The Moleskine brand started with a black notebook, and now live online as well. For CEO Arrigo Berni, analog paper and digital tools are far from being opposite.

[EC2013] "Moleskine is as an open platform for creativity"

Interview with Arrigo Berni, Moleskine CEO, and Peter Hobolt Jensen, Moleskine Digital Business Director, on the sidelines of Evernote’s conference EC2013, which took place in San Francisco Sept 26 - 27.

L’Atelier: How did you decide to take Moleskine into the digital space?

Arrigo Berni: The fundamental rule is to start from the consumer. Start by understanding who you're interacting with, and how you can enhance your consumer’s experience. What does not work is digital just from the sake of digital. 10 years ago, innovation had value per se, but not anymore. At Moleskine, we started by observing the Moleskine user. As it turns out, our user is more likely than others, to also use digital devices to take notes. The typical Moleskine client is highly educated, involved in creative professions, and lives in urban areas. They own Moleskine notebooks as well as tablets and smartphones. We did a social media campaign called What’s in your bag? where we asked people to show us what they were carrying with them. The results showed that Moleskine clients are not die-hard paper users. They actually live in a continuum, continuum switching from digital to paper, depending on their needs at a specific moment. Digital and analog worlds are not opposite. There is no ‘either or.’ So we concentrated our efforts on developing products that made transferring content from analog to digital easy, to create a frictionless experience for the user.

L’Atelier: Are there different usage patterns for paper and online tools then?

Arrigo Berni: Absolutely. The distinction between the use of analog paper and digital tools has to do with emotional involvement. People use digital tools to perform tasks that require a low level of emotional involvement - taking notes in a meeting for instance. When there is a low level of personal involvement, the main need is productivity. Digital tools are more useful than paper if you are trying to be more productive. When you enter the intimate sphere, however, technology doesn't really add much. Something is happening between you and yourself, and paper adds something special. I am not talking any kind of paper of course - I am talking about beautiful paper. Many brands make beautifully crafted paper. A Moleskine opens like a book, it has thick ivory paper, rounded corners, a bookmark… And of course, the Moleskine brand connects you to great writers like Hemignway.

L’Atelier: Can you tell us about the Moleskine approach to innovation?

Peter Hobolt Jensen: The most important thing is that we place the customer - not the product - at the center of our work. Our heritage is predominantly linked to the little black notebook, a place where you put things that are important to you. This product places the bar extremely high. Simplicity is the most important thing to keep in mind. Second, we have a culture of openness. A printed product is not proprietary, so being open is extremely important. We want to be an API, an open platform for collaborating and sharing. Our Artist Marketplace for instance, is a place where artists can feature and sell their own customized Moleskine notebook to our community. In this process of openness, partnerships are extremely important, and we like to work with companies that share the same values. For instance, the Evernote partnership was great because we developed a product that brings even more simplicity to the user experience: it lets users take a picture of their notebook and upload it directly in Evernote, where they can then annotate it, archive it, and access it from any device. And as it turns out, the launch of the Smart Notebook in partnership with Evernote was our most successful launch in our history.

By Alice Gillet
English editorial manager