Organizing | Planning Tips

Day Designer Planner Review (Updated for 2021): Manage Your Busy Life and Get More Done

This Day Designer planner will show you the pros and cons, compare the Target version, the best pens to use, how it compares to other planner reviews I’ve done and more.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links may provide a small commission to me at no extra cost to you. Refer to my Full Privacy Policy and Disclaimers here.

Note 2: Please note the pictures shown are from my 2016-2017 Flagship Black Stripe Daily Day Designer. I’m updating this post based on information presented on Day Designer’s website* as of 3/23/21 about their 2021 planner line. The academic year planners dated July 2021-June 2022 release on 3/24/21 at 11am CT!

Day Designer Planner review. How the Day Designer can help you manage your busy life and get more done. Review includes pros and cons, Flagship vs. mini, what's different about the Blue Sky at Target version, the best pens to use and more #daydesigner #planners #plannerreview #momssmallvictories

I feel like getting my home, blog and head organized is an elusive dream. I want to be organized so badly but it seems way beyond my reach no matter how hard I try. Do you feel like that too? Honestly, I think we all are seeking that planner peace. 

I think that is why I’m so obsessed with my planners and trying to find the perfect planner to help me fulfill my dreams. Today, I’m sharing an honest Day Designer Planner Review so you can see the Day Designer’s many different planner options, features, pros and cons, a pen test so you can see what pens work best in the Day Designer and what the difference is between the planners sold on the website and the Blue Sky version at Target (they are NOT the same!). We’ve got a lot to cover so let’s get started and show you this beautiful, simple and versatile planner.

Day Designer Planner Options:

First, I thought we’d go over the Day Designer planner options in their Flagship collection because they have a huge variety of planners to fit anybody’s needs and budget. In terms of versatility, the Day Designer really has created a planner for all planner types. You are sure to find something you love in their very comprehensive line of planners. The Blue Sky at Target planner options are discussed towards the bottom of this post.

Day Designer planner Binding Options: Ring Binder, Coil Bound or Book Bound (Dated and Undated)

Day Designer offers three planner styles:

  • an A5 size leather 6-ring binder with refillable undated pages,
  • a gold coil bound dated planner or
  • a book bound undated planner.

The A5 6-ring binders are gorgeous and very professional looking. There are 3 gorgeous colored, leather binder options and 1 vegan leather binder option in white. Each binder comes with 3 months worth of undated daily planning pages, notes pages, to do list pages, expense tracking sheets and 6 customizable tab dividers. This system is ideal for people who want to add pages and keep everything for their home, family and work in one place. Additional dated or undated daily and weekly planning pages and gorgeous gold tab dividers and stickers are available for purchase on the Day Designer website*.

The gold wire-O coil bound planners have a sturdy, lovely coil that has stood up well to continued use. The covers are made of durable board material. This is a good option for people who like to have their planner open on their workspace so your to-dos and agenda are always in front of you. The gold coil bound planners are available in their signature daily planner and they just introduced a new line of gold coil bound weekly planners for academic year 2019 planners! The gold coil bound planners include dated daily planning pages, goal setting pages, gold monthly tab dividers, a pocket in the front and a few notes pages.

The book bound Today & To Do planners are undated and include 90 daily planning pages, weekly and monthly pages, notes pages and goal setting worksheets. The cover is a pebble finish vegan leather. This is an excellent option if you are setting 90 day goals or doing a 12 Week Year* (which is what I’m doing and I highly recommend because it helps you focus on your goals, break them down and get them done). You would then need 4 books to cover a full year. This is also a great option if you use a weekly planner regularly but some days really need a daily schedule and to do list to manage what’s going on. I know that has happened to me a lot!

Day Designer planner: Mini vs. Flagship

If size matters to you, the coil bound Day Designer planners come in two sizes. The Flagship is their original size and is 9” wide x 9.75” tall, is 1.5” inch deep including the coil and weighs 2.5 pounds to start (if you add stickers, it will get slightly heavier). I love this size because there is plenty of room to track everything I needed to. I am a stay at home mom so I didn’t carry this in my purse. I normally left it on my desk, or table next to the couch or if I took it with me for my errand list, I would leave it in the car while running inside the store. You could carry the Flagship with you but it is a big planner, so you might need a new purse (not a bad thing in my opinion, because I love purses as much as planners). And it might get heavy carrying everyday.

The Mini option is much more portable and easy to fit in your purse if you do want to carry your planner everyday. It is 6.625” wide x 8.3” tall and is 1.5” deep including the coil and 1.7 pounds.  It has the same daily planning pages as the bigger Flagship, just miniaturized.

Day Designer Planner: Academic vs Calendar Year

The gold coil bound Flagship and Mini planners come in an academic year planner or a calendar year planner. In fact, the new covers for the 2021-2022 academic planners* were released and will be available to purchase on March 24,2021! The 2021-2022 academic year planner runs from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. The calendar year planners run from January 1st to December 31st and are on sale for 50% off right now if you want to try it out! 

Day Designer planner: Weekly vs Daily

Day Designer planners are now available in weekly (two pages per week) and daily (one page per weekday and weekends share a page) planning options. They have a academic year weekly planner* coming out on March 24, 2021 on their website.

