Day Designer (affiliate link) began in 2010, the brainchild of business strategist Whitney English. She was feeling overwhelmed by a busy, chaotic life and none of the planners on the market at the time were doing it for her. She thought about how helpful it would be to see and use a To Do list alongside a Schedule, so she created it. Day Designer is sometimes referred to as “the original daily planner,” and it’s been going strong long enough to live up to that claim.
Whitney English wanted a tool to help women find balance. For some people, a highly structured tool like this can be the difference between organization and chaos. Whitney English is clear, however, in saying that this planner is a tool–it needs to be used to work:
This planner isn’t magic, and it can’t live your life for you. But it can, through a simple, guided framework, help you figure out a focus for intentional living. It can be a trusted tool for setting goals, creating a plan and taking action each and every day.
I used a Flagship Day Designer to help me get through my last year of graduate school, but unfortunately, it got lost in the mail when I moved across the country. It was a sad, sad day. I really wanted to review this highly structured and lauded planner, so I reached out to the Day Designer team. They kindly sent me one of their 2018 Flagship Day Deisnger planners to review for you all. 🙂
The Day Designer planner comes in two sizes, Flagship (9″ wide x 9.75″ tall) and Mini (6.625” wide x 8.3” tall). The Flagship planner runs $59, and the Mini is $49. Day Designer also has a line of planner and paper products in collaboration with BlueSky, which can be found at Target.
Day Designer is a highly functional daily planner. It includes beginning goal setting pages to guide you as you delve into clean monthly spreads and meticulously structured days.
The Day Designer begins with a blank piece of paper (this can be ripped out–it’s there to protect the rest of your pages) and then a nameplate page. A unique addition to this nameplate page is the “My Word for the Year” box, where you can write in a word that helps guide you throughout the year.
Then you get a letter of welcome from Whitney English and a “How to Use Day Designer & Purpose Pages” section. This provides a breakdown of how to use the goal setting system that Day Designer provides in its first few pages. It also goes over what you’ll find on your daily page spread and how to use it as it was intended, with the stated option of just doing whatever you like with the space.
There are six goal setting pages, which Day Designer terms the Purpose Pages. You get a “My Reality Check” worksheet to help you gain awareness of ways that you spend time and money in key areas of your life; a “My Core” page (my fave) where you articulate your values, passions, and strengths; a general section for “My Goals”; how to turn those goals into intentions; and two pages for visualizing your ideal month and week. These can take a bit of time to work through but are nice places to return to throughout the year and check in with.
Then you get your 2018 at a glance page, which provides more space for notes than most other year-at-a-glance pages I’ve seen. This is a great place to note big trips, track school schedules, or quickly look at for important dates that you need to remember (birthdays, etc).
The month-on-two-pages is a simple but roomy spread. There is plenty of blank space at the top of the pages to write in anything you wish–create a habit tracker, extra notes, super important travel dates, etc. Or decorate it to add a pop of color.
This planner has a Monday start on the monthly spread, which allows your weekends to be paired together. I personally love a Monday start, but it is not what you will usually find in monthly spreads so keep that in mind.
Important dates are denoted with a small yet bold gray flag and written in a semi-bold sans-serif at the bottom of the day’s box. There is a notes bar on the lefthand side of the month, providing lined space to write in. The monthly spread is fairly simple–no bells & whistles here, just plenty of space to keep track of your months.
The daily page spread has not changed much over time–once Whitney English found her ideal layout, she continued to consistently offer it in the Day Designer. This means that you usually won’t be surprised by huge changes from year-to-year in the Day Designer. If it works for you, rest assured that this tried and true format won’t be going anywhere.
The daily page begins with the day and date, as well as a quote. I actually really like the quotes. There are tons of them because it is a daily planner, so they serve as a jumping off point for inspiring or motivating you every day. Then you get the Top Three section, which forces you to set priorities every day. What do you absolutely need to get done? What cannot be moved or ignored? You could approach this by writing down all of your to-dos and then picking out the tasks that really need to get done today. Or this space could be used for writing in things that are happening rather than things that you need to do. Whichever way works best for you, the structure is there but the format is open.
Then you have the four D’s: Due, Dinner, Dollars, and Don’t Forget. You can, of course, use these boxes however you like, but they are designed as specialized spaces to keep track of money, menu, and reminders. “Due” could be a bill–or a homework assignment. “Dollars” could be used for keeping track of spending, or how much income you brought in that day (great for keeping track of tips–shoutout to my college barista job). Or you can cover up the heading and use the boxes however you like.
Then you have your Today section, which is your schedule. This goes from 5am to 9pm in hourly increments. At first, I was perturbed by not having half-hour increments, but I just wrote the exact time for things in parentheses and bracketed for time blocking, and that worked just fine.
Adjacent to the Today column is the To-Do column, which has 17 lined spaces for writing in your to-dos for the day. There is a checkbox on each line, so you can have the satisfaction of checking off tasks as you complete them. The lines are just over 3 inches long, which actually gives you quite a bit of space to write tasks in, whether your handwriting is big or teensy.
