Whatever happened to the Filofax?

Posted on 06/04/2012

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Filofax close up

(Courtesy Raysnaps)

When I was six I got my first (and only) Filofax. While it was kinda nice to have somewhere to store all your information, I wouldn’t recommend giving it to a six year old for their entertainment as it soon got discarded along with all the other “educational” toys.

It seems like everyone else soon forgot about them too. The last time I saw one, it belonged to a teacher at school who swiftly went from Filofax, to electronic personal organiser, to palm pilot.

Firstly, this has nothing to do with “analogue chic”. I’m not going to waste my time filling out the address book by hand when my phone can automatically synchronise all my contact for me. There’s no glory in that.This weekend, over 18 years later, I rediscovered this forgotten artifact hiding out in the stationary section of a department store. What’s weird is that I’ve now got a lot of respect for them.

I’m not suggesting that the Filofax has any future, but in some ways it was visionary for its time. It could contain EVERYTHING: your address book, your diary, your personal information, maps, a calculator, notes and (paper based) games. It could be personalized to the nth degree: the sections, tools and add-ons allowed you to upgrade and customise as much as you wanted. Your world in one tidy package.

Remind you of something else? Your smartphone, perhaps?

Before mobile telephony the Filofax was the smartphone of its day, because of the things it contained and what it allowed you to do. Seeing the whole range of add-ons on display, it reminded me of the app store. It’s some sort of proto-iPhone.

So it’s still on sale (at a premium), but for how much longer? My grandparents, who I never believed would enter the computing age, now own an iPad 2. Why stick with a paper based organisation system when it’s been rendered so clumsy and awkward by newer technology? Unless there’s a specific ritual, value or fun factor involved (like there is with listening to music on vinyl), my guess is that the Filofax will go the same way as the phone book and the cassette tape: all but gone, and completely forgotten.

Still, I can’t help wondering what would have happened if Mr/ Mrs Filofax had taken his/ her creation one step further. I remember seeing a Filofax brand electronic organizer. What if they’d been the first to merge this with a mobile phone? What if they’d partnered with Nokia to expand their business model? The ambition was there in what they tried to do (create a second to none organisational tool and set of resources). If they’d only made their device more enjoyable, could they have taken that extra step?

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Posted in: Design, Digital