I love that the weekly layout comes with all the weekly pages and then 46 additional undated daily pages so you can use them on extra busy days. We know we all have them. You can try out both the daily planning pages and weekly planning pages that are available as free downloads on Day Designer’s website*.
to see which version works best for you.

In the past, the weekly planners were only available in their collaboration with Blue Sky and was a more budget friendly, lower-quality version you could get at Target or
Amazon*. See more about the difference between the signature Day Designers planners on the website and the Blue Sky line available at Target and Amazon down at the bottom of this post.

Daily Day Designer planner 2021 Flagship Features

Here are the Day Designer feature specifications as described on their website for the Flagship size Daily Planner Black and White stripe. it’s their classic cover they’ve had for years including the one I have above! 

Overall Dimensions:  9″ wide x 9.75″ tall

Page Dimensions:  7.3″ wide x 9.5″ tall

Depth:  1.5″ (Including the binding)

Weight:  2.5 lbs.

  • Updated! 100 GSM White Paper
  • Updated! Daily Planning Pages with Hourly Scheduling from 7am to 7pm
  • Today, To-Do, Dinner, Gratitude, Top 3 To-Do Prompts, Notes and more!
  • Goal Setting Worksheets to Help You Achieve Your Big Dreams
  • Daily Inspirational Quotes
  • Combined Weekend Pages with Weekly Overview
  • Gold Foil Dated Monthly Tabs
  • Two-Page Monthly Overviews with a Monday Start Day for Each Week
  • Two-Page 2021-2022 Yearly Overview with a Monday Start Day for Each Week
  • Daily and Monthly Pages Marked with U.S. holidays
  • Printed Grey Text to Avoid Stark Contrast
  • Durable Cover in our Classic Black and White Stripe Design
  • Mint Cover Liner with Inside Front Cover Pocket for Added Functionality
  • Protective Gold Corners
  • Sophisticated Gold Wire-O Binding
  • Tear-Out Pages in the Front and Back of Planner to Protect Inside Pages

weekly day designer planner 2021 features

Here are the specifications for the Day Designer Weekly Planner:

Overall Dimensions:  9″ wide x 9.75″ tall
Page Dimensions:  7.3″ wide x 9.5″ tall
Depth:  1.25″ (Including the binding)
Weight:  1.5 lbs.

  • 100 GSM White Paper
  • Weekly Planning Pages with Daily To Do’s
  • Today, To-Do, Top 3 To-Do Prompts, Notes and more!
  • Additional Tab with 46 Non-Dated Today & To Do™ Pages with Hourly Scheduling from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Additional Tab with 19 Notes Pages
  • Additional Tab with 12 Expenses Tracker Pages, 2 Favorites Lists, 2 Gift Idea Pages, 2 Thank You Note Records, 2 Packing Checklists, 2 Entertaining Checklists and 4 Bucket Lists!
  • Goal Setting Worksheets to Help You Achieve Your Big Dreams
  • Weekly Inspirational Quotes
  • Combined Weekends on Weekly Layout
  • Gold Foil Dated Monthly Tabs
  • Two-Page Monthly Overviews with a Monday Start Day for Each Week
  • Two-Page 2021 to 2022 Yearly Overview with a Monday Start Day for Each Week
  • Daily and Monthly Pages Marked with U.S. holidays
  • Printed Grey Text to Avoid Stark Contrast
  • Durable Glossy Hardcover in our Romance Design
  • Deep Blush Cover Liner with Inside Front Cover Pocket for Added Functionality
  • Protective Gold Corners
  • Sophisticated Gold Wire-O Binding
  • Tear-Out Pages in the Front and Back of Planner to Protect Inside Pages

Day Designer Planner: Flagship Daily Planner Walkthrough in Pictures

Please note, my pictures and pen tests are from/in the 2016-2017 academic year planner I purchased. I ordered and flipped through the 2018-2019 planner for my ultimate planner comparison when I gave one away in May 2018 and while some of the goal setting worksheets changed, the format of the 2021 daily planning pages is the same and they’ve updated their paper to a slightly higher GSM so hopefully the shadowing isn’t as bad. For the most part, this info is still accurate to the best of my knowledge.

I know I like to see pictures of how people actually USE their planners so I’m showing you inside mine in this post. For the most up-to-date information and pictures, visit the Day Designer website*.

Day Designer planner Packaging

As I said, this was how it was packaged when i got mine in 2016. From pictures on their site and instagram, the packaging still looks similar in 2021 but I don’t know for sure….I gotta admit the packaging was stunning with the gold-striped interior of the box. I felt like a kid at Christmas opening the robin egg blue box. Inside, another hard cardboard all white case held the Day Designer itself. I kept the all-white case so I can put my Day Designer in it when I travel with my laptop bag. I will not use it too often but I figured it will keep it nicely protected when I do.

The packaging of the Day Designer Midyear Planner is stunning. The Day Designer was well protected and I plan to save the white outer case to use for those few times I travel with my planner.

As a completely impatient person, I loved that the planner arrived super quickly, I just was not thrilled that my only choice was paying for priority shipping. The cover arrived with a couple small indentations but it was not a deal breaker for me. I was just too excited to dig in and get to use it!

