Famous as the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers such as Picasso and Hemingway, Moleskine’s modern incarnation began in 1995 when a designer in Milan, Italy revived the previously discontinued production of notebooks as “the artist’s notebook.” Since then, Moleskine has pursued a brand image of “a book yet to be written,” the notebook for contemporary personalities and innovative creators to record their creative aspirations. Moleskine has ultimately positioned itself as the new classic notebook.
Welcome to the 62nd edition of B.
Years ago, when I was a fresh university graduate just beginning my career, I was very conscious about outfitting myself in a way that I hoped would convey competence and poise. I attended work meetings in pointy-toed heels instead of sneakers, and I was rarely on the go without my quintessential Starbucks take- out cup in hand. In retrospect, I was probably trying to convince myself as much as anyone else. After all, the look of the ambitious and stylish New York workingwoman was a powerful image to aspire to at the time, though it’s hard to say if the heels and the Starbucks actually added to the quality of my work. Steve Jobs’ iconic New Balance sneakers probably got people’s attention for similar reasons, more as a totemic symbol of ingenuity than as a pair of running shoes. And in the same vein, I once heard a stockbroker say his preferred accessory to pair with fine suits was a Timex wristwatch. I suspect his choice of timepiece also had a lot to do with the qualities— flexibility, or perhaps creativity—he wished to communicate.
For myself and numerous others, Moleskine notebooks have had a similar totemic significance. From the outset, they made a memorable impression, eclipsing the no-nonsense spiral-bound notebook as well as the fussy, for-show wares of stationery stores. Every element suggested smart, thoughtful design, from the signature polish and texture of the cover material to the rounded edges, the elastic band and the cream- colored pages. It’s no wonder Moleskine was called the Rimowa of notebooks. The company’s strategy to distribute through bookstores rather than stationery shops was also an effective move. It was only a matter of time before the unassuming but unmistakable, pricier-for-a-reason notebook caught the eye of proud philomaths everywhere. The appeal of Moleskine notebooks also goes beyond their design. For the self- styled nouveau intellectual, a bigger draw has likely been the brand’s purported history as the “legendary notebook” of thinkers and artists like Matisse, Picasso, and Hemingway. This tagline has in some ways, become a more distinctive marker of Moleskine than its logo. And the legacy it alludes to is one most Moleskine enthusiasts, in their double appreciation for the notebook’s modern good looks and rich heritage, have never thought to question. It’s not surprising that many today consider the brand a century and some odd years old. This is exactly what its makers intended. To put it plainly for any still unsuspecting readers, the Moleskine notebook was actually created by Milanese designers in 1997, in an attempt to recreate the black, French-made carnets described by Bruce Chatwin in his quasi-travelog The Songlines.
Today, however, Moleskine notebooks enjoy a legacy that needs no fictional embellishment, and a reputation that makes arguments over the authenticity of its backstory seems superfluous. The figures say enough. The company most recently recorded EUR 150 million in annual revenue, together with 30 percent annual growth, easily defying doomsayers’ predictions about the sad fate of paper stationery companies in the digital era. What’s more, Moleskine is not about to position itself as the champion of analog virtues in the face of digital encroachment. On the contrary, the company has not only collaborated with the note-taking app Evernote but also released advanced tools like the Smart Notebook, which can be synced to the Adobe Creative Cloud. There’s also the Smart Writing Set, composed of the Moleskine-developed Paper Tablet and smart pen that gives users a digital experience while preserving the feel of writing on paper. Moleskine has, in essence, transformed the previously closed world of paper notebooks into an open platform. With regard to this somewhat radical trajectory, founder Maria Sebregondi, who designed the original Moleskine notebook, has said the brand strives to become a significant bridge between the analog and digital worlds.
The course Moleskine has charted is a reminder of what it looks like to maintain a sense of balance in life. Progress is not always linear, and by our long- accumulated collective wisdom, we know better than to always embrace “new” as “better.” Moleskine has demonstrated a commitment not simply to novelty but to better experiences, and utilizes the analog tools at its disposal to enhance the usefulness of its products, rather than stirring nostalgia. In that sense, Moleskine’s pursuits inspire anticipation, and I look forward to seeing how their notebooks—and whatever else they unveil next—become totems for future generations.
Content & Editorial Director
Memories of Moleskine notebooks
A chronicle of core Moleskine items over the ages
Into the Market
The Moleskine shop and cafe in Milan, Italy
Isabelle Boinot, artist
Moleskine’s brand-defining product family
Symbolic elements of Moleskine’s trademark notebook
Competitors with their own edge
Young-man Huh, cartoonist
The people who use Moleskine as part of their toolkit
On the Desk
Moleskines on a creative’s desk
Sylvie Betard, stationery brand founder
Retail presence of Molekine in three European cities
Products that look even better with Moleskine
The power of records
Moleskine’s birth and growth
A manufacturing process that prioritizes the environment
Special releases created through various brand collaborations
Moleskine’s four languages of creation
In the words of artists who created the Moleskine stories
Arrigo Berni, Moleskine CEO
Moleskine in numbers
- Publisher Suyong Joh
- Media Director Myungsoo Kim
- Content & Editorial Director Eunsung Park
- Senior Editor Heather Yoo
- Editors Jaewoo Seo, Jean Kim, Sol Lyu
- English Translation Seoul Selection
- Guest Designer Gyeongtak Kang
- Filmmaker Sukwang Baak
- Marketer Hyunjoo Kim
- Sales & Distribution Sanghoon Kim, Suyeon Kim
- Correspondents Mihye Nam (Tokyo), Alex Seo (London), Lena Shin (LA), Sanghyeok Lee (Berlin), Hyeseon Jeong (Paris)
- Publishing JOH & Company
- Adventures in Stationery
- Ultimate Stationery
- Mattias Un ltered: The Sketchbook Art of Mattias Adolfsson / Urban Landscape Fantasia
- L’esprit du voyage
- The Revenge of Analog
- The Songlines