The Elephant, The Tiger And The Kangaroo – A Dingbats Notebook Safari

I know this sounds like the beginning of one of those bad jokes where they all walked into a bar, but it isn’t, it is a review of the Dingbats notebook including a three-month independent destruction test.

Now before I go any further than this with the review I wanted to know where the name ‘Dingbats’ came from; so, I wrote to Dingbats and asked the question and within twenty-four hours the Co-founder, Mo Bekdache, had written back and here is what he said:

“the word Dingbats means a printer’s ornament, character or symbol used in typography which is actually the basis of our brand and the design of our notebooks. Our logo, for example is a dingbat, the footprints inside the notebooks are dingbats, even the debossings of the animals on our covers are dingbats. We plan to base any product we do around that principle, it gives a fun yet minimalistic look and feel.”

It was nice to finally know where the name originated and to see that it has some history behind it and to get a little insight into how Dingbats apply the principle.

Ok, on with the review. 

For this review I bought two Dingbats notebooks from the wildlife range, the Elephant and the Tiger. The Tiger I gave my wife who likes grid printed paper in notebooks and I kept the Elephant (dot grid) for myself.

Elephant & Tiger Web 400px

To give you some context on the testing process; my wife, Daisy-Lou, is a manager for a large organisation so she attends a lot of meetings, takes a lot of notes and her notebooks are always stuffed with additional papers. So, asking her to destruction test a notebook in a live environment seemed the perfect way to find out how good Dingbats notebooks really are. The notebook was put into service for three months of continuous use to see how well it or if it would survive.

Right now, is where you get the choice of either skipping to the end to see if it survived or sticking with me as we take a look at the actual notebooks. 

Info Web 250px.jpg

The notebooks were ordered from Amazon and arrived in the usual carboard cover and once unpacked you find they are sealed in a thin clear plastic wrapper and each notebook has a paper band around it telling you some of the basics about your notebook.

 

Once I unwrapped the notebook the first thing I noticed was how tactile it is. The cover is made from a synthetic material that has a leather effect finish and is stitched around all the edges. It is colour coded to the animal of your choice with an image of the animal embossed in the centre and on the rear cover you will find the Dingbats logo positioned centrally near the bottom edge and when you open the notebook the first thing you see are the flyleaves all of which are printed with the footprint of the animal you have chosen which is a really nice touch.

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Rear logo
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Paw prints on the flyleaves

The notebook has an elastic closure which does not seem to create a bump under the cover, so you should be fine writing to the end of the notebook. During testing the elastic held up well especially when the notebook was over stuffed. Also built into the back cover is an elastic pen/pencil loop which again does not create and inconvenience and did not fail during testing. The inner back cover also includes a sizeable pocket which has tape sides to increase durability.

The paper is FSC certified, 100gsm cream paper that is fountain pen friendly, each of the 96 sheets (192 sides) is micro perforated so it can be removed easily. The notebook is stitched, and Dingbats say they open ‘as flat as a pancake.’

 

How does this stack up? 

In fact, it stacks up very well. The paper is definitely very smooth and good quality and it is a pleasure to write on and despite being very smooth I didn’t notice drying times, for fountain pen ink, being out of the ordinary. 

Whatever your choice of paper, dot grid, grid or lined, it is clearly printed without being intrusive and is very easy to follow. The paper passed the ink test with flying colours despite my generous use of KWZ Maroon no.2 not a hint of it showed through.

Ink Test Web 500px.jpg

As for the micro perforations they are not brilliant, they are probably too small to be effective as a perforation and when tested they worked moderately well but in places the paper tore rather than follow the perforations.

Does it lie as flat as a pancake? 

Despite being stitched the answer is no. When you initially open the notebook it behaves as any other notebook allowing you easy access to around 70-75% of the width of the page; to improve this you have to bend the notebook back as you would if you wanted to break the spine of a paperback, and then it tends to lie flatter, you will need to repeat this process as you go through the notebook. 

To be fair to Dingbats this is simply because it is a hardback notebook, and this is a problem in most hardback notebooks, and some softbacks, so don’t let this put you off what is an excellent notebook.

So, how did the destruction test go? The notebook was not treated kindly; being tossed into bags, stuffed with additional pieces of paper and generally suffering the day to day life of a very busy job. It survived admirably and other than a few scuffs and bumps it is still in excellent condition.

Overstuffed Web 300px.jpg
Testing the elastic to breaking point

Would I recommend Dingbats notebooks and are they worth your pennies?

In short, yes and yes. They are robust, high quality notebooks that are built to take a battering and keep on going. 

The attention to detail throughout the notebook is quite something and you will find a host of small details, some of which I am sure Dingbats could easily be omitted but to do this would diminish the notebook and relegate to the mundane and because these details are not omitted I think you will be hard pressed to find a notebook, at this price point, as good or better than a Dingbats.

And finally, just one more thing, the Kangaroo. The Tiger has been retired, with honours, and now it is up to the Kangaroo to take up the challenge.

The Kangaroo Web 300px.jpg

Disclaimer: The notebooks were purchased with my own funds at retail price. The opinions expressed in this review are my own; and I am not connected with either the retailers or manufacturers in any way.

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