Day Designer planner Goalsetting Pages

Day Designer planner review goalsetting page example completed

Some of the Day Designer 2021 goalsetting pages are different than the ones I got in my planner, they’ve added some great worksheets to help you design the life you want. Here’s what I can tell the goal setting pages include and you can see thumbnail pictures on their website*:

  • A Letter from the Day Designer Team
  • Tips for Living a Well Designed Life
  • Self Assessment: Where Am I In Life?
  • Core Values Worksheet: What is Important to me?
  • My Goals: What is Important to me?
  • My Plan: What Steps Do I need to take to get there?
  • Ideal Month: Making it happen!
  • Ideal Week: Making it Happen!
  • 12 month overview

Many of the goalsetting pages are offered as free printables* which I think is amazing!!! And there are lots more free printables (I describe further below) on their site than are included in the planner so it is definitely worth checking out.

Day Designer planner Monthly Calendar Pages:

Day Designer planner review monthly calendar picture

The Monthly Calendar Pages are minimalistic in design with simple, clean lines. I loved the color in other planners but the dark gray and white is sharp, classic and clean. If I want to add color, I have to add it myself in this planner which is fine by me. No fuss, no muss and an excuse to use colored pens, highlighters and stickers whenever and however I want it (see my favorite pens and highlighters at the bottom of this post).

There is a sidebar where we can write our goals and small victories. We tend to be great at celebrating our big victories but it is equally important to enjoy the journey and celebrate our small victories along the way.

I don’t use the monthly calendar for appointments since I keep that in a family calendar in Google. I like that Google Calendar can send me reminder alerts in phone. But I also don’t want to duplicate that information so I tend to use my monthly calendar pages for other uses and it’s a chance to get creative. Here are some of the ways you can creatively use the monthly calendar pages to track daily:

  • happy memories
  • Small victories
  • Gratitude
  • Top priorities
  • Goal progress
  • Quotes you find/things you learn
  • Budget, bills due or expenses
  • Menu plan/meals made so you know how old your leftovers are

It is a monday start calendar which works great for me because I like having the weekend together and consider Monday the start of my week.

Day Designer planner Daily Calendar Pages:

The Daily Calendar Pages are why I bought the Day Designer planner*. Each page has a schedule on the left, hourly increments from 7am to 7pm. My planner had time increments from 5am to 9pm so this is a change in the planner since I got mine. I think i would miss those extra hours since much of my blogging and me time is in those marginal hours before 7am and after 7pm.

I have always liked to track my time, it helps me evaluate how long tasks take me. I’m notoriously bad about underestimating how long a task will take. The schedule helps me quantify my time management so I can better budget my time with realistic expectations.

In my Plum Paper Weekly Planner, I was manually tracking the food I ate, my pain levels, gratitude, dinner plans and my top 3 tasks in a bullet journal format. It got to be kind of a mess once I started taking EBA too.

With the Day Designer, there are already predefined space for tracking the following sections. It looks more organized and with plenty of space to write, I have yet to run out of room for my tasks.

  • Today’s Top Three
  • Due
  • Dinner
  • Dollars
  • Don’t Forget
  • Schedule
  • To Do
  • Notes (where I track my food, water intake and pain levels)
  • Daily Gratitude

As you can see in the photo below, I still used the bullet journal method in my planner. I rapid log items on my to do list as soon as I think of them so I don’t forget. Mommy brain, brain fog from my Rheumatoid Arthritis/meds, whatever you want to call it, my memory is horrible these days!

I fill in task boxes as completed so at the end of the day, I can see at a glance any tasks still in-process (indicated by a half filled in box) or incomplete. These tasks are then either migrated to the next day (as indicated by the arrow through the box)  or if it cannot be done the next day then the task goes into the nearest quarterly notes page where I keep my master to do list. Surprisingly I have yet to run out of space for the random thoughts that enter my head in a day but this day sure came close!

Inspiring quotes adorn the top of every page including the monthly and daily pages. I can always use a bit of motivation when starting a new unpredictable day with managing motherhood with my Rheumatoid Arthritis and kids!

Day Designer daily planning page and notes page bullet journal method

See how to color code tasks and #bulletjournal in a Day Designer planner to manage your day and get more done Click To Tweet

Color Coding in my Day Designer

I like to introduce color into my planner by color coding my tasks. I oftentimes color coding by the category of task or role I perform (household, cooking, kids, self-care and blog). I like that method of time tracking as it effectively showed me how much time I spent in each of my roles.

Now that I understand the areas where I spend my time, I tried out color coding my to do list by context like productivity expert David Allen suggests in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity* (GTD). GTD makes more sense to me now that I’ve learned about bullet journaling than when I listened to GTD on audio several years ago.

Assigning a context to a task lets me know what resources I need to be able to get things done in any block of time. If I’m in the carpool line, I can make a few phone calls at once by looking for the green “to call” dot next to the tasks. Or if I’m out and about, I look at my list for all the blue “to go” dots so I can group errands together and get more done. Same goes for the orange “to do at home” dots or the pink “to do at home on the computer” dots.

