Technology is our world. We physically attach smartphones to our bodies for the majority of our waking hours. We interact with electronic devices as if they are human beings. And we use nonverbal telecommunication in our everyday speech, making “selfie” and “LOL” ubiquitous in conversation. We inhale digital sights and sounds at a rapid rate and exhale a growing dependence on technology that borders on obsession.
But in this increasingly technological world, we are undergoing an analog renaissance, in which “obsolete” technologies and processes are experiencing revivals in the Digital Age.
Enter: Moleskine notebooks, which created a niche within this resurgence with its simple black notebook. Ironically, its dominant growth over the last two decades paralleled the introduction of personal computers into homes and workplaces. Coincidence? Not at all.
Digital | Analog
We all benefit from technology, which isn’t bad, per se. But as technology tightens its grip on our lives, we increasingly neglect other effective vehicles of creativity. To that, most of us are oblivious, and herein lies the problem.
Digital creation is irreplaceable. It’s efficient and effective, accessible and accurate, precise and unparalleled. But a major consequence of our dependence on technology is we’ve stopped working with our hands. An object created by human hands will always be uniquely remarkable. Creating with your hands allows room for “happy accidents” because analog does not have a delete key. Analog processes also funnel your attention to the immediate environment, helping you avoid the infinite distractions of a digital space.
But once we become aware of this divide, how do we find a beneficial balance between analog and digital processes?
Austin Kleon, a self-titled “writer who draws,” offers his take in his book, How to Steal Like an Artist. He suggests creating an analog workspace, complete with the staples of a kindergartener’s craft table: markers, pens, rulers, scissors, glue, paper, and whatever else may help you make a (potentially great) mess. In this separate space, you generate ideas. Then you go digital to finalize them. Kleon says this balance is necessary because, “the computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us – we start editing ideas before we have them.”
Moleskine began in 1997 when a small publisher in Milan, Italy began producing a well-fitted black notebook with rounded corners, an elastic page holder, and an internal expandable pocket. It built its brand as the successor to the “legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin.”
If you, someone living and creating in 2015, could balance the real and digital worlds using the same notebook that the great artists used a century ago, wouldn’t you pay $16.08 for it on Amazon?
Many consumers say a resounding yes. Moleskine’s customers are numerous, loyal, and global, spanning 92 countries, and Moleskine’s revenue exceeded ninety million euros ($98.2 million) in 2014 alone. Buyers cite durability, quality, and ease of scanning as practical reasons for their loyalty to Moleskine. But the value of the brand, the real heart of Moleskine’s success, is the image of the notebook.
First, Moleskine’s high price inflates the perceived value of the product. This value then leads people to take better care of their Moleskine and integrate the brand into their daily routines. And Moleskine’s gold pot at the end of this rainbow? The perceived value seeps into whatever people scribble in the cream-colored pages. Words, doodles, and scratches seem more creative, more original, and more significant. After all, how could you resist comparing your thoughts and creations to those of van Gogh and Hemingway?
The practical truth behind Moleskine’s impressive sales of simple black notebooks is the importance of writing and drawing by hand. The impractical truth to Moleskine’s success is its brand: culture over commerce and identity over function. A Moleskine symbolizes the creativity and support of the handcraft renaissance in the Digital Age. This is something that people want to identify with and show off to the world.