How Moleskine Transformed The Process Of Reading

How Moleskine Transformed The Process Of Reading

'Nomadic readings' breathe new life into a classic work of literature.

Plus Aziz
  • 12 march 2014

With the advent of multimedia-enriched events, cloud-computing, and new ways of writing with technology, Moleskine is a brand developing seamless connections between analog and digital worlds. We’ve recently noticed a shift from a product-based to a more events-based approach, both approaches work to re-contextualize their products for a digital world.

Most recently, Moleskine teamed up with The School of Visual Arts (SVA) and the French Embassy for Swann’s Way: A Nomadic Reading, a series of 7 events celebrating the 100th anniversary of Marcel Proust’s iconic novel. Readings were scattered across New York’s boroughs and many were accompanied by live drawing artists in unique locations that reflected scenes from the literary masterpiece (including as a hotel bedroom, a forest, a theater).

Soho Rep Proust Live Reading Moleskine

In the interview below Moleskine’s Director of Branding and PR Erik Fabian highlights Moleskine’s brand perspective and discusses its bold endeavors to recapture audiences’ imaginations.

Soho Rep Proust Reading Moleskine

How has the Moleskine brand evolved over time? What remained the same, what’s changed for you over time?

Moleskine is rooted in a strong set of values tied to the themes of imagination, culture, memory, personal identity, and travel. Moleskine objects has moved from the legendary notebook to new collections including bags, pens, apps, digital device covers, and Photo Books. They are all essentially platforms or containers for imagination helping people organize their lives and share experiences.

While our values are consistent across products, the biggest evolution is the way the world has changed alongside the brand. These changes inform the meaning of both our values and our objects. Take handwriting for example. Technologies like the keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen, have changed the act of writing by hand in terms of meaning and use. Handwriting is shifting from a necessity to more of a conscious act…even a certain kind of creative luxury. For people who want to remember something or to take a break in a fast paced world or to trigger their creative mind, the act of writing by hand is very useful. Handwriting is now a conscious tool used by our fans whether they are keeping a journal, planning a to-do list, or designing a wire-frame for a website that will ultimately be built using a computer. The Moleskine brand today is creating objects that exist in a mobile, digital world. Our fans move smoothly along the spectrum between the analog and digital using our objects together with things like smart phones and tablets.


Tell us about the various creative ways you’ve integrated your notebooks into your experiences.

It all goes back to the idea that we are creating platforms and containers for imagination. It doesn’t matter whether we are making a notebook, a bag, a partnership, or an event. For example, the AbracadabrAPP is a notebook hack that you have featured in the past and is now available on our US online store. It helps users record two-sided videos on their iPhone in one shot with a rotating portable mirror. I think this notion of creating an analog app for the iPhone is a lovely expression of our relationship alongside digital tools while helping people create novel imagery.

Given the fact that they live and breathe the changes addressed in Erik Fabian’s answers to our questions, we chatted with participating illustrators Carol Fabricatore (Adjunct Professor at SVA) and Steven Cup (Graduate Student at SVA) to understand their own feelings about the area of tensions that the Moleskine brand lives between. They drew on location so we asked them to compare drawing live vs. in the studio and how technology is impacting their illustration work.

Soho Reading Sketch by Mark Bischel Moleskine

How would you describe/define the difference between live drawing and the drawing you do in private space.

Carol Fabricatore: When I am drawing somewhere there is more energy, I am working from 3 dimensions, there are time constraints. You have to decide what is essential before making a move. Things turn up in my drawings and I might not even realize until later upon reviewing the work. I like being a part of the spectacle and absorbing the energy, but I want to be invisible so I don’t change the scene or make people uncomfortable.

Working is a private space is just a different process. Perhaps I am working from photographs or sketchbooks. It is a different energy. I’m going at my own pace and just have more control.

Steven Cup: When drawing live I’m constantly on the lookout for subject matter. I’m never quite sure when something will grab my attention: an interesting face, funny hat, or painfully obvious hairpiece. There’s a thrill of going in blind that I don’t get with drawing at the desk. In-studio everything is deliberate and planned out. It lacks the spontaneity of being on location. I can’t say that I prefer having a room full of people looking over my shoulder while I draw, but it’s an enjoyable change. And whether at my studio or drawing at a public gallery, I manage to drink about equal amounts of cheap wine.

What are your thoughts on how technology is evolving and advancing how you draw and how your audiences experience your work?

Carol Fabricatore: I do a good amount of work for the New York Times and people are seeing it ever more quickly because of their digital distribution they do so I get more rapid feedback. I don’t do my drawing digitally but I am very curious about how I can scan and then effect my drawing digitally.

Technology does seem to enable everything to be fixed and cleaned up so easily that I think you can lose the mistakes that can be interesting. Working by hand helps retain some of the unplanned things like a smudge or overlapping lines. But ultimately everything is a tool and you just have to learn to use it.

Steven Cup: Technology has changed the face of publishing. With new and interactive media we’re no longer limited to the printed page. When it comes to computers, I still always start with a pencil. Especially when drawing live, there’s a lot potential for tablets to take the place of sketch books, but at the moment I’m still not satisfied with the experience and will be sticking with my pens for the foreseeable future.

Check out some images of the event below.


[h/t] The French Embassy, Brainpickings


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