Day Designer Weekend pages

day designer weekend pages

The weekend pages are two days to one page with Top 3 tasks, an hourly schedule and plans for next week at the bottom. I’m guessing they put Saturday and Sunday on one page to save number of pages and bulk because it would be even heavier than 2 pounds.

Some weekends are pure bliss of laziness and the 2 days in one page is just fine. But, for me, soccer weekends are just pure chaos, and busier than weekdays because of family fun activities AND feeding my 4 hungry men 3 meals a day. So some weekends I need just as much room to plan. For those busy weekends when you need more space, I recommend getting one of their undated Today & To Do Planner* so you can still keep track of everything. You can just use it on the days you really need it.

I like the concept of the Plans for Next Week area but it does not give too much space for a whole set of goals. I think it’s a good place to jot down the menu plan for the following week so you can have your grocery list ready.

Day Designer planner Notes Pages & Pocket:

There are not too many pages for notes in my 2016 version, two sides of pages before June 2016 begins, one side of a page on the September and January tabs and two sides of pages at the end. I can’t tell from their website what the notes pages look like or how many there are in the 2021’s. 

As you can see in the photo above, I try to maximize the space by splitting the Notes Pages into effectively 3 columns.  I use it for as my immediate master do list categorized by home, family and me & my blog. My separate blog planner still has the bulk of my blog ideas and strategic plan, this just has the immediate blog tasks I must complete.  

There is one pocket in the front of the Day Designer which is handy for stickers and the kids’ schedules, you know, just in case I wrote something down incorrectly. It has been known to happen. The pocket color varies to coordinate with the cover color. The pocket is also where I stick a slim notebook like these that I have* for my bullet journal master lists and collections of EVERYTHING racing around my chaotic mind. An easy and pretty solution to the few notes pages in the Day Designer planner. Day Designer also came out with notebooks that should fit in the pockets and coordinate with their gorgeous covers as well. 

Day designer planner review inside pocket picture with sticker sheets in pocket and colorful pens and washi tape

Day Designer Planner Review: Quick Pros and Cons

Day Designer Pros

  • I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and need the daily format
  • I prefer the flagship size, I tried a free printable of the mini version* and it was too cramped for me
  • plenty of space to write all my brain dump of random ideas and tasks during the day so I don’t forget anything
  • I like that there are dedicated spaces for top 3 priorities, what’s due, what I can’t forget and daily gratitude
  • minimalist design helps focus on tasks at hand
  • An inspirational quote every weekday
  • love the vision, goal setting and motivational extra pages
  • packaging was superb, I kept the box it came in to transport the planner when I pack it for trips

Day Designer Cons

  • priority shipping was only option and it’s expensive when I bought mine (i don’t know if that’s still the case). Look for free shipping deals (i’ve got some sale info below)
  • 100 GSM paper is not as thick and smooth as other brands’ planners but it needs to be thinner to keep the weight and bulk down, it’s big enough already. My favorite pens shadowed but it was not a dealbreaker for me.
  • bulky to carry around so I leave it at home or in the car (there is a mini version available if you need a portable version)
  • wish there was a place for habit tracking. I could use up the whole to-do list just for the daily habits I want to cultivate
  • I understand why they don’t but I still wish there was a full page for Saturday and Sunday planning
  • not enough notes pages for me to be able to keep my master to do lists and bullet journal collections to make this an all-in-one solution. That’s ok it just means I’ll have an excuse for more pretty notebooks. A planner addict can’t have too many planners and notebooks!

What the Day Designer planner Helped Me Accomplish

I think the goal we have in getting a planner is to get more done, help us manage our overflowing to do list and help us remember things we don’t want to forget. I think the Day Designer helped me in all those areas. What I especially liked was identifying and focusing on my top 3 priorities.

So often I start off my day and by the end I have this completely overwhelming list of things I need to do. Having the top 3 priorities clearly marked at the top eliminated some of the noise and focus on those till they are done.

I started taking EBA (and that’s why I moved from the weekly Plum Paper I loved to the Day Designer) so I could start turning the blog I love into a profitable business I love. I think the Day Designer definitely helped me manage my days better juggling home, family and blog life since I was undertaking this huge course and investment. I wanted to make sure to get it done! The Day Designer helped me start chasing that dream and designing the life I wanted to live.

I loved being able to track and better plan my days with the agenda. There was sooo much room that I never ran out! The Day Designer definitely helped me get everything out of my head on busy days and onto paper. While I’d like to say that every single idea found it’s way onto a bullet journal master collection list so that it wasn’t forgotten, I can’t say that’s 100% true. But now that it’s down, I can easily go back and get the most important ideas on a list.

Overall, I think the Day Designer was a wise choice for that stage of life when I was trying to grow a business and juggle home and family life. There was so much going on and it helped me log all the big goal tasks and tons of little things that come up. Looking back, I most loved that feeling of freedom from having all the things out of my head and into paper was wonderful and brought the planner peace I seek so often.  

Day Designer planner Free Printables  

What I love about Day Designer is the multitude and variety of free printables they offer on their site! You can download all their daily pages (including the mini size and A5) to test them out. And lots of their goal setting and extra printables too. Here are my favorites that I’ve downloaded too. Note that these are subject to change. What they offer free today may be gone tomorrow.

