I have a thing for pens…

When we launched our Vesper pre-order campaign, we heard a lot of people say how much it reminded them of the sort of pen necklace Joan Holloway wears in Mad Men. While it wasn’t intended as a direct homage, it’s true that pens — like jewelry and sex toys — are really personal and intimate objects that must be “just right” as we use them everyday.

People are constantly asking my co-founder, Michael, where he gets his stylish pens. The answer, of course, is that he steals them from my desk. And where do I get them? I’ll share some of my favorite sources after I share some of my requirements — as a designer, I’m unsurprisingly particular about my tools, especially the humble and basic pen.

  • Feels good in the hand: This is different for everyone, of course, but for me, a narrow barrel and shorter overall length (under 5″) works best. 
  • Smooth & consistent line: While I’ve been drawn to ultra fine line pens in the past, I find a .35 to .4 ballpoint works best for everyday writing and sketching. 
  • Retractable: Do you know how quickly I can lose a cap? Pretty much instantly, and then the pen is useless. No thanks.
  • Blue ink: I’ve tried black. I’ve tried all of the other fancy colors. But I keep coming back to blue.
  • Inexpensive: Like sunglasses, the more expensive the pen, the faster I’ll lose it. My favorite pens are cheap enough that it’s not devastating when someone (Michael) walks off with them.

As for where to get them? For years, I’ve been stocking up on pens when I travel through Hong Kong and Japan. There’s an amazing news stand in the Hong Kong airport that has a terrific selection. In San Francisco, I like Maido, which has a store in the Westfield Mall and another in the Japantown mall. Online you can try JetPens or Amazon.

My three current favorite pens are the Delfonics, the Pieni and the Hi-Tec-C. And if you’re curious, my favorite notebook is the Leuchtterm Pocket Notebook

What are your favorites? I’d love to try something new.

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