04 Jul 2019 • Spain
In digital times, this store in Spain mirrors our growing hunger for ink on paper
Purveyors of slow-made and slowly-used products are doubling down on their roots to distance themselves from tech omnipresence – and thus become more attractive to consumers in need of digital detox. But as this notebook store designed by Masquespacio shows, there might be a way of doing believable heritech – technological add-ons for heritage products that still feel on-brand.
Nostalgia strikes again: as digital communication has become omnipresent in the industrialized world, the notepad is making a comeback – sales of Moleskines, for example, have tripled in the past decade. In Spain, heritage player Cuadernos Rubio is betting on the pull of penmanship by opening its first flagship store in its hometown of Valencia.
Founded by a schoolteacher in 1956, the company specializes in calligraphy and math-friendly notebooks for children, but later expanded to add lifestyle notebooks for adults. With this new physical expansion, the Rubio team had an intriguing request for spatial designers Masquespacio. ‘They wanted this new store to bring together the past and present of the publishing house,’ explained Ana Milena Hernández.
In markets such as the UK, the 16-24 age bracket is the main consumer of stationery products – the same audience that is perpetually glued to the mobile screen. This means that, even in this landscape of nostalgia, Cuadernos Rubio’s proposal as a purveyor of paper products makes holistic sense: they’re boldly advocating for an appreciation of simplicity and a return to roots, but are also placing a large portion of their trust in the digital intersections that might still feel organic and authentic for their consumers.
That’s why Hernández and her Masquespacio partner Christophe Penasse responded by contrasting neon and methacrylate with traditional mosaic tiles on the walls, meant to emulate the look and feel of a paper page. On one corner, some highly tactile rotating shelves double as blackboards, while on another, a time machine booth leads visitors through an AR-enabled goggle-and-mobile tour through the company’s history.
Another highlight is the lucigrafía room – the term, which can be loosely translated to ‘writing with light,’ was invented by Rubio to christen the game they had created for tiny visitors during editorial fairs. The elements to the formula are a backlit vinyl panel, a flash pointer, a dark room, a series of baseline words and figures, and a child’s bottomless capacity for experimentation and surprise.
‘Our starting point for this store was the fact that, even though we’re constantly mesmerized by the screen, we often feel the need to disconnect from our electronic devices and relax with paper,’ explained Penasse. ‘We thought we probably weren’t alone – particularly today, as users are constantly looking for ways to connect with natural and traditional elements.’
Mindful craft is fighting back in our era of online immediacy. The fact that a vendor of a time-honoured experience is addressing the slow-vs-digital, traditional-vs-tech dilemma with an earnest hybrid presents a third option that still feels valid for the business – and might offer some guidelines for other purveyors of slow, tactile craft.