  • Free Daily Planning Page
  • Mini Daily Planning Page
  • A5 Daily Planning Page
  • Today & To Do Planning Pages
  • Grocery List
  • Ideal Week
  • Brain dump
  • Core Elements Worksheet
  • Entertaining Checklist
  • Food and Exercise Log
  • Monthly Goal Progress
  • Weekly Meal Plan
  • Weekly Chore Chart
  • 86 Lists for the Planner Obsessed
  • Notes Pages
  • Intentional Living Worksheet
  • My Favorite Self Care Habits
  • Bucket Lists
  • 50 Best Practices for Living a Well Designed Life

There are even more I haven’t listed, I was trying to just give you a sample but there are a bunch of extras that I think would be amazing to print and keep in a binder.

Check out their full free printable library here*. I hope some of these goodies are still there when you visit!

Check out my favorite free printables from Day Designer to help you set and achieve your goals. Click To Tweet

Day Designer planner Coupons and Sales

Day Designer doesn’t give coupon codes really, I’ve been a subscriber on their email list and I have seen 1 in the past 3 years. But Day Designer does run occasional sales for a % off your order or FREE shipping on domestic orders sales.

Since they do expensive priority shipping on all orders, it’s a huge bonus to take advantage of free shipping on domestic orders if you are in the US when you can! I used their shipping calculator and for me in NC (I think they are based in OK), it’s $14.50. Sometimes free shipping is more savings than a % off.

Anyway, I thought I’d try to keep track of some here so you can see what time of year they run. I can’t guarantee they will run the same sales but get on their email list so you find out about sales too.

Late Nov 2018: Black Friday weekend + Cyber Monday special – Free shipping on domestic orders $49 or more

Dec 14 -16,2018 – Free shipping site wide on domestic orders

Dec 26, 2018 – 1 day $5 flat rate shipping site wide on domestic orders  

Jan 16, 2019 – 1 day $5 flat rate shipping site wide on domestic orders  + exclusive sale for subscribers with a coupon code

February 6, 2019 – 30% off daily planners

February 18, 2019 – 2019-2020 cover reveals! No sale with this but they are getting ready to launch new planners which means they start discounting the planners in stock….

March 4, 2019 – “Our Biggest Sale” 50% off 2019 Daily Planners!!!

March 20, 2019 – 2019-2020 daily and weekly signature planners on sale on their website

March 23, 2021 – 50% off 2021 Planners!

I love to get planners at 50% off or more to try them out or to give away on my blog or as gifts. And I think 50% off is the most I’ve seen Day Designers get discounted. So snag a Day Designer* now if you’re interested! Sale prices are usually reflected in the shop so you don’t need a coupon code. Sales subject to change, please check their website for all price info.

Simplified Planner vs. Day Designer planner

day designer vs simplified planner size and covers

The main question I get is what are the differences between the Simplified Planner and Day Designer Planners, so I though I’d give you a quick recap here to help you decide which is best for you. This is based on my experience with the daily planners I purchased (Simplified Planner in 2018-2019 and the flagship size Day Designer in 2016-2017.

Both planners daily pages have ample space for your hourly schedule and plenty of space for your to do list.

day designer vs simplified planner daily page comparison

I think the daily Simplified Planner* is better:

  • paper quality is better at 105 gsm, bright white and smooth to write on
  • if you want to carry the planner with you to and from work/school (the daily SP is 7″x9″ vs flagship daily DD is 9″ x 9.75″ and weighs 2.5 pounds)
  • you like pops of color in your planner
  • you like worksheets to help you simplify your life (tips, routines, and simplicity challenge)
  • you like open space for notes to track whatever you like
  • you like extra notes pages (new this year)
  • you like colorful hand drawn stickers
  • smaller space forces you to abbreviate, keep your list small and focused, in other words to simplify your schedule!

I think the flagship size daily Day Designer planner* is better:

  • if you don’t mind thinner 90 gsm paper to have more space to write in (regular printer paper is 80 gsm usually as a point of reference)
  • you need a lot of space to write down tasks as they come to you/want space for brain dumps
  • you need a bigger planner that you can leave on your desk or at home
  • you prefer minimalist daily pages (gray font with gold tabs)
  • you like worksheets to help you set meaningful goals and break them down to get them done
  • you like dedicated spaces on your daily pages for top 3 priorities, menu, what’s due, gratitude, dinner, etc.
  • you don’t need many notes pages

You can see pictures inside and check out my full Simplified Planner review here for more info.

What are the best pens to use in my Day Designer planner?  

I did an ultimate pen test and spent about 4 hours trying out different pens in my Day Designer planner. The photos will be uploaded later in a separate post but I did want to give you the results of my pen test here.

Day designer planner review pen test showing Day Designer planner cover and 8 brands of pens tested: Zebra Sarasa, Pilot G-2, Pentel Liquid Energy, Papermate Flair, Zebra Mildliner highlighters, Papermate Inkjoy Gel pens, Sharpie pens, and Staedler Triplus Fineliners.

The paper quality in my Day Designer was 90 GSM as it is in the 2019 Day Designers according to their website. I think the paper quality is comparable so my pen test should be accurate.

