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Inside The Making of Your 2020 Diary (Part 2)

July 02, 2019

Inside The Making of Your 2020 Diary (Part 2)

This post was written by Saint Belford Founders Alex Phillips and Tomas Stanford.




It only took 100 emails...

Once the final brief has been completed, it’s time to get to work on the designs. 

As mentioned in part 1, our designer lives in Paris and most communication with her is done via email. One advantage of this is due to the time zone differences, we can review design work and give feedback during our work day, then the next morning we can wake up with the changes in our inbox!

This year, it only took 100 emails (a new record!) to complete the designs for Curation 2020, as well as the stickers, eBook (coming soon) and a special edition of Curation (which will be released in limited numbers!).

Curation 2020 Diary Email Thread


The annual design challenge

We understand when it comes to the inner pages of your diary, space to write your to-dos and appointments is one of the most important factors. 

What’s also important is the overall design and structure (after all, there’s a reason you use a diary instead of a blank notebook.)

Finding a balance between practicality and usability was a major challenge, especially with the weekly spread. Although most customers were happy with the amount of writing space available, we had some feedback that more would be preferred. 

We experimented with one design which “technically” provided more writing space, but was ultimately too messy and confusing which in turn defeats the whole purpose of having a planner in the first place.

Previous Curation customers will notice a subtle but practical change to the weekly spread in the 2020 edition.

If it ain't broke, don’t fix it, as they say.

Building Better Habits in 2020

The biggest change you’ll see in your Curation 2020 Diary is a newly designed Habit Curator.

According to your feedback, The Habit Tracker/Curator is the most loved feature in Curation, and in 2020 we’re taking things to the next level.

After months of research into habit formation and creation, we truly believe the Habit Curator in your Curation 2020 Diary will be unlike anything you’ve seen in other diaries on the market.


Creating space for gratitude

Another new section to be excited about is the weekly gratitude section we’ve incorporated. 

This was by far your most requested feature, so we rejigged the Pre Week Planner to create space above the Drawing Board. Yay!


Adding Joy to the process

The font used for the front cover has been designed by a fellow Curator, Chloe Joy.

It all started when Chloe sketched out this epic mural on her Drawing Board:

Curation Diary Drawing Board



A few months ago, we put up an Instagram Story poll about the fonts we were contemplating for the front cover design. We’re so glad we did because Chloe reached out to us and asked if she could send a few bespoke designs for consideration. 

We weighed her font against two others we were debating and concluded hers was the best by far!

Unbeknownst to us, Chloe wrote “Collab with Saint Belford” on her Curation Bucket List! How cool!

Curation Diary Bucket List

Our first official business trip

After two seasons of production, we decided to travel to China to see firsthand how your diaries are made. 

Our trip was split into two parts:

  1. Visiting the China Import and Export Fair (commonly known as the Canton Fair)
  2. Visiting our supplier’s factory to understand the manufacturing process

The Canton Fair

China’s largest trade exhibition takes place in Guangzhou (near Hong Kong). 

The fair is so big that it’s nearly impossible to see the whole thing, even over the five days it runs. 

The fair features over 60,000 booths and takes up in excess of 1.18 million square metres. That’s around 47 MCG fields. 

(Alex didn't believe me and we spent at least 10 minutes debating this. This has since been fact-checked and it is indeed over 60,000 booths.)

Thankfully, it’s categorised thoughtfully with paper products and office supplies clumped together in a similar area.

That didn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of walking done.

Canton Fair Walking


We met with dozens of potential suppliers, drew inspiration for new ideas and found some hilarious products. Like this “eye massage” machine. 

Eye Massage Machine

It’s safe to say you won’t be seeing this in our 2020 collection.

The best surprise of all...

We didn’t expect to run into the manufacturers of the same PU leather used to create the hardcovers, but the fact that we did made the entire trip worthwhile. Speaking directly to these manufacturers was an absolute game changer for us. 

Last year, we encountered a few issues with the material we selected. They scratched far too easily and the Cherry Blossom was a magnet for dirt and dust. This year, we were very motivated to find a texture that not only felt and looked good, but was strong and durable. 

Fast forward to the Canton Fair and we were in diary production heaven. We spent hours flipping through hundreds of materials to find the best colours and textures for our 2020 collection and much to our benefit, these manufacturers were able to point us in the right direction based on our needs. We even got to take a sample binder home which for us was the best businessy showbag ever!!

In previous years, our production team would send over small patches of material based on our brief and we’d have to make decisions based on what was available at the time. 

So… this was a HUGE step up.

Saint Belford Canton Fair

The factory tour

From Guangzhou, we embarked on an epic day trip to a city outside of Shanghai. After a one hour taxi ride and a two hour flight, our supplier greeted us at the airport and took us to an amazing vegetarian restaurant for lunch. It was a FEAST.


From there, we toured the factory where Curation 2020 Diary will be made. 

I’ll be honest with you, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect before we stepped foot inside the factory.

Thankfully, we were pleasantly surprised by the conditions and cleanliness of the workspace. The factory was clean and tidy. There were proper safety measures in place, as well as recycling systems for paper offcuts and unused sheets. 

We met with a lot of the employees and although we couldn’t communicate with them due to the language barrier, we were greeted with a smile and welcomed into their workplace.

We got to see hundreds of books “fresh off the press.” Books from National Geographic, children’s books and recipe books plus a factory-full more. 

After the tour, we sat down with our account manager to discuss our plan for Curation 2020 Diary. We went over what could be improved from last year, your feedback, and ways to make your 2020 diary even better.

Not to bore you with the details, the discussion was incredibly productive and left us both extremely excited to release our 2020 diary collection. 


Stay tuned for Part 3 of Inside The Making of Your 2020 Diary coming soon.