Calendars: Part Deux
Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 5:36AM
Cameron Blazer in calendar, design, home-ec101, printables, seasonal

Did you think I would let you down? I promised calendars by the end of February (after hinting they'd be ready by the first week in January. Whatever!). And now, here it is the end of February, and I HAVE CALENDARS! Trust me, no one is more relieved than I. 

If you want to read my natterings about the process of designing these (and my relief at finishing them), there's more than enough nattering to go around (just scroll below the thumbnails). But without further ado, I give you July through December:


Oh! Hello! I thought you were only here for the calendars. No? Swell!

After churning these to completion this weekend, I feel a need to decompress and debrief. I first had the idea for these calendars back in September. At the time, the idea was to do each calendar with a header in the style of those great vegetable crate labels of yore. A couple of things converged to derail that idea—confronting a devastating death in our family and a lack of confidence in my ability to pull off the drawings using two fingers on my laptop trackpad, I shelved the project and waited for a different inspiration to strike.

But the idea just would not let me go. In November, I enlisted the help of my friend Heather Solos. We met for coffee, and I sketched out the idea (which is to say, I gestured wildly with a pen, occasionally making contact with paper). She had lots of insight into where the project could go and even took the reigns of the related project to present seasonal recipes on a monthly basis. Now that I had a partner, I HAD to do something.

And then there was the problem of the collards. I scoured the internet for reference pictures from which to draw. Which is kind of ridiculous, since they are just giant, vaguely curly leaves, a familiarity with which I have had since childhood. The image searching was just my way of feigning starting. I scratched for a minute or so at a drawing of a bunch of collards, I think. And then I started playing with type. JANUARY. "With 100% more collards!" was the first thing that came to mind. And it made me laugh. And that was really how the design ball got rolling. I whipped together January relatively quickly and thought, "Hey! This is easy." I hadn't yet internalized all the rules that January's design would impose on all the other months. Silly girl.

My father-in-law has an amazing collection of vintage medicine bottles and boxes. I think the essence of their appeal is the way they use typography and punctuation to EXCLAIM! so! many! things! That and, the fact that they are limited by the printing methods of the day to one or two colors. So even when they use typographical mishmosh that would make even a corporate newsletter editor blush, there is a visual consistency. I didn't consult my father-in-law's collection while designing these calendars, but I realize now that they set out the rules that I applied to each design.

Really, aside from the design rules, which got easier and easier to apply as they revealed themselves to me, what kicked my butt about these calendars—what has kept them out of your hot little hands for the last two months—is the writing. As is clear from the preceding paragraphs, it's not as though I am short on words. And that's precisely the problem. To work, each month needed its own internal, pithy through-line. As in, short and sweet. These little bits of text did not come easily to me. In fact, I nabbed a great many from far pithier people than myself: Paul Simon, Bill Shakespeare, and The Beastie Boys, I salute you one and all.


Now if you REALLY wanna geek out with me,  one technical element separated the experience of designing the first calendar from that of the second: global color swatches. And if, like me, you are a self-taught Illustrator dilettante, I implore you to teach yourself (it will take only a few seconds) to use global process colors in your designs. In the first set of designs, I laid out the framework for each page as a series of boxes and boxes within boxes and shades and fills. When I finished one calendar, it became the template for the next. And then I would have to set about to change each element in a given color to the new palette for the next month. Which was tedious. Especially when I changed my mind about the colors halfway through. I could use the magic wand tool to pick up things that shared the same fills or strokes, but when you make a compound stroke in the appearance panel, it doesn't get picked up by the magic wand, and so you have to go in and mess with it manually. TEDIOUS squared. Then sometime between the beginning of January and the middle of February, I learned about global color in Illustrator. It's simple: create a series of objects using a color swatch you've marked as a global process color and then, later on, whenever you change the color of the swatch, you automatically change the color of every object that refers to it. Now, for those of you who took design classes or work as professional designers, this is one of those DUH pieces of knowledge whose earth-shattering brilliance probably has no effect on you. For me? Cue the fireworks. I hated that it took me so long to put the second set of calendars up, but it was worth every minute I didn't waste manually changing the color of a 1 pt interior stroke. Every minute.


I have learned so much from this project. I've stretched my design skills to work within the boundaries of a new idiom. I found a great collaborator in Heather. And we have both been bowled over by the response from the people who've found it and "gotten" what it is we were aiming for. As soon as my wrist recovers from this last batch of calendars, I am going to get down to work on 2011. And this time, I've got a pen tablet, and I'm not afraid to use it. Well, maybe a little.

Till then, eat well!

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