I tested each pen with a colored dot which is what I usually do for coloring coding, the color name written and a squiggly line to see how it would bleed (run all the way through the paper so you can see what’s written) or shadows (where you can faintly tell what is written or that something is written).

I tested the following 9 brands of pens to figure out what the BEST pen to use in the Day Designer is. There are a combination of gel pens and felt tip pens and one brand of highlighters.

Gel Pens, Metal Tip

  • Papermate Inkjoy Gel Pens, retractable, 0.7mm, 10 colors in pack
  • Pentel Energel Liquid Gel, 0.7mm, metal tip, 5 colors in pack
  • Zebra Sarasa Gel Pens, 0.7mm, 10 colors in pack
  • Pilot G-2, 0.7mm, 4 colors in pack

Felt Tip

  • Papermate Flair Felt Point Pens, Medium, 12 colors in pack
  • Staedler Triplus Fineliner Pens, 10 colors in pack
  • Sharpie Pen, Fine Point, 10 colors in pack

Fine Point

  • Pilot G-2, 0.38mm, Black only
  • Pilot Precise v5, Extra Fine, Rolling Ball pen, 7 pack (not pictured)


  • Zebra Mildliner Highlighters, 15 colors in 3 packs

Recommended pens are in my Day Designer Planner and Best Pens to Use list in my Amazon Favorites Store*.

If you like a gel pen, metal tip…

I love the colors in the Pentel Energel Liquid gel metal tip pens* (mine only has 5 different colors) and the metal tip makes these pens glide when you write. They shadowed the least of the gel pens I tested. I can feel the colored dots left an indentation of the paper on the other side of the page but it isn’t as bad as the others tested. The Black Liquid Energel gel pen needle tip* is one of my favorite black pens. I love too that the needle tip Energels are refillable.

If you like a felt tip pen…

If you like a bold look and a medium point, the Papermate Flairs* rule this category. They come in sooo many beautiful colors for all your color coding and doodling needs. Just as bold as the inkjoy’s, the colors shadow on the back of the page some but the dots I colored do not leave any indentation on the other side of the page.

Because of the felt tip, the Papermate Flairs aren’t as smooth when writing as some of the others but this is a good choice if you like to feel the scratch of the pen on the paper. The tip is solid so if you are heavy handed, you’ll need this type of point instead of a flexible tip that’s bendable.

If you like a felt tip with a flexible fine point,  the Staedler Triplus Fineliners* are my favorite. Now, I must warn you, if you have a heavy hand like I apparently do, you can and will bend or wear down the tip on these. I have worn down my black and blue Staedler and bent a few of the tips on my Sharpie pens so they aren’t good for me with daily use but I had fun testing them out for you! 

But if you aren’t heavy handed, I prefer the Staedlers over the Sharpie pens because they seem to shadow less onto the other side of the page, come in a huge assortment of colors and the colors are more vibrant. The Staedlers are great for writing, color coding, doodling and coloring details in small spaces.

If you like a fine point…

The Pilot Precise v5* is my favorite here. I love the extra fine point and there are enough colors to have a variety without an overwhelming selection. These are fantastic for writing, color coding and outlining doodles but I wouldn’t use these to color. These are the ones that I am currently using daily.


I only tested the Zebra Mildliner Highlighters* so far since they seem to be an extremely popular choice among planner fans like me and come in a huge assortment of colors. They are dual tipped highlighters, one side has a broad tip for highlighting and the other a fine tip for writing and coloring.

The pastel neon pack shadowed the least of the 3 packs I tested. But I just gotta love the bolder colors and love the fine tips so you can actually write notes or color doodles you want to highlight in your day.

These are the best pens to use in your Day Designer planner! Click To Tweet

What’s the difference between the Day Designer planners on the website and the Day Designer Blue Sky Line at Target or Amazon?

The Day Designer by Blue Sky line is a great option for those who are on a stricter budget but still need a well designed planner. You can get a good planner for approximately $12 to $25. But the biggest difference between the Flagship collection Day Designers on the website and the Blue Sky line at Target or Amazon is the quality of materials.

I had picked up one of the weekly Blue Sky planners at Target to flip through last year and found that the pages were very thin and hard to turn. They kept getting stuck to each other or in the twin-wire spiral as I tried to flip pages. It felt like there were a lot of pages crammed into the spiral. I haven’t done any pen tests on the Blue Sky planner paper but it’s a 80 GSM paper (which is like standard printer paper) so it’s a lesser grade than the 100 GSM that they put in their signature line.

The Day Designer by Blue Sky planning pages are also slightly different than what you get in the flagship  line. They have the most important features like the daily agenda, to dos, priority and gratitude and they have a few goalsetting pages that are different than the flagship line. The covers on the Day Designer by Blue Sky are flexible material, not a hard cover.

The thing I like about the Day Designer by Blue Sky line at Target or Amazon* was they they have a wider variety of planner styles to choose from. They had monthly, weekly, and daily planners, they had the Today & To Do undated and a variety of cover bindings and sizes to choose from. I’m partial to book bound planners and they actually had a few I considered. The Blue Sky line is also more colorful with coordinating font colors on the planning pages whereas the flagship line is only a dark grey font for a minimalist look.