The bottom of the page includes a long box for Notes and a compact box for Daily Gratitude. This is an important section for Whitney English–she often talks about developing a practice of gratitude and how it changed her life for the better. Every day, jotting down something you are grateful for can help you see silver linings in the darkest of rain clouds.
Weekends share a page. You still get the days and dates, as well as a quote for the weekend, but you don’t get the long task list. You get a top three To-Do section for each day, and then it goes into a 5am–9pm schedule. Of course, if you cared more about what you needed to get done than what your schedule was, you could just use the schedule space as a running task list.
The bottom of the weekend spread is a Next Week section, with small boxes for each day of the following week. This is a great place to write in preliminary plans, reminders of important upcoming events or due dates, or just get a basic idea of the week ahead at a glance.
There are also occasional notes pages throughout the planner. These are organized in three columns so that they can serve as running lists. This planner does not have a notes section, however, so keep that in mind if you are someone who needs lots of notes space.
We are going to start with The Day Designer Unboxing Experience, which is special. I let my husband unbox my Day Designer because it truly feels like unwrapping a present, and I wanted him to experience that special #plannerbabe feeling. He was way impressed.
The Day Designer comes in a seafoam green box–so right away you know it’s an important package! The inside of the box has white and gold foil stripes with the Day Designer logo, and your planner comes bubble-wrapped in a gorgeous white box with a pull-out drawer. You can keep the box as a keepsake storage box for loose paper goodies, a place to keep your Day Designer once you’ve finished using it for the year, or store stickers and pens in it like I did last year. Day Designer also encourages you to post on Instagram–as an incentive, they refund one person’s planner cost every month. Just tag @thedaydesigner and use the #daydesigner hashtag in your post, and you could win back the cost of your planner. 🙂
The Day Designer team releases new cover designs every midyear launch and keeps them for the following calendar launch as well. This means that the cover designs for the 2017-2018 planners are the same choices as for the 2018 planners. I went with the “White Marble” cover design because I thought it looked classy AF.
The covers are gorgeous and have a gloss finish and (depending on the cover you choose) gold foiling. I believe–although I could be incorrect so don’t quote me–that Whitney English designs/paints all the cover options. Being able to choose a bright and fun planner cover if you want that pop of color is important because the inside pages are monochrome.
The front cover has a gold foil brand nameplate with the name of the company (“Day Designer”–which is also what the planner is), the dates covered by the planner (January 2018-December 2018), and the tagline The Strategic Planner and Daily Agenda for living a well-designed life. The back cover also has a gold foil plate, near the bottom. It says Life, Designed and tastefully includes the disclaimer, copyright, and website. These additions are well-designed with a clear eye for integration into the overall cover pattern. They work with the look of the planner rather than taking away from it.
Each planner has an inside liner on the front and back covers. The colors vary to match whichever cover design you chose. White Marble comes with a pale almost seafoam green, which corresponds beautifully with the slightly greenish-gray marbling. There is also a folder affixed to the inside cover. It’s a bit tight, but cut high enough to hold a few cards or pieces of paper without fear that they might get loose and escape your planner.
The Day Designer uses 70 gsm paper (would equate to about 47# paper in US measurements). It’s a little thicker than your average printing paper so you can’t go about using heavy pens and expecting no bleed through. The Day Designer is a daily planner, so each day gets its very own page (excluding weekends, which are shared). If the paperweight was super high, you might get an impossibly thick planner. The Day Designer is already a big planner in its flagship size, so the choice to have a thinner paper to avoid adding more bulk to this already 2.1 lb planner makes sense.
The tabs are a slightly shimmery gold with white text and flow in a single line down the length of the planner. The pages they are affixed to feel like a light cardstock–certainly thicker than the other pages. The tabs seem sturdy and last year I had no trouble using them consistently without any tearing.
The Day Designer has 356 pages in total, and each one is numbered in the bottom corner. The planner is 1.5″ thick, which is a hefty book! The coil is a brassy gold Wire-O and it is very strong.
As the weekend is grouped together on the monthly spread (Saturday and Sunday next to one another), there is a very slight diagonal lined shading in the weekend boxes. It denotes them as weekend days without impeding their functionality in any way.
Holidays are marked with a little flag in the top righthand corner of the daily box. This design choice makes the days stand out but gives them a little flair. The holidays are also written in at the bottom of the box in a semi-bold sans-serif text.
The inside pages are, as I mentioned earlier, monochrome. Day Designer uses gray text, which is easier on the eyes than a super bold, dark text would be. While the logo and beginning letter from Whitney English use a serif font, after that everything is in a simple if blocky sans-serif. Headings are in a semi-bold sans-serif in all caps to cleanly but clearly denote the different sections of your planner. I do like the outlining of the months on the monthly page–last year I played with the design a little by coloring them in.
Overall, the Day Designer is a minimalist interior bracketed by artistic and beautiful patterned covers. White space is used generously and well–the daily pages are packed with information but still manage to look clean and uncluttered.
