It’s that leather-bound $10 notebook that no one seems to know how to pronounce, but everyone wants to carry around. Moleskine notebooks, the centuries-old accompaniments for artistic legends like Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, remains the staple for present-day creative types. While the company has evolved past the paper and into projects like pens and bags, it’s that little black book that wins everyone’s hearts. Moleskine aficionados run deep. What starts with a plain notebook turns into a “hacking,” where the notebook becomes exactly what its owner wants it to be – a journal, a lyric book, a tagging pad, or a travel log. Jay Electronica even partially penned an ode to his diary titled “Dear Moleskine.” Meanwhile, everyone from Angelina Jolie to John Mayer carries a Moleskine like an extra appendage. Life + Times caught up the with the President of Moleskine US, Marco Beghin, to get his perspective on the Moleskine craze and how the “analog-digital” spectrum of the brand helps them hack the planet.
Life+Times: What do you think it is about Moleskine that makes it the preferred brand for writers and artists?
Marco Beghin: The Moleskine brand is an open platform for imagination, memory, and sharing. Everything is very high quality, for instance each notebook is inspected for 30 minutes for quality control, and I think when people hold one they recognize this quality. Also the objects we make, and the brand in general, stay out of our users way through minimalist design and a quiet tone. We are a platform for their creativity and creatives seem to appreciate that. I think writers and artists also tend to be very mobile people. We make nomadic objects dedicated to our mobile identity, whether they are notebooks, diaries, journals, bags, writing instruments and reading accessories.
L+T: What is the correct pronunciation of Moleskine?
MB: People pronounce it in different ways. We made a video about it here.
L+T: What other celebrities do you know of that advocate Moleskine?
MB: We have collaborated with many well-known, incredibly talented people over the years on custom editions and for events like our Detour exhibition. People like John Mayer, Sigur Ros, Lou Reed, Spike Jonze, Yves Behar, Christian Lacroix, Maira Kalman, and Marina Abramovic. We collect sightings from TV and films that our fans send in on our website.
L+T: How did the collaboration with Marc Jacobs come about?
MB: Barneys CO-OP was celebrating their 25th anniversary and had asked Marc Jacobs to work with them on a custom project. We love celebrating anniversaries and when they approached us it seemed like a good fit.
L+T: How do you go about deciding which brands to work with to create custom notebooks?
MB: We meet artists and designers regularly and sometimes the right situation arises to do a project. We look for people who share our values. [Here] you can see some of our custom edition stories.
L+T: The Moleskine notebook was used by writers and artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Hemingway, but according to the history, it went out of business in 1986, to be renamed Moleskine in 1997. What was the original name of the notebook brand?
MB: It was nameless.
L+T: Where do you see Moleskine standing in the digital age?
MB: We see technology as an analog-digital spectrum. Our fans are very technologically savvy and navigate this spectrum very comfortably. Living in an era of high connectivity and ability to live and work on-the-move changes the way people express themselves, they are less defined by where they are than by the collection of objects they choose to carry. This insight drives the design of all of our collections, whether a notebook, pen, bag, or booklight. We support an active online community of Moleskine fans with social platforms like MyMoleskine which allow fans to share pictures, videos and hacks using Moleskine notebooks. We have had great success with videos we have released in support of our new objects like we have for the new collections. We recently launched our first mobile app for the iPhone. Digital tools are wonderful and expand the possibilities for art, but we also know that analog tools are very important, that there is something powerful about applying pen to paper.
L+T: Do you personally prefer ruled or blank notebooks?
MB: Depending on my mood and task I use different notebooks and writing instruments. Plain pages and color when I am creating and want to run free; squared when I am being more organized. I love using our pens.
L+T: Where do you see Moleskine going in 2012?
MB: We will continue to hack the Moleskine brand via projects like new limited edition collaborations and to emphasize the growing interest in interactive, hands-on creative experiences in events and workshops. We are very excited about our new reading, writing, and travelling collections.