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Keeping Time

I’ve always had a thing about calendars, and judging by the number of companies that issue calendars for promotion it would seem I’m not alone. However I’ve never found the right format that works perfectly for me. My mother has. Every year she buys a standard wall calendar featuring Inuit Art, with a grid of squares below. It hangs where she can see it, it looks good, and she can write several things to do on it each day.

Somehow this has never worked for me. Things that hang on the wall are not things I use and with calendars of this nature I find I usually forget to turn them for a couple of months before I even notice.

So the quest for the perfect calendar is ongoing. I’m not talking about a daytimer where you need to write either what you’re going to do or what you have done minute by minute, but something that looks good, and which you pay attention to to actually keep track of what day it is.

In 2001 I bought this calendar at MoMA. How could I not? It is so designerly, so beautiful, and charmingly interactive. In fact, I was so taken with it that I never used it, except to remove the tabs for a couple of important dates. Similarly, in 1998 I bought a Phases of the Moon poster/calendar. Great poster, lousy calendar.

Then there’s the appointment calendar. Every year between December and January we get them from paper companies, stock houses and printers (mostly the companies with the big bucks to print such a thing). Many are lavish, some are beautiful, often they are over-designed in an attempt to be unique, sometimes they are a hideously ugly, shocking waste of resources (doesn’t it break your heart to throw a 100-page 4-colour document directly into the er, recycling bin?). For a few years I subscribed to the Italian Art magazine FMR, published by Franco Maria Ricci. I was surprised and delighted, come the new year, to receive this gorgeous appointment calendar:

I did actually use it for a year, but the following year … well, the thing about a book like this is that it tends to get closed and then lost on my desk.

OK, we’ve received calendar cubes and pyramids and all sorts of 3 dimensional pop-up things we can’t name … some of them are like groovy puzzles that flip into different shapes and configurations. Most of these are unbelievably ugly and only barely functional as calendars.

Then there’s the now-ubiquitous CD-case desk calendar. The first time I saw one of these was for … some kind of California Parks thing, I think, and the second time was that embossed/debossed/diecut/letterpress extravaganza from … I want to say Getty Images, but it had no photography: it had braille, I think, and sign language, and semaphore and morse code … anyone remember it? Anyway, I loved it, and then my company did some for a few years and I even did one last year.

But it sat on my desk and I never used it. I can’t write on it, so it just sits there and gathers dust ‘til I remember to change the card.

A few years ago (1999?) FPG sent out a digital calendar which I really liked. It was a little app that sat in your task bar and each day it showed a new picture, showed the month with an arrow to the current day, and you could view past or previous months easily. It’s still running on my PC laptop and it’s a good little reference if you have your computer on and don’t need to write anything down.

Last year I “invented” the near-perfect calendar (for me). I call it the blotter calendar. It sits on my desk and I doodle on it, take notes on it and write stuff on the dates. Of all the calendars this is the one I’ve used the most. Alas, it does have an unfortunate tendency to get lost under a pile of stuff which I have to keep clearing away. If I keep it clear all the time it takes up too much desk space.

Sigh. I’m still searching for the calendar that is so elegant and well designed that I use it every day, that tells me at a glance where I am in the month and what’s coming up, gives me room to write a few things down and never gets lost. The perfect design has yet to cross my desk.

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ARCHIVE ID 1711 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Jan.06.2004 BY marian bantjes
davek’s comment is:

I've seen an oversized black and red calendar that Pentagram designed, at least the "firm on record" under the design credit was Pentagram. ee-yow! what a discussion Heller started. love it!

Anyways, this calendar is beautiful in a classy-minimal-good type kinda way. Its huge!! I want one for this year! I can see writing on it or sticking stuff to it as a month passes... boy i bet it looks great after some usage. Lots of white space... at least that is how I remember it.

i really want one, if anybody has the know-how on locating one of these, i would really appreciate that info. As an independent contractor, who is working on his portfolio, I could really use it to track my activities, something that is there all the time... reminding, showing growth and age.

I can't get into iCal for personal stuff, when i had a F/T gig it was very useful, but it lacks real-world impact on a personal level.

Or you could always go with Puppies! Everybody loves puppies!!

On Jan.06.2004 at 10:34 PM
marian’s comment is:

Where do those fluffy puppy and kitty photos come from?? Not Getty or Veer I can tell you--I've looked.

On Jan.06.2004 at 10:37 PM
eric’s comment is:


you need to know the "right people" at veer in order to get to that vault.

