the organiser section would need to be increased in size (width only) if you wanted 30mm rings.

The extra width can be accommodated by not using the pen slot, this gives at least 10mm of additional width that can be accommodated in the outer jacket section without any issues.

I've done a very rough and ready hand-drawn sketch for a hand-made revised design of the organiser section.

This is far from being a final version of course. Looking at the interior layout it would have:
  • Leather and Elasticated pen loop on the front inside cover
  • Three or may be 4 card slots
  • Two other business card type slots. 
  • An outer edge full height slip pocket (Like the Filofax Holborn)
  • An inner edge full height slip pocket (Like the Filofax Holborn)
Like the existing Mia Cara the inside back cover would not have a clasp or any pockets on it. I've shown my prototype drawing with 30mm rings but 25mm rings would fit just as well.

Would you change the design?


  1. 30 mm rings are a definite must. Nice work on doing that upgrade. I am always scared to attempt a ring transplant.
    What i have always thought would be good (and this goes for any organiser binder, is a thick acetate (not sure if it is acetate but some kind of robust clear plastic) window type card slot on the inside front pocket for ID. Makes it easier to show when needed without having to keep removing and replacing it.

  2. I understand why some people like binders with huge rings, but - for many of us - ultra slim is the only way forward. Look at the number of people (especially men) who have completely replaced their ring organiser by a slim note book, such as the Moleskine. This is because nearly all of us now carry out a lot of traditional functions on our smart phones. This means far less paper. Even the number of card and money slots needed is rapidly declining as we increasingly use other payment methods (eg Apple Pay on my watch) and eliminate loyalty and membership cards and paper coupons/tickets/vouchers. Whilst there are various ways of carrying a smart phone, I’ve yet to see a design that successfully combines paper and digital to use together at the same time. It’s still either paper or digital.

    Whilst there will always be a market for traditional ring organisers, I personally think companies need to look at trying much more radically different designs if sales are to be sustained. Juggling a few pockets won’t entice folk back!

    1. As is so often the case, Tim, I think you're right on the button. Though you'd never find me using my phone or anything else for tickets, payment etc. - I'm a terrible Luddite in that respect - I've never kept cards in my organiser, and I find fewer and fewer people doing so. They bulk up the organiser and make it lumpy, so that writing in it becomes something akin a roller coaster, and I always looks for slim organisers with no card pockets. Other pockets can be useful, but I much prefer fly leaves - I'm glad to see organiser producers are beginning to value these more. As for Gillio - I fingered many of their products at last year's Plannercon Europe but found them really over the top - so many leaves and slits and pockets that the whole thing was a dead weight before even adding any paper. There'll always be people who love and use the pockets, but I do agree that some (apologies in advance …) "out of the box disruptive" thinking in terms of design would be good in the planner community.

    2. Thinking about this some more, do organiser designers still think of them as being carry-alls, which needs to have a place to store everything that a person might carry with them? I get that - I used my Filofax that way in the 80s - but is that still a requirement these days? Now I, and more men I suspect, carry a bag, and there are other ways of carrying other things we need - much data is in phones and portable computers, stored in their own cases; my cards are in a Secrid case etc. And, as there's less to carry, organisers are taking on a different role and maybe their designs could reflect that more?

    3. I am going to have to kindly disagree with Tim and Graham here. Not only do I carry an A5, I am also very pleased with the 35mm rings. I found 25mm to be too limiting for my needs. I want to carry all in one binder to cancel out any migration issues. Admittingly I do have a Moleskine for idea logging and brainstorming, but otherwise all binder for me.

  3. I am totally fine with 25 mm rings....as well as with 15mm :-D
    I love the design and wouldn't like an improvement.Same for the new pocket Compagna....too cumbersome for me now.

  4. I like 25 mm rings as well. Mia is beefy already and with a lot of compartments. Don't think the extra pockets and/or card holders are necessary. If anything, I would prefer to remove the pen holder in the spine area and hope to reduce a bit of size of the outer jacket and make it more light/compact but still functional.