It seems like Day Designer tests out options in the Blue Sky line and then brings the ones that sell the best into their signature line. I remember seeing the Today & To Dos at Target when the line first came out and then Day Designer released an upgraded version on their flagship line. Similarly, the Blue Sky line had weekly planners from the start. Then Day Designer announced they are going to start selling weekly planners* in their signature Flagship collections line starting in 2019. It’s just my theory, but it’s fun to see the Blue Sky line in Target to see what they might come out with next. 

The Blue Sky line is a good option if you wanted a more colorful, printed planner at a lower cost with the Day Designer planning and goal setting pages. But if you want better quality, then the Flagship line is definitely the way to go.

Where Can I Buy the Day Designer planner?

Their signature, higher quality Flagship Collection series is available to buy:

  • All the covers are available on the Day Designer website*
  • Many of the covers in both flagship and mini size are available on Amazon* (see my Day Designer Planners + Best Pens to Use list) with free Prime shipping (get a free 30 day trial of Prime here*. I do not know if they will have the same packaging as what I mention above. Look for the ones that say “by Day Designer” if you want the signature Flagship high quality planner.
  • Usually one cover is available in some Staples stores (last year it was the Jungle cover) which is good if you want to check out paper quality, see those awesome goalsetting pages and flip through it before you buy.

Their lower cost and lower quality Day Designer for Blue Sky Planning Essentials series is available to buy:

  • Amazon* (see my Day Designer Planners + Best Pens to Use list) with free Prime shipping (get a free 30 day trial of Prime here*. Look for the ones that say “by Blue Sky” if you want the lower cost version.
  • Target
  • Some Staples and Office Depot/Office Max stores

which are the planners like day designer?

Here are my recommendations for planners like Day Designer.

If you want a more budget friendly version, then check out the Day Designer by Blue Sky collection*. It still has the great goal setting pages of the signature line, the paper isn’t as good but it won’t break your budget and you can score one at Target or Amazon.

If you want to incorporate more faith in your daily planner, check out the Purposeful Planner

If you want pops of color and more simplicity/decluttering focused in your daily planner, check out Simplified Planner.

If you want another goal focused, book bound or coil bound options and tons of notes pages , check out Passion Planner. See how I bullet journaled in my passion planner, best of both worlds and a fantastic planning solution!

The Bottom Line Day Designer Planner Review

I LOVE the flagship collection Day Designer Planner* for its minimalist elegance and its focus on creating and following your vision for a well designed life. With PLENTY of room to write, it really helps get ideas out of my head onto paper where I can delegate, add it to a future list or just get it done. Nothing motivates me more than simply checking off the boxes!

I love that the daily planning pages have focused areas for gratitude, dinner, what’s due and top 3 priorities so they don’t get lost in the rest of the to do list. I love the size of the flagship edition since I don’t carry it with me. I need the space!

Though I wish there were a daily page each for Saturdays and Sundays and more notes pages for my bullet journal to do lists, I understand that both of these would make the planner even bulkier and heavier. I”m ok with adding a pretty notebook* in the front cover for my bullet journal lists, then it’s easy to transfer them to the next year’s planner too!

I think the flagship collection Day Designer is great for stay-at-home moms and professionals working outside the home alike, especially for entrepreneurs and bloggers who have lots of tasks to manage in a day. The covers are elegant and professional so you can carry them into business meetings. I was happy with my Day Designer and it’s helped me manage my busy season of life when I started Elite Blog Academy and wanted to take my blog to the business level. The Day Designer is a great choice for people who rely on their planners to get everything onto paper so they can manage their busy days.

Want to see how the Day Designer planner stacks up against other popular planners?

Subscribe now to my newsletter and download my FREE Ultimate Planner Comparison Chart here which will help you find your perfect life or goal planner for your planning needs and lifestyle.

Subscribe to my Planning and Productivity Newsletter and get the FREE Ultimate Planner Comparison Chart so you can see a side-by-side comparison of 11 of the most popular life and goal planners to determine the best planner for your needs, lifestyle and planning type.

More Planning and Productivity Posts:

Ultimate Planner Comparison + FREE Planner Comparison Chart

Daily Simplified Planner Review

How to Bullet Journal in the Passion Planner

10 Best Planners for Moms 2019

My Must Have Accessories and Supplies for my Day Designer planner

I hope that my Day Designer planner review has showcased for you the pros and cons of this planner, information about the various planner styles to match your needs and budget, how the Flagship collection and the Blue Sky version at Target compare and the best pens to use in your Day Designer! 

The Day Designer* is a fantastic planner for busy women who need ample space to write down their tasks, notes, and schedule to manage their day. 

