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From CRC (Center for Research and Communication) to TSE (The Stationer Extraordinaire. A look at Filofax and Midori.

Posted on November 16 2016

I am 38 years old and I have used a Filofax in the 90's. Yes, that was the pre digital era and the start of Spray Net's & Gel's decline. Now I'm back on pen and paper and is currently using the Midori system. I let go of using cellphone for my appointments because I want to be in control and not to be told off by the alarm. Pen and paper give me control when I want to write and when I want to check my schedule. 

1995. It was in first year college when I first used Filofax. I got one for myself because that was the in thing in CRC together with beepers and gigantic cellphones. Also, we were taught time management so it’s like a “must have”. I enjoyed using it, it felt like I'm an executive planning a big business move. Although there is one disadvantage about the system, its loose leaf paper. I hated it when the paper gets detached from the binder. That was its major weakness. Few years after, the Filo system was taken over by Palmpilots and cellphones.

Fast forward to 2016. Pens and paper have started to make a comeback and there are new players in the organizer game. I was reintroduced to pen and paper organizer system 6 months ago, around May. A friend showed me his Midori and encouraged me to use one, as writing notes and schedules by hand is still the best, according to him. I couldn’t agree more. It was not the first time for me to see the TN, I encountered the Midori TN in 2015 in Tokyu Hands, Osaka but did not really mind it. So when my wife and I visited Hong Kong, we bought Midori TN Camel in Log On and the special edition Blue Midori in Journalized, a small stationery shop in Tin Hau. Since then, we fell in love with the Midori system. We fell in love so much with it that we even started selling our own fountain pen friendly journal, Yumi Journals.


A look at Midori and Filofax.


Refills: Filofax is ephemeral while Midori is eternal.

I am talking about the refill. My experience with loose leaf papers is that they get off the binder unless reinforced with ring reinforcement stickers. This is a no-no for me who wants to keep a record of things for the long term. Record keeping comes naturally with Midori inserts as they are in the form of notebooks bound by either staple wires or thread. So when you are done just keep them in the chest.

Designs: Filofax is chic while Midori is timeless

Design wise the Filos are more chic than Midoris. Filo’s designs target a broad age range because they have colourful to plain designs, young to mature, while Midori’s designs are plain and simple, yet elegant. They are not loud and do not call attention. The Midori’s are geared towards people who aim for minimalist, timeless and simple designs.

When it comes to design choices, Filofax takes the lead. Filofaxes come in many designs, styles and sizes while the choices of Midoris are limited to few colours and 2 sizes.

Trends: New Year and Christmas

Here are 2 graphs I got froml Google Trends. I am not a data scientist so I will refrain from making an opinion or bold claims. If you have an opinion about the data please send me a message.

Ok fine, here is just an observation and an opinion. Filos peak every January for the past 5 years. I guess it's tied to new year's resolutions. Midoris are most searched during Novembers for the past 2 years. I guess they're planning to own one.





Default Paper: Midori is broad while Filofax is limited

Midoris can take pencils to fountain pens while the paper of Filofax won’t be able to take fountain pens as the ink will bleed through the paper, unless you buy fountain pen friendly refill for it. As a user of fountain pens I want to make sure I can write on the other page without much show through and bleeding. However, when it comes to thickness and texture, I have met people who find the default insert of Midori too thin and slippery when fountain pen is used. 


This is their appeal. Both Filofax and Midori are highly customisable. There are 3rd parties and in-brand products to help you suit your needs. (I will make another post to show you what I use)

Midori as my preference

I go for Midori because the Midori TN Company doesn’t confuse me with so many options. People nowadays are bombarded with numerous options and choosing has become a pain point, therefore having fewer items to choose from and occasionally coming out with special editions is what attracted me to the Midori.  Another thing I like about it is their paper quality. Their paper is just perfect for fountain pen users like me but since many people find the inserts a bit pricey so we came up with our own fountain pen friendly refill, Yumi Journals.

My suggestions

  • If you want a range of cute designs, go for Filofax.
  • If you want simplicity and timeless appeal, go with Midori.
  • If you are stuck in the 80’s, go for Filofax.
  • If you are in senior management position go for Filofax
  • If you are a free spirited CEO ala Richard Branson, go with Midori
  • If you are a fan of James Belushi (Taking Care of Business Movie!), Filo it is.
  • If you have plenty of money buy Filo and Midori
  • If you are a fountain pen user, buy Midori
  • If you are hoarder of paper products, buy both for your collection.
  • If you are a dad and husband like me, buy 4! 1 for you and 3 for your wife.
  • If you want to be unique, use fountain pen and paper!


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