On Jan.06.2004 at 11:06 PM
ps’s comment is:

go digital...room to write as little and much as you want, you can hide it if you don't want to see it. and it never stops.... well.. until you run out of juice...

On Jan.06.2004 at 11:21 PM
kyle’s comment is:

When I was a kid, every year my uncle gave my brother a blank 'blotter calendar' and colored pencils for christmas. My brother would pick the most exciting/memorable event from each day and illustrate it. I don't know if he kept them, but even back them it was fun to look over a finished month to see what happened.

On Jan.06.2004 at 11:39 PM
marian’s comment is:

Oh, that's cool. Now there's a thought. Crayons. Must.buy.crayons.

BTW, if I should happen to disappear for a while it would be because my power/internet access may go down in the night due to massive snow. Just so you know.

On Jan.06.2004 at 11:46 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

I use the television.

Stargate Mondays

24 Tuesdays

Star Trek Wednesdays

CSI Thursdays

TCM International Film of the week Fridays

Book TV Saturdays and Sundays

Holidays are signified by Honeymooners Marathons, Twilight Zone Marathons, etc.

Change of year: Dick Clark

Work: Due yesterday

On Jan.07.2004 at 12:39 AM
pk’s comment is:

i use my nightclubs to tell me when it is in chicago:

(and this is where you can find me after midnight any night of the week)

mon: red dog

tue: smart bar

wed: eagle

thu: berlin

fri: STAY HOME (amateur night)

sat: neo, berlin, hydrate

sun: crobar

On Jan.07.2004 at 04:17 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> Where do those fluffy puppy and kitty photos come from?? Not Getty or Veer I can tell you--I've looked.

Try Photonica. A few years back, they sent out a stockbook (number 35 or something) titled "Friends" or something like that. It was a catalog entirely made up of cute-sy photos of puppies, kittens, bunnies, hamsters, piggies, chickies, etc. Some were dressed in little outfits, peeking out of baskets, playing sports, etc. It was a large book too, w/ thousands of these photos. Totally bizarre.

My guess was that it was intended for an Asian market, but was released here by mistake. I think I might still have it somewhere...

On Jan.07.2004 at 08:37 AM
bryony’s comment is:

I have bought all kinds of calendars over the years. Small ones, medium ones, oversized ones, squares, verticals, horizontals, perfect bound, spiral bound, loose pages, page per day, page per month... you name it. So far I have had no luck in finding the calendar of my dreams.

Every year somebody is kind enough to give me some wonderful photography in the Lois Greenfield calendar, although the layout changes every year which comes to be rather annoying (sometimes larger spaces, big numbers, little spaces, bold dividers). It looks pretty in my studio, I consult a day here and there but that's it.

As far as writing stuff down, I have gone digital. Color coding is the key. This way I can write down stuff that happened that day, stuff I wish to remember later on, important dates, along with some mundane notes. At the end of the year I print it all out and bind it nicely and put it up on the shelf. It's nice to go back a few years and see what was going on then...

On Jan.07.2004 at 08:40 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Anyways, this calendar is beautiful in a classy-minimal-good type kinda way. Its huge!! I want one for this year!

Davek, for $29.95 it's all yours! It is definitely one of the nicest calendars. I don't know which paper company it was, but they sent it for free two years ago when it first came out. Very cool indeed.

As a teenager, I had to have the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendar on my wall. Then I met Bryony, and well, hot chicks on the boyfriend's wall is not so cool. Now, I don't have a calendar, I am terrible at writing down stuff, I just try very hard to remember appointments and important dates. My brother always gets the Far Side calendars — still the funiest things on earth.

One of the coolest appointment calendars I have seen, and considered using, was one that Jennifer Sterling did for Fox River. It was just so damn eye-candilicious.

On Jan.07.2004 at 08:55 AM
Mark’s comment is:

I hate calendars. I like being on holidays and not knowing what day it is when you wake up. We all work too much. That being said I hate clocks too... Why does day/time matter so much? Why can't we just do what we want when we want and live our lives by mood? (Mr. Unrealistic here - can you tell I just got back from the holidays?)

But, you know those advent calendars that have a little window you open with a chocolate surprise for each day to countdown to Christmas... the ones you can't wait to open each day... your tase buds tingling in anticipation - that would make the perfect year round calendar!

On Jan.07.2004 at 09:04 AM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

I have yet to find a calendar that suits me.... and every year.. they change.