I did a pen test to try out the paper. (I can’t write in a straight line, it seems, sorry about my wonky column of text.) It actually held up pretty well to most of the pens–obviously the Sharpie Permanent Market bled through, and the super inky pens I used hovered dangerously close to bleed-through. Most felt tip pens worked just fine, even the Papermate Flair. The Stabilo Boss highlighter left some ghosting. Otherwise, the paper, while not as thick as many other planners on the market, held up well to most of my pens.
So, is the Day Designer the daily planner for you? Let’s explore!
Are you someone who wants a lot of function and use out of your planner? Day Designer will hold up and provide you with a structured canvas for all your plans, tasks, and whatever else you’re keeping track of (finances, gratitude, meals, etc). Are you overwhelmed with what’s on your plate and need help breaking it down? Day Designer can help. Are you new to planning but need a lot of structure to help you figure out your life? Day Designer has your back.
Do you just want a neutral planner without a lot of color or brightness or bells and whistles? (Do you want the antithesis of an Erin Condren Colorful planner?) Day Designer is exactly that. It’s minimalist in design and looks professional. You can bring a Day Designer into a business meeting and look fly with it. Its professional and clean aesthetic blends well into an office environment or a desk at home. It fits in a student’s backpack or a gorgeous work bag. The Day Designer says “I took it up a notch–and it looks fabulous.”
The Day Designer would be a good fit for anyone who wants more structure in how they plan their days. If you want a planner that gives you plenty of space to plan for each day as it comes, then look no further. If you want a planner that is going to make you feel like you are more in control of things than any of us ever are, the Day Designer will help. If you want a planner that is your home base planner, your “When in doubt, check…” planner, your master schedule, and/or your life in one place planner, then Day Designer could be that for you.
If your planning process includes a practice of decoration as art therapy or exploration, then I would not recommend this planner for you. There is room to play, but ultimately the structure does not lend itself overly well to sticker planning or watercolor. If you need flexibility in your planner and get frustrated when there are boxes or sections that you don’t fill out (rather than not caring if they’re filled out or not), then I would not recommend this planner for you because it might stress you out a little. If you need to keep track of your schedule and it regularly does not fall along the 5am–9pm timeframe (you work the night shift, for example), then I would suggest finding a planner with a more open format.
I used the 2017 Day Designer as a graduate student, and it really fit my crazy life of meetings, classes, tasks, assignments, and my need for catharsis. I had tried the mini (I gifted a Day Designer Mini to a colleague and good friend and she loves it and takes it with her everywhere–the portability is just what she wants) but it didn’t work out for me. I needed more space. It turns out that the size difference between the Flagship and Mini was all I needed. I used the Due box to write down assignments, tests, papers, etc and the Don’t Forget box for deadlines (especially helpful for keeping track of my thesis). The Top Three box helped me create priorities from my multitude of endless tasks. The Day Designer helped me create a feeling of control in my chaotic grad school life, and for that, I will always love it.
I love how structured the Day Designer is. Once I allowed myself to leave sections blank if they didn’t apply for that day (like “Due” or “Dinner”), I really loved knowing that I had all the space I needed to dump my day into. I love the choice of cover designs, even though my planner often sits open. I love the gorgeous gold tabs and the touch of class they bring.
I also love the feeling of having my entire year, day-by-day, in one portable place. The Day Designer is more of a desk planner for me, with occasional excursions out of the house, but I always liked knowing that everything important was written within its pages.
When I got my 2017 Day Designer, I was looking for something that could help me manage an overwhelming schedule of assignments, thesis-writing, fellowship duties, student organization running, classes, and meetings. I wanted a tool that could hold it all, and the Day Designer was, without a doubt, the perfect fit. I wanted something purely functional–a serious planner for a serious student. The Day Designer was that planner for me.
My Day Designer had a small error with the coil. The back cover wasn’t aligning properly with the rest of the planner. Upon further examination I realized that the wire-o binding was imperfectly assembled, meaning that the pages near the back suffered some ripping. I reached out to the Day Designer team and was reassured that:
“As with all purchased Day Designers, our customer service team at firstname.lastname@example.org is always here to help and has a response time of 24 hours or less. If issues cannot be remedied, we always offer replacement planers free of charge. It is also very important to point out that Day Designers are made to open and close from the front rather than the back cover which generally remedies any issues that may arise regarding trouble closing the planner.”
So even if there is something the matter with your Day Designer when you receive it, the Day Designer Customer Service Team is on it and has your back. All of my correspondence with them has been positive and easy. 🙂
There you go, my review of the 2018 Flagship Day Designer planner! I hope this was helpful to you if you were looking at getting a Day Designer for the 2018 year. 🙂 If there are any questions you have, please leave a comment!
Here are some other resources that might be helpful:
- The Day Designer blog is fantastic and includes lots of productivity tips and intentional living advice.
- Amanda’s Favorites has a thorough video review of the 2018 Day Designer Planner.
- Earn Spend Live has a great introductory post about the Day Designer.
- If you want to try the sticker life in your Day Designer, FayeCreates has some options for you.
Until next time!