Similar Posts


  1. The paper quality is sooo bad. For a higher end planner, the paper is too thin. I wanted to love this. I use a weekly Life Planner from Erin Condren. But I was looking for something to plan my daily. I think I’ll be sending this back to amazon. I’m a paper snob and this isn’t going to cut it. 🙂

    1. Hi Maragaret, I admit i was disappointed with the paper quality at first also. It is one of the biggest cons. It’s such a big and heavy planner, I understand why they can’t use thicker paper but it is disappointing when your favorite pens shadow. If you need a daily with better paper check out the Simplified Planner. Like I said in this post, the Simplified Planner has 105 gsm paper (vs day designers 90). The best paper quality is an Inkwell Press at 140 gsm but their daily planners are undated. Check out my full planner comparison which will help you compare paper types, sizes and many more features so you can pick a planner better suited for your needs. Hope that helps!

    1. I can see how those rings would get in the way. I feel that sometimes with spiral bound planners but I haven’t found a book bound planner yet that has daily pages. I do have an A5 binder for my master bullet journal collections and I like being able to take out pages to write and then put them back in. The Day Designer has some GORGEOUS A5 binders and inserts too. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll come back and linkup with my Pretty Pintastic and Small Victories Sunday linkup parties both going on now (and new SVS stars tonight at 8pm EST).

  2. Thanks so much for this in-depth review, Tanya! I’ve actually been deciding between the Day Designer and the Simplified Planner and having a hard time deciding since they are both so similar in a lot of ways. I’m with you–I need something with space for writing daily tasks; weekly planners just don’t help with the day-to-day stuffs. Thanks again for this! Stopping in from SITS Sharefest and hope you’re having a great weekend 🙂

    1. I looked at Simplified Planner too but I’ve never had one. I liked that the Day Designer had designated spaces for dollars, dinner prep and gratitude and plenty of space for my health notes which are things I always track. I truly have loved my Day Designer more every day since I got it. Their goal setting pages at great too and I really like the new ones they are putting in the 2017 calendars. As you can see I’m a fan of the Day Designer. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll come back and linkup with my Pretty Pintastic and Small Victories Sunday linkup parties both going on now (and new SVS stars tonight at 8pm EST).

  3. I had a day designer for last year, but this year I switched to Erin Conder. The day designer is jus to bulky. I have 2 of Erin’s 1-business the other is more of a family journal.

  4. Oh my word! I would die without my planner! This one seems like a great resource. It is really hard to find a Daily Planner that works well every year. I might have to keep my eye on this one come December….

    1. What kind of planner do you have Krystal? I’ve become very attached to my planners too, i can’t get anything done or remember anything without it! They are taking preorders now for the 2017 Day Designers. I love mine more each day. I can’t believe I’m actually filling it up and getting more done lately! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. After hunting around at the local big-box stores for a planner with daily pages and coming up empty, I’m ready to bite the bullet and purchase one of these. I want to carry it around with me, so on your advice, I think I’ll get the mini. Thanks for the review and introducing me to this brand!

    1. Oh wonderful Amy, yes, definitely the mini is better if you want to carry it around. Enjoy and let me know how you like it when you get it. I did a lot of hunting for daily pages too, just ask my kids who I dragged around with me.

  6. Tanya, I just came over from a blog hop where, besides me, you were the only “hopper” who commented. Those are the ones I like to visit first. I love this post because I am a “hard copy” or “paper” planner person, and this looks like a good system.

  7. I also have various planners because of that, Tanya. One isn’t enough to keep track of everything I want to do and work on.
    Mine are all from Erin Condren, but I always hear a lot of great things about Day Designer, as well.
    Thanks a lot for this review.
    Have a great week!

    1. I agree, one planner is not enough! I saw you had a special planning Instagram account, I look forward to checking it out more. Erin Condren is the one I had in 2015 and it definitely got me started on my pretty planner addiction. It’s much more fun to tackle a to-do list when you have something pretty to inspire you. No more boring planners for me!

      I hope you linked up with us at Small Victories Sunday and Pretty Pintastic parties this weekend! I love sharing planner posts especially!

    1. Yes, despite some shortcomings I do love this planner! I can’t believe I found something that I can use for my random thoughts swirling around my head every day. I always feel better getting it down onto paper. Thanks for stopping by Akaleistar!

    1. Thanks for commenting Kate. I was looking at the Emily Ley this morning on another bloggers’ recommendation. I do like that the Day Designer has designated spaces for gratitude, dinner, tracking expenses and top 3 tasks. I seem to make my way around the different planning systems. Since I started getting nicer planners with the Erin condren in 2015, I’ve tried Plum Paper and now Day Designer, I seem to be making the rounds in my quest for planner peace 🙂 I do like the daily format so that eliminates trying out some of the others. What do you like/not like about the Emily Ley?

  8. I have been eyeing this planner at Target and really appreciate your review. I love the idea of being able to plan out my days, not just months and weeks. I wonder if they have one that runs through the calendar year? My current planner runs out in December, so I am trying to decide if I should buy one now or wait until the new year.

    1. Just so you know the Target ones are much cheaper but the paper quality and coils are not as good as the Day Designers like mine that you order online. The layouts are a little different as well and they have color on their pages so they are different than what I showed here. The online store will be preselling the calendar year 2017 planners starting 9/14. I don’t know when the 2017 Blue Sky by Day Designer planners are coming to Target but I would think they are. I like the academic year once since I have school age kids but if I didnt I would go for a calendar year. Good luck deciding and let me know if you have any questions. I love talking about planners and setting goals!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.