It's been a little over a month since Field Notes Brand debuted their 27th COLORS release - Workshop Companion - for summer 2015. In that time, I've read a couple pieces going around the web about the latest edition, and I've also been spending time with the books myself. I've just recently started using my second Workshop Companion book for daily note-taking and to-do's, and having used more than one whole book now I'm ready to talk about the edition.
Each Field Notes edition for the past several seasons has pioneered something new. Last winter's Ambition Edition brought page-gilding, this spring's Two-Rivers Edition brought woodpress patterns in tens of thousands of variations, and in Workshop Companion's case, it's pioneering Field Notes' cover design.
Workshop Companion focuses around a home improvement theme, and it joins the National Crop edition to be the second six-book set that comes in specially-made packaging. Each book's cover features a color scheme and minimally-designed logo to match it's area of home improvement, and on top of that the book's tri-color design, back-cover facts, (again a la National Crop) and labels on both front cover and spine make it stand out amongst other Field Notes books.
Others have said that Workshop Companion's design was a bit too information dense for their liking. I think Field Notes have toed a line here - if only barely. The covers do have a lot going on, but there's just enough blank space for me, and if I sit here thinking about which elements would be best to remove, I can't pick one without feeling like the edition would be missing a little something if it were gone.
My favorite part of Workshop Companion's looks have to be the colors though. The great retro-inspired and minimal logos are a close second, but both the individual colors Field Notes picked for each book and the set of tri-colors on each one's cover are just freaking gorgeous. And I can't get over how well all the books and shades of color go together. I've already gone through the green gardening book and now I'm working my way through the yellow Automotive one as well. I think the blue plumbing book will probably get used up next.
On the inside, the books feature a new stock from French Paper co. - Kraft Tone 70#T - printed with a dot-grid ruling. To someone not tuned into the little differences that have popped up in Field Notes paper stock over time these might seem like minute details, but for someone who uses Field Notes daily with a fountain pen they're a big deal, and those two seemingly small changes have made Workshop Companion the most usable Field Notes edition for me yet.
You see, in the past the two editions that have featured thicker 70#T paper - America the Beautiful and Shelterwood - have also come printed with lined rulings. The way Field Notes does their line-ruling is to space the lines 1/4" apart as opposed to the standard 3/16" spacing that you'll find in their graph or dot-grid ruled books. That difference sounds small, but it translates into a lot less space to write on the page if you use the ruling as your guide. So up until now, in order to have Field Notes' thicker and higher quality paper (desirable for a fountain pen user such as myself) you'd have to put up with the cramped ruling design compromise.
Workshop Companion finally remedies this issue by featuring both a 3/16" dot-grid rule and the Kraft-Tone 70#T paper in one book, and I've been loving reaping the benefits. The French Paper Kraft Tone can be a bit scratchy to write on from time to time - especially in a fresh book's first couple pages - but on the whole it handles fountain pen ink without a problem. No feathering, and no bleed-through.
The dot-grid on top of that is what makes Workshop Companion truly perfect for me. Plenty of room to write, so my daily to-do's, notes, and small sketches don't feel nearly as cramped as they did in America the Beautiful or Shelterwood. The new stock along with the dot grid make this in my eyes the most usable Field Notes COLORS release to date, and that's not a small thing to ignore.
In the end, I'm not here to argue that Workshop Companion is one of Field Notes Brand's more innovative releases. That simply isn't the case. What Workshop Companion can claim is a unique, attractive design that pioneers new details for the brand, as well as packing some of the best paper ever stapled down into a Field Notes memo book.
I've been happy using them, and even though I've already got two of the six-packs in my possession I might be ordering another one soon. You know, just in case. ;)