A little while ago my attention was called to an unusual sort of project, both in terms of what I usually cover on Kickstarter and in terms of its own story. Project Papillon is a notebook with unique story. These notebooks come from Finland and are a collaboration between a design company and a correctional institution. Yes, you read that right; these notebook are made by prisoners. What makes it even more astounding is that these notebooks are impressive.
The demo model I was sent is a bit larger than a comfortable pocket size (but perfect for jacket pockets or the smaller pockets on laptop bags and purses). The cover is made of an incredibly supple brown leather, and it feels well constructed. The stitching is an orange that sets off nicely against the brown, and the notebook is labelled with “Project Papillon” both pressed into the leather of the cover and on the button. Overall, it feels elegant, nice in the hand, and is a size that is portable enough to be an everyday carry while large enough for the pages to be actually useful (my chief complaint with some pocket-sized notebooks).
The notebook itself is where the project surprised me. My demo copy was shipped with two notebooks, with an explanation that one notebook better represented the final design but the proofs were slightly too big, and therefore I was sent a second notebook of the proper size. The notebooks are high quality paper, thick enough that fountain pen ink wouldn’t bleed completely though, and smooth enough to be comfortable writing on. The notebooks are held together by rivets, ensuring that the notebook will not fall apart from use. My only complaint with the fastening is that it tends to prevent it from opening as flat as many other notebooks can.
Where Project Papillon shines, even compared to other high-quality notebooks, is in the small details. The printing on the notebooks, which says “Project Papillon” on the front and gives the product’s story on the back, are screen printed, giving them a crisp and distinctly vintage feel. This entire project feels like a fusion of vintage craftsmanship and modern design, coming together to form something that is uniquely beautiful.
My favorite part of the product, however, beyond all of the specifications and craftsmanship, is the story. That’s what makes these notebooks something you can’t get anywhere else. These notebooks provide rehabilitative work for prisoners in the Finnish correctional system. These men (and women, I presume) are giving back, learning skills that will help them become productive members of society, and creating a product that they can be proud of. These notebooks are giving back, but unlike so many ways of giving back, you don’t feel like you’re “giving” anything. The quality of these notebooks are all the draw it needs, but the story just makes them that much more special.
Project Papillon is in its final days on Kickstarter, you can find them here.