Draw back

If you could flip through the pages of the mind of Ernest Hemingway or Pablo Picasso, what would you see? We marvel at their end products — brilliant fiction and timeless works of art — but the development of the initial idea can be just as captivating.

For the past two centuries, artists and thinkers alike have jotted down their visions, ideas and sketches in anonymous little black notebooks. It was a practical tool, encouraging and compelling rough note taking. This iconic device became the pedestal of the great works of art we know today. The highly recognizable books were originally made by a small French bookbinding outfit and sold to the literary and artistic avant-garde in Parisian stationery shops, but since 1997 have been produced by the Italy-based Moleskine.

Lately the company has forayed into filling the pages as well. Following the success of its Hand of the Architect last year, Moleskine has recently introduced a new book specifically highlighting hand-drawn sketches from today’s prominent designers. The Hand of the Designer, released in conjunction with the 2010 Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, contains 462 reproductions and hand-made sketches from 150 internationally recognized designers.

The book arouses thought, creativity and inspiration with the work of designers such as the Bouroullec Brothers, Michael Graves, Hella Jongerius and Karim Rashid. The Hand of the Designer celebrates the power of freehand sketching in the ever-evolving age of AutoCAD and is also a fundraising initiative for the FAI (“Fondo Ambiente Italiano” — Italian National Trust), specifically to support Villa Necchi Campiglio, an example of Rationalist architecture built in 1932. Located in the heart of Milan, the villa was designed by the Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi and donated to FAI in 2001.

With the look and feel of a Moleskine notebook, the publication creates a reminiscent connection to the sketchbooks of design’s history. It is bound in the dimensions of the Moleskine A4 Folio collection with all the brand’s trademark features: a hard rounded-edge cover, elastic band closure and ribbon place marker. One unique and quite noticeable change from the classic sketchbook is the book’s stark white cover.

Packaged together with The Hand of the Designer is a black Moleskine Folio 120-page companion. The blank pages invite the modern creative professional to draw freehand and feel design come to life. In a design age where clicking a mouse has become the norm, this little black book reminds us of the simple satisfaction of putting pencil to paper. Hey, it worked for Picasso. CI