You’ve probably seen it in your favorite teenage TV show, or on the book cover of a series you read as a kid. Images and scenes of students going through school halls, their backpacks slung over their shoulders and a composition notebook in one hand.
The iconic black and white marble cover of this notebook has always caught my attention as a kid and a stationery collector. It’s well-loved across the world too, both for its timeless design and its reputation as the notebook for messy, meaningful work. Quoting Format Magazine, it’s “the rebellious cousin of the Moleskine.”
The marble composition notebook has been around for as long as we can (or try to) remember, but Pentagram graphic designer Aron Fay wanted to create a modern variation that uses high-quality materials, new printing and binding techniques. The result: the Comp notebook.
The composition notebook reinvented and beautified
Printed in Belgium and bound in the Netherlands, the Comp notebook is a high-quality sophisticated reinvention of the traditional marble notebook.
It improves upon the notebook’s classic features and characteristics, such as binding, cover design, and paper quality.
The result is a strong hardcover notebook that lies flat when opened, revealing clean bright white quality 3/8″ lined paper for all of your essays, notes, journal entries, sketches, and doodles.
The Comp notebook was initially a creative project that Fay took to the Kickstarter platform. People loved the idea of a beautiful hardcover version of their favorite school notebook, and supported the project with $100,607 in pledges.
I backed the project and received my comp notebook last year, and as with all the high-quality notebooks I own, I couldn’t touch this one with my pens and pencils for so long.
For this review, I’m breaking the notebook in to show you what’s inside the Comp and what it’s like writing with it. ?
Redesigning the classic marble notebook cover
When you look at [comp], immediately it’s recognizable. It reminds us of something that all of us have seen all our lives. And yet, it’s taken all the characteristics of that object and made them the best they can be.
— Michael Beirut, Pentagram
The cover of the classic composition notebook is usually made of card stock sewn to the pages, its spine covered with black book cloth.
You’ll also see two main features on the cover: 1. a label at the center of the front cover, and 2. a class schedule behind it.
The Comp notebook uses a customized marble pattern that’s easier on the eyes and looks more professional. Fay describes the difference with the classic marble pattern with that of the Comp notebook:
A beautiful, unique, custom marbled cover pattern, optimized to balance light and dark perfectly, with every shape in the pattern individually placed for a unified look throughout.
The notebook cover is redesigned with better materials and features to make it last and easy to write on it. It uses thick and durable “boards on” covers, its exposed book spine made of Italian Cialux cloth. The boards are then covered with Italian micro-embossed cover paper, giving the notebook a smooth and premium feel.
Finally, the offset label gives you much more white space for when you need to add more details to your notebook.
There’s no class schedule printed at the back of the front cover. Instead, the notebook has color-through dyed end sheets to make it more elegant and flexible for different projects.
I’ve had this notebook stored for over a year, yet it’s still in mint condition without any scratches, dents, or bent corners after being shelved for so long. This alone assures you that the Comp will store your notes, sketches, or designs for many years. ?
Lined or blank? Take your pick.
Most composition notebooks use wide lined pages usually1⁄32 or 8.7 mm in spacing. This makes it easy for students to write within the lines. And since the writing is larger, it’s easier to see the words on the page.
The Comp notebook, however, gives you two paper options: lined or blank.
The lined Comp features 148 pages of 120 GSM uncoated paper printed with 3/8″ ruling and black interior feint lines. The blank Comp is completely unlined to give users the flexibility to explore and express your thoughts.
For my Comp notebook, I wanted to go the traditional route and so went with the lined version.
These pages are bound using what Fay calls “layflat binding.” The notebook opens and lies flat, removing any obstruction to your hand and wrist when writing. This solves the issue with classic composition notebooks where the sewn binding holds all of the paper in one central section, causing the notebook to bend upwards when opened.
I like that the Comp comes in two different paper types, and would like to see a graph version someday. It gives users who prefer non-lined pages the chance to enjoy the notebook too.
Testing the Comp notebook ✍
I gotta admit being
very, very, I can’t breathe a little hesitant to ink the Comp notebook’s pages. I hovered my pencil over the page a bit longer than I should, unsure of how or where to begin.
For this writing test, I’m writing paragraphs for a clearer and deeper experience with a notebook’s paper.
I rotated between my Pentel Energel and my Baron Fig Squire, sealing the page with a red Sharpie to see if the ink would bleed through. The writing experience was natural thanks to the uncoated paper, the inks didn’t smudge, and super-duper light show-through.
See the results:
The last two shots show my using a red Sharpie, and that it didn’t feather or bleed through the page.
Unfortunately my camera couldn’t capture the brightness of the notebook paper. Trust me though when I say the paper is deliciously bright white. You can check out the product photos on the comp website for high-def shots of the notebook.
A gorgeous combination of design and functionality
The Comp’s design completely transforms the classical composition notebook while staying true to its functionality and purpose.
I highly recommend the Comp if you’re looking for a world-class premium notebook that’s attractive yet durable enough to archive your life’s work for many, many years. You can use it for creative projects, take it to work, or use it for research or class notes.
The Comp notebook is $20 each and can only be purchased online through the main website. You’ll also find other comp products such as totes and wrapping paper sporting the same beautiful marble design.
What do you think of the comp notebook? Interested in buying one for yourself? Let me know in the comments below. ?
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