Two years ago - I had a Matisse calendar... a lot like this one (this style).. but the pages were such a heavy stock, I barely wrote a thing on them... was too afraid the ink would rub off on the art on the other side...

This past year.. I opted for the sleek black - crisp and clean, well designed interior pages, small pocket calendar.

I always, of course, have my crazy, messy, only I cant understand "At-A-Glance" all in one, hefty, thick appointment book..... maybe I should just stick with that one alone.... nah.. not fun enough...

I think I need something "fun" - like this

On Jan.07.2004 at 09:15 AM
Ben’s comment is:

I know it may be semi-lame since its purchaseable at commonfolk stores such as Barnes & Noble, but I'm enjoying my Folk Art from the American Folk Art Museum page-a-day calendar. It's the kind you change everyday, but it's bigger than a normal (6x6?), and has something new to look at every day (good reasons to both display and change it.)

On Jan.07.2004 at 09:24 AM
Rebecca C.’s comment is:

I feel your pain Marian. I too have searched high and low throught the years for my ideal calendar in both format and execution. Unfortunately, I am incapable of designing for myself. Dunno why. I just get stuck in a looking-at-the-horrible-white-paper loop.

I have stolen your idea of a desk blotter since I love to doodle and jot notes and my desk is usually clear--I have a ridiculously well-organized mindset. Mine is sans artwork; just large, cropped Scala Sans numbers at 10% black on a ledger sheet run off on the ol' Epson. So far so good. We'll see how many months I can keep it up.

I also designed my own purse-sized journal with a week per column and just enough room for my tiny handwriting. The lasered/stapled end product isn't too bad, but I'd rather see something offset on nice stock. The search continues...

On Jan.07.2004 at 10:48 AM
Valerie’s comment is:

I had one of the oversized Pentagram calendars a couple years ago and loved it. It does take up a lot of wall space, although it was almost like having a nice piece of art on the wall. It's rare that I can find a wall calendar that I can stand looking at for an entire year. I do like Marian's blotter calendar a lot. Nice choice of pics.

I'm a big fan of desktop calendars since that's what I look at about 90% of my working day. Last year Photonica had a collection of desktop calendars which were really nice. Sometimes Veer has some too that are nice, but I usually end up making my own.

On Jan.07.2004 at 10:54 AM
Nathan’s comment is:

Well, I just bought a Palm Tungsten, and previously had a Palm V. Not as pretty as some of the above calendars, but it is nice to be able to reconcile my Notes appointments at work with my iCal appointments at home. I have never been able to get paper based calendars to work for me, but this is a system I can use.

Plus, it has games for boring meetings!

On Jan.07.2004 at 11:06 AM
Andrew Pollak’s comment is:

I had the 2003 pentagram calander and I loved it. Thanks Valarie (you found it for ten dollars cheaper)

On Jan.07.2004 at 11:09 AM
Valerie’s comment is:

OK, now that I'm on a mission to find a good one, I came across this gem. Who knew Wooly Willy would make a comeback?

On Jan.07.2004 at 11:15 AM
damien’s comment is:

I use three systems - sometimes four but the Pentagram Calendar seems to be phasing out my other calendar tracking needs.

I use post-it notes to put tasks and things up on the days I need to remember by looking at it. This is incredibly useful because if something gets cancelled or changed - I can just move the post-it note. I haven't yet started a colour-scheme, but I've considered it.

However - a shortcoming of the system is that when the end of the month draws near - I can't plan ahead, because the next month isn't yet revealed. So really the calendar needs to have a little more information to it to be a perfect wall-hanging, quick-glance system.

I use a Moleskine notebook calendar, cause the Pentagram doesn't travel too well, and I use iCal to lay out projects for clients and use it to print out monthly schedules for teams or clients.

And then I top it all by very rarely getting anything done on time...

On Jan.07.2004 at 11:35 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> And then I top it all by very rarely getting anything done on time...

Damien, that's because you spend all your time redesigning your home page over and over. And over.

On Jan.07.2004 at 11:52 AM
Chris Neylan’s comment is:

This is my second year getting a Chihuly Desk Calendar. Either through Portland Press online, or at somewhere that sells his work. I bought mine here in Toronto at the Sandra Ainsley Gallery. Click on the Portland press link for pictures. For more about Chihuly. A really amazing site with great photos and videos of his glasswork and paintings.

