Whether you're sketching out a poster design, an animation storyboard or a wireframe for a web app, an old scrap of paper or notepad will do the job just fine. But why go for 'just fine', when you can cradle into your hand so beautifully bound, in a way that screams 'chic'...?
When we asked our Twitter followers which notebooks they used in their creative work, a staggering nine out of ten respondents spoke of their love for Moleskine - a fasionable brand of notebook produced by Milan-based company Modo & Modo. And they're not alone: Moleskine worship has almost grown to cult proportions, with fans uploading YouTube videos recommending their favourite products and posting their sketches on the company’s Facebook page, which has nearly 90,000 fans.
But is it all trendiness and marketing hype? Or is there an intrinsic value to the more expensive Moleskine range? Here, a selection of creative professionals offer five reasons why they feel Moleskines edge the competition. Let us know what you think of their arguments, and share your own notebook choices, in the comments below!
01. The quality
First and foremost, our respondents reckon there's a real difference in quality with a Moleskine. "There's nothing more satisfying than a Moleskine journal," enthuses illustrator and designer Nate Kitch. "They feel so durable in your hands and their paper stock has a really nice texture. I've kept illustration journals for four or so years and I always prefer a trusty Moleskine: they can be a little expensive, but they always deliver in quality."
Elijah Smith, senior user interface designer, agrees. "Moleskine notebooks absorb inks and markers really well without bleeding," he enthuses. "The pages stand up to aggressive erasing. Price-wise, it's more expensive than your typical grade school notebook, but if you want quality it's worth the extra expense."
02. The paper
Central to the appeal of Moleskine notebooks is the high-quality paper. "I prefer to sketch in pen, i.e. uniball," says Liz Darke, an animation student at Leeds Metropolitan University. "And I find that Moleskine paper takes well to this medium, and the pen does not show through to the other side of the page."
It's not just the quality of the pages - Moleskine fans also love their colour. "Working on cream gives my sketches or notes a nice feel, and makes sketching easier in brightly lit conditions," points out Liz Darke, while Craig Earl adds: "The cream pages offer just the right amount of colour to be unobtrusive to my ideas but are also far enough away from pure white that it doesn't cause mental blocks (sometimes staring at a white blank page makes my ideas disappear)."
03. The portability
Moleskines are compact little things, making them easily portable. "The compact sizes allow me to have a smaller book for capturing ideas while out and about and then a larger version for development and finalising," says Craig Earl.
Web designer Greg Wallis feels the same. "I've used Moleskine for the last five years or so and they suit me because the small ones are perfectly sized to fit in a jacket pocket and they're pretty discreet," he says. "I write stuff, scribble, sketch and have a pile of them that I've filled up and often refer back to. A simple black cover and good quality paper; why make it more complicated?"
Moleskine notebooks also come with a pouch at the back. "This offers storage for clippings and other ideas quickly sketched on pieces of envelopes or the back of receipts when you don't have anything to hand," says Craig Earl. "The elastic ribbon helps to keep the books tightly closed so you don't risk anything falling out either."
04. The durability
Moleskine notebooks are significantly more expensive than the norm, but as compensation, they'll probably last you a lot longer. "The hard cases offer protection from bumps," points out illustrator Craig Earl, while digital designer Steven Fewings also treasures "their excellent robustness - as mine do tend to take a bit of a battering. I couldn't imagine using anything else now".
05. The variety
There's a wide range of Moleskines available, and many of our respondents use different types for different tasks. For example, print and web designer Seth Hardy uses, "Moleskine's classic large notebooks when I'm working on concepts; the Squared notebook whenever I'm working on an interface or page layout when I need to worry about grid-base layouts, and the Plain notebook for rough concepts or brainstorming. They're the best, as far as I'm concerned."
Moleskine also releases limited edition versions. "I recently purchased a Star Wars Moleskine, which looks amazing," enthuses Liz Darke.
Other brands are also available...
Of course, love for Moleskine needn't be exclusive, and many of those we talked to also enjoy other notebook brands.
For bigger projects, Seth Hardy recommends: "Strathmore Smooth Surface books. That type of paper accepts a mechanical pencil well, which is really all I work in when roughing out concepts."
Nate Kitch points to Muji: "They offer a wide range of journals and notepads with variations in paper. The recycled paper stock has a really thin feel almost like newspaper: it's perfect for throwing some ideas and loose sketches down on and doesn't feel too precious, so you aren't afraid to use it. They have a minimal and clean design to their products that really hits the spot."
However, so far, none of these brands seem to have engendered the same levels of devotion as the Moleskine. A typical endorsement comes from Ruaan Uys, senior web developer and project manager for Penquin International: "I like the feel of a Moleskine, the texture inside and out, even the smell of the new pages. Get that feeling that something amazing will be written in them."
What do you think? If there's notebook brand you love, let us know in the comments - and we'll revisit the topic in a future article!