Helvetica + Moleskine

I actually put up a picture of this in the Photo of the Day last week, but I happened to receive a limited edition Helvetica Moleskine notebook as an early Christmas present earlier this month, and I couldn’t resist blogging a little bit more about it. (mainly as a form of procrastination to avoid having to finish the longer entries I ought to be writing.)

helvetica moleskine

Depending on which circles you run in, a moleskine notebook is either a prized tool to be treasured and fetishized or a pretentious affectation to be mocked. There is no shortage of websites both singing its praises or ridiculing its connotations.

Despite having a bit of a stationary fetish – silly as it may sound, this is one of the reasons why I enjoy life in Japan so much – they have the best stationary in the world, bar none – I never really got into moleskine notebooks until recently. My main issue was the paper – it was too thin, too yellow and had lines on it. For the record, I prefer my paper thick as hell, as white as humanly (paperly?) possible, and blank. (I’m the kind of guy who will search out and order special printer paper at $10 a ream because I can’t stand using the cheap shit you get at the local office supply store for a buck) So you know, the moleskine and I were essentially polar opposites.

helvetica moleskine

But then something happened, and somewhere along the way moleskine started making plain (i..e non-ruled) notebooks, and more importantly, plain “sketch notebooks”, with sturdier paper that could take ink well without buckling. Things still aren’t perfect – while both are non-ruled (thank god), the plain notebooks have a whiter paper which I like, but it’s still too thin, and the sketch notebooks have a thicker paper which I like, but it still has a yellow/beige tint to it.

But the important this is, they’re getting closer. They added one more sweetener to the mix which finally tipped me over the edge when they started introducing notebooks with red covers – along with my fetish for stationary, I love the colour red in products like no one’s business (I swear that whole product R.E.D. campaign a few years back was basically designed to drain my pockets – I’m not sure if it did any good for kids with AIDs in Africa, but I know that I must have bought half the shit they offered), and a plain non-ruled moleskine notebook with a red cover? Oh my god! And so in short order, I went from having zero moleskines to having more than I care to admit to the internets (though not as many as some people) at large. And with the exception of being forced to choose between having too thin, but white paper or thicker, but too yellow paper, life was good in Panda moleskine world. After all, how could they top a red moleskine notebook with non-ruled paper?

Well, it turns out they could when they released the limited edition Helvetica Moleskine notebook series. When it comes to Helvetica, it seems this world falls into two camps (well, three, I guess) – those who love it, those who hate it, and those who don’t pay attention to fonts. I’m not a typophile by any means, but I fall squarely into the former camp. I love me some Helvetica – people may criticize its uniformity or seeming association with slick corporate ad copy, but to me, it’s like “bring it on!” because that is just beautiful to me. (And yes, it goes without saying, I own a copy of the Helvetica documentary.)

helvetica moleskine

I first heard about the Helvetica Moleskines when they were offered at an exhibit on Helvetica at the La Foret museum in Harajuku a year or two ago. I really, really wanted to attend, but alas, this stupid thing they call work that lets me pay the bills prevented me from making it in time, and the exhibit closed, and with it my chance to lay hands on one of these precious notebooks.

And for a while, that seemed like it was it. A few copies floated around here and there – occasionally being offered up as treasured prizes on certain sites or available for sale from Hong Kong importers, but it always seemed like just a few too many hoops to jump through for a notebook (as much as I wanted one).

And then suddenly, after I had nearly forgotten all about them, lo and behold! There they were, a few limited copies on offer at a shelf in Loft in Shibuya earlier this month. I made my desire to purchase one well known, and would have procured one right on the spot had not my wallet been empty and my stomach imploring me to wait until payday before splashing out on (expensive!) stationary so I might be able to afford a meal or two between now and then.

And so with a heavy heart I turned away from the seductive siren call of that little red notebook on the shelf (it’s also available in black, if you should so desire), and prayed that it would still be in stock come payday – only to find later that week that oh my god! – there was a wrapped present on my kitchen table!! Whatever could it be!?

helvetica moleskine

Well, we know what it was. Sheer happiness. A bit over the top? Maybe. But goddamn if I don’t love this little notebook. In fact, I love it so much I’m afraid to take the plastic wrapper off hahaha. (clearly validating the position of people who criticize the fetishization of Moleskine notebooks as pretentious affectations.) My only complaint is that once again Moleskine forces us to make a difficult compromise – the cover is red, it is dedicated to Helvetica, the paper is white, but goddamn if it isn’t available only in ruled!!! ARRRRGGH!!! No matter. I may hate ruled paper, but that hatred is out weighed by the awesomeness of everything else about this notebook. *sigh*

But note to the manufacturers: if you ever made a Helvetica-edition moleskine with plain white non-ruled heavy duty paper like the sketch series, I personally assure you that you will see hundreds of dollars in sales to me alone. I’m just saying.

Anyway, that concludes my little rambling post about one of my favouritest stationary possessions of late. I’m a bit torn between opening it and using it (I was inspired by some of the notebooks I saw exhibited at the Tokyo Moleskine DETOUR exhibit in the Moma design store in Harajuku a few months back), or just leaving it untouched on my shelf to serve as a silent red and white muse, admired from a distance. *sigh* Decisions, decisions.

Thanks for reading and have a happy new year!

4 Reactions

  1. Marty

    I’m just wondering if you’re ever going to write anything in it?
    BTW, ruled is better.. sorry.

  2. michaelpanda

    @Marty actually, I may seriously just leave this one as an object of admiration and never write in it (you’d be surprised – a brief click around the internet reveals that lots of people that have a helvetica moleskine are electing not to write in them). I really love just looking at it (like I said, red cover + helvetica white lettering? oh lordie!!), plus the fact that it has lines lessens its utility for me – I use moleskines for freestyle drawing and webdesign/other visual mockups, so the presence of lines interrupts the flow of things.
    But we’ll see. There’s also a black one which I might try to pick up after New Years if it’s still around. If I end up with two, I might have to force myself to use one, since I’m not rich enough that I can afford to be dropping $20 a pop on notebooks I won’t actually use ;)