On Jan.07.2004 at 12:16 PM
vibranium’s comment is:

UGH!! A post that TOTALLY TOTALLY read my mind. Barring the annual fox river desktop calanders (which i dont think they made this year) I have to resort to }GASP{ making my own...

Anyone else done this?!? Thanks for posting this...

On Jan.07.2004 at 12:27 PM
marian’s comment is:

Thanks Tan, I'll head right on over to Photonica ...

At the end of the year I print it all out and bind it nicely and put it up on the shelf

That's cool! Despite my aversion to the digital calendar,* this talk of colour coding is really appealing to me. Which digital calendar are you using, Bryony?

Why can't we just do what we want when we want and live our lives by mood?

Mark, that's what I've been doing for the past 6 months (including recording TV shows at my apartment in the city and just going in every now and then to watch them en masse) -- alas, my little fantasy life is coming to a screeching halt. Ergo the need to really know what day it is.

But the advent calendar. You are so, so on to something there. Let's suppose it was a simple, white calendar, about 10 x 8 that stands up on your desk. Elegantly designed, with a ton of white space for writing on each date. Each date is, natch, a diecut door, behind which is a chocolate coin (or maybe not chocolate as they wouldn't be very nice after about March) ... anyway, something yummy and flat (a little mint! to freshen you breath after lunch!). Every day an insentive to keep using the damned calendar. The only problem is size and Mega Cost. Two small obstacles. Hmmm ....

Ben, anything from the Folk Art Museum is a worthy purchase. Hold your head up, boy.

I have stolen your idea of a desk blotter

I have actually been publicly (on my own site) begging fellow designers to create blotter calendars and distribute them far and wide, including to me (Hmmm, and when they win a design award will I get a credit? ;) ).

OK, Nathan, the Palm. For at least a year, maybe more, I was into the Palm Pilot. Calendar, To Dos, Lists, Addresses. I loved it. But then I started not carrying it around (too cumbersome--I like to put things in my pockets), then I switched from PC to Mac and didn't buy a USB cable for it. One day the batteries died ... and despite the warning that "you could lose all your data if using it when the batteries die" I thought "Impossible! Who would make a system that was so crack addled as that?" Apparently, Palm. Thus completely ended my love affair with the Palm, and caused address chaos for months.

* The address situation and the calendar situation are similar. Despite efforts to the contrary, I have decided that I prefer to keep neither on the computer. Although it seems I spend my entire life attached to this machine, the truth is I do not, and I prefer to have a paper place to jot down notes, check the date or look up an address.

Recently, for addresses I bought a Moleskine address book. Which brings me to ... Moleskine calendar??!!! I must have one! (Does Moleskine make a Swiss Army book? There should be a Moleskine notebook, calendar, address book, sketchbook. Kindof a paper Palm.)

On Jan.07.2004 at 12:30 PM
marian’s comment is:

making my own...

Yes Steve (vibranium), This is where I'm at right now:

So far I am recycling an unused copy of the digitopolis 2003 blotter calendar. I have renamed the days and drawn a line between Friday and Saturday. This is, in my opinion, pathetic. Especially as this is a goddamned leap year, so after February the linear order of days goes to :

T W Th F S S M

Now that's counterintuitive.

I must find the perfect system before March.

On Jan.07.2004 at 12:46 PM
Nathan’s comment is:

One day the batteries died ... and despite the warning that "you could lose all your data if using it when the batteries die" I thought "Impossible! Who would make a system that was so crack addled as that?" Apparently, Palm. Thus completely ended my love affair with the Palm, and caused address chaos for months.

Yeesh! Yup, that's understandable. My old Palm V had a secondary battery backup I believe. I have let it drain in the past, and haven't lost anything. I sync up with two computers, but perhaps it's still not a bad idea to get a complete print-out from my home computer as an additional backup.

Hmm, maybe someone should make a flip calendar shaped like a Palm screen, with each page being a month view from the Palm. Even better, have an overlay that you could write on that would record your writing, and save it to your digital day timer.

Don't mind me, I like the complex solutions :-)

On Jan.07.2004 at 12:56 PM
vibranium’s comment is:

Same deal on the Palm. It worked out great as a address book, and even a general 'information storage' device. I dropped my Palm V in a muddy puddle. Now the battery lasts...about 13 seconds.

So I reverted to desktop calendars. So here I stand...2004...no cool Sterling designed book...no cool Hecho en mexico datebooks...lost.

I am into the carryable one week to a page, 8" x 8" dealie. But can't find one. So again, Designer shall overcome. Stay