If you visit Milligram (formerly NoteMaker) and happen to scroll to the bottom of the page, you can Shop by Country! You can see all of our design stationery that is Made in France, or Germany, or Korea, or Japan or even the USA. You can even see some Australian Designed local products too. We travel to pretty much all of these places pretty much every year.
We have this for a reason. I mean, we like idle distraction as much as the next workplace, but this is no idle distraction. After spending so many years plundering these countries of their finest stationery, it takes only a modicum of attentiveness to see that each has its own culture and that therefore, the stationery itself is like a window into the broader culture. The reason we go back every year to each is so we can watch that culture change, to see how alive it is.
Some of them don't change very much and some change a lot. We were talking recently about how Napoleon used to use J Herbin Ink. I guess one should expect little else of a country like France, more stubborn culturally than every proverbial mule combined, but that little Emperor could probably come back today and have his stationery cupboard stocked exactly as it was 200 years ago. Others, like Korea, change a lot...you can track this interesting interplay between a rich heritage of paper and stationery with a modern design aesthetic that insists on re-interpretation, like a Maverick that nevertheless returns to stable every night.
Out of all these little systems of stationery, these mores and taboos that find their way into the stationers of each country, I probably find the most comfort in the Japanese way of seeing and doing things. There are all of these physical traits to each piece, a Tombow pen or a Delfonics notebook, that just make me so enthusiastic! Such attention to detail. It's hard to create something beautiful through little more than dedication to utility, but these Japanese brands do it with such aplomb!
And with beauty, I don't just mean that something looks nice...i would probably call that cuteness. Cute stuff is great but it's too ephemeral to win any long term affection. Beauty, as an example, is the ruling in the Delfonics Rollbahn. It's not a firm line, it's dotted, so lightly that it can be hard to pick up it is dotted at all. It's light grey, not black, and it sits on ivory. The perforation happens a nanometre to the left of the grid ruling so that when you remove a sheet there is no harm done to that beautifully organised matrix of dots. The whole piece taken together is so humble, so deferential to your ideas...utility breeds beauty which only further encourages use. So i guess the appeal to me with Japanese stationery is the consummate design and execution. As a model of customer service, Japanese stationery designers are without peer. They're thinking about you and only you every step of the way and in such depth that they're thinking about you years from now, when your notebook is full and sitting on your shelf, better than ever. If they had your phone number, they would probably call you and ask if there is anything else you would like...
Anyway, to finally reach the topic of today's post, we come to Midori. Midori, you will have guessed by now, to me is this endless source of harmony because when i look at the traveller's notebook or when I thumb through their MD paper stock, i just marvel at how thorough the execution is.
MD Paper is Japan's first writing paper. Midori was established in 1950 and created MD Paper in 1960. The simple, noble goal is for the most comfortable writing experience (see? most comfortable!) and whilst I cannot say that it stands alone as the very best paper stock in the world, I can certainly vouch for the comfort of writing on it. It's thin, smooth and balanced, handles a Broad nib Kaweco pen with ease and is so enjoyable that I am writing random lyrics from The Human League that pop into my head. Beauty which only further encourages use...
But it's not just the moment of use which is enjoyable with Midori. Beyond that, the after-care one could say, they excel with typically Japanese perfection. The materials used - leather, brass, acid-free paper - not only last with time but improve! And here is where the Japanese cosmology of stationery really gets me, here is the hook. With this permanence, this graceful ageing, I can't help but fall for the noble, poetic, romantic connotations that made me a stationery fan in the first place. The Traveler's notebook declares itself as made for the Traveler's with a Free Spirit, it creates a strong presence through sensitivity and it will turn everyday that you carry it with you into a day of travel.
A trip to your local cafe is no longer the same long mac that you have every day, it's a sojourn in which you may just reflect on something that never occurred to you before and record it. The idea isn't to take the Traveler's notebook with you when you head overseas, it's to use it as a window into that mindset of travel and appreciation of the things that otherwise pass us by. Now, take that mindset with you every day! To me, that is some consummately beautiful attention to detail.
Shop Midori at Milligram (formerly NoteMaker).