Moleskine’s masterstroke was capitalizing on the link between the notebooks and icons such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Hemingway, who used similar-looking ones long before the brand existed.
The lineage strained credibility (“It’s an exaggeration,” one of the company’s founders told The New York Times in 2006), but it was genius. It offered what you might call the transitive property of creativity—the illusion that the only thing separating your doodles from Kandinsky’s is nicer paper stock. [...]
Even though Moleskine’s connection with Hemingway and the like is mostly a founding myth, the company has allied itself with an impressive crop of contemporary creative types. Artists, designers, writers, and architects from Maira Kalman to Dave Eggers have readily put their own Moleskines on display as part of the company’s traveling Detour exhibitions.