agenda by The Editors

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Venture inside the notebooks of some of the world’s leading designers bringing a unique perspective to their craft.

Does it ever cross your mind to wonder what goes through the minds of some of the leading designers of our time? What twenty-first-century creativity looks like before it puts its make-up on and enters the stage? Detour, published by Moleskine, was conceived to bring the behind-the-scenes of imagination out of the dark and into the light. The archive of over 250 notebooks that once belonged to some of the industry’s finest can be discovered in The Detour Book, which reproduces these precious pages for all to see. Below is a selection of designers who participated in the project. Whether operating in fashion, product or graphic design, each one brings a unique perspective to their craft. From these pages, we can learn something about their approach, and understand what it takes for them to be successful today.

Ginette Caron

Originally from Montréal, Ginette Caron settled in Milan after travelling around Europe. She has a long history with Moleskine, having designed the typography inside the notebooks. We can thank her for making trip planning more exciting with the cute maps, conversion tables, calendars and icons in the first few pages of the City Notebooks. More recently, she designed the staff uniforms for Moleskine’s flagship stores. She has also lent her skills to the likes of Benetton Group, Prada, Bulgari, B&B Italia and Knoll, to name a few.

Her notebook is an aggregator of tickets from various trips, shows and museum visits that have been sewn onto the concertina pages of the Japanese Album. On the reverse, her assistant Masami Moriyama follows the stitching with illustrations of a little girl walking along the lines. It is a celebration of the art of travel, with its explosion of inspiration and organised chaos.

Antonio Marras

Antonio Marras

Antonio Marras may be known for his luxury fashion pieces, but his pencil touches on many other artistic applications. Wherever he goes, he is constantly creating, drawing and painting. On aeroplanes, where he is deprived of one of his favourite tools, the lack of scissors doesn’t stop him from tearing up magazine pages to create collages.

This hands-on approach results from his lack of formal training, having learnt the tricks of the trade in his father’s boutiques in Sardinia. He has painted his whole life, filling mountains of sketchbooks with drawings, watercolours, oil paints and whatever happens to be at hand. Coffee grounds prove a popular medium.

His notebook contains crude line drawings, roughly applied watercolours and photographs. Marras’ line connects these individual components so that they bleed into a cohesive whole. Urban scenes, street photography and floral motifs are windows onto the sources of his inspiration.

In 2016, Antonio Marras had his first solo show at the Triennale Museum in Milan. The title of the exhibition was Nulla dies sine linea, a Latin phrase meaning to “not let a day go by without tracing a line”. There couldn’t be a more fitting phrase.

Carl Liu

Chinese product designer Carl Liu first discovered Moleskine notebooks at a Detour event. Since then, he’s sketched in them every day. Each notebook lasts him about 6 to 7 months, recording moments in time, works in progress and memories.

This particular notebook is jam-packed with notes and sketches with barely a centimetre of blank page left to fill. Chairs, tables, folding mechanisms, teapots and paper fans are rigorously drawn and redrawn, coloured in, repositioned and re-proportioned. Hidden amongst the sketches are birthdays, phone numbers and passwords. Everything is recorded for future reference.

Alan Chan

As Hong Kong’s leading designer and brand consultant, Alan Chan and his company have won more than 600 local and international awards over his 48-year career in advertising and design. More recently, Chan has been exploring the visual arts as a creative outlet.

For the exhibition, Chan embossed 18 notebooks in gold calligraphy that spells out various inspirational quotes. One of the covers bears a portrait of Chairman Mao. Together, the notebooks form a strong, graphic grid that makes his message even more powerful.


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a notebook. It’s open and laid flat, with wings made of resin and body made of paper. Pencil drawings of various natural objects adorn the ivory page.

The work is typical of design duo Formafantasma, which means “ghost shape” in Italian. If this piece is a true embodiment of their name, then we should look beyond its organic form and contemplate its hidden meanings. Whether they’re releasing their first industrially produced collection or investigating what makes a product genuinely sustainable, their aim is always to stimulate dialogue. The studio’s research-based approach often involves experimenting with materials. And whether it’s lava from Mount Etna or random bits of e-waste, the final form is simply the consequence of a long process.


The notebooks featured in this post belong to the Moleskine Foundation.
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