Sunday, July 11, 2010

Design Observation #1 WOW: The Little Black Book

"Deserted Island Syndrome" he said to me, as he peered over his glasses; studying my expression.

Polite pleasantries gone, this was the first thing my friend told me as I breathlessly slumped down on the seat opposite from him, hauling my huge bag on the seat next to mine. He casually sighs, shakes his head and reaches for his coffee cup.

Adrian's diagnosis took but two seconds of observation. He didn't even have to refer to his Behavioral Psychology degree. A quick glance inside my bursting brown, leather bag said more to him than I ever could.

"You have an irrational fear of being stuck in a deserted island with nothing which to pass the time. So, you bring everything with you. It could also mean that you have watched one too many episodes of Lost. But that's an entirely different kettle of fish".

As I crinkled my nose, trying to decipher his outdated use of metaphor, somehow I knew he was right. It proved to be a monumental task to choose ONE thing that I use everyday. I have so many of them that I couldn't identify just one.

So I examined the contents of my bag.

They were basically divided into two categories: pen and paper. When I looked at them closely, I tried to imagine: Stripped of everything, which is the one thing I couldn't bear to part with?

The answer was: my Moleskine notebooks.

I have amassed 16 of them so far, one of which I gave away (you're welcome, Cams) and I show no signs of stopping. The same friend who diagnosed me with D.I.S. told me that I had "more Moleskines than I could shake a stick at". This, coming from someone who bought 10 Moleskine notebooks on a whim.

What makes these notebooks so special?

The Moleskine's beauty is in its utter simplicity. It's a modern classic. Just like a pearl necklace, it is never outdated and will never go out of style. The black, oilcloth cover is durable and smooth to the touch. In a bookstore filled with rows and rows of spring notebooks with the faces of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus plastered obscenely on the covers, the Moleskine remains unassuming, with only its name embossed on the back cover.

The creamy, white pages are a writer's dream. My pen of choice, the Sharpie pen, glides smoothly on its surface, providing an elegant twirl to my handwriting. Although thin and flimsy looking, the pages are able to hold the ink very well, not seeping through the next page. I have a smaller than average handwriting and the ruled Moleskine notebook is able to provide just the right amount of space for every line; my letters fitting snugly between them.

The Moleskine lays flat when opened. It may be a small, insignificant feature but combined with its sturdy cover, it provides a makeshift surface that makes writing on-the-go possible. A few extra features are the elastic band that keeps the notebook shut and the back pocket that can hold loose pieces of paper, receipts, ticket stubs and other memorabilia.

The Moleskine also has different kinds of notebooks for different uses. Still retaining its classic design, the notebook comes in a variety of shapes and functions. Squared, Ruled, Plain, Sketchbook, Watercolor, Music, Diary and Storyboard are some of them. They also come in different sizes. Extra Small, Pocket, Large, Extra Large, and most recently, Folio. Since I love to mess about with notebooks, having different options provide me with different perspectives and of course, more notebooks to collect. It has the ability to be customized and are made to tailor fit anyone in need of a venue to create.

A tiny leaflet telling the Moleskine story is also provided with every notebook. According to its history, Bruce Chatwin, a famous traveler, fell in love with these little black books and reportedly bought out an entire store's stock because the company that made them was going out of business. After 15 years since it stopped production, it has been revived and now enjoys a cult following. Famous artists and thinkers have been linked to the Moleskine brand including Picasso, Van Gogh and Hemingway.

I would like to believe that I am above this marketing ploy and that I see right through it. But I'm not. This charming tale has gotten me more enamored by them. Knowing that there is a history behind these little books that I love so much, leads me to believe that notebook lovers created this for fellow notebook lovers. It also gives the idea of a mystic connection; that the writing gurus of past are now doling out inspiration from beyond, straight through my pen and into my Moleskine.

Writing mojo, if you please.

For more than Php1,000 a piece, the Moleskine leaves a lot more to be desired. It is not at all practical. In fact, it is bordering on indulgence and snootiness. This works in my favor. I am unable to afford these expensive notebooks all the time, but when I manage to scrounge up enough money to get myself one, it makes the experience of writing all the more worth it. Not to mention, generous donations from friends and family who feed and encourage my obsession (thanks to the best Ate in the world!). I end up motivated to write more, if only to rationalize the price tag, making every penny worth it.

Looking at all these reasons, judging whether or not a product fits you all comes down to:

1. Function - What am I going to use it for? Will it fit my lifestyle?
2. Sustainability- How long will it stay with me for? How long will it stay current?
3. Variety- How many ways will it benefit me? How many ways will I be able to use it?
4. Value - Does the price tag equal the way and the amount of time I use it?
5. Passion - How much does it mean to me? How does this identify with me?

and finally, this question:

If you were stuck in a deserted island, what is the one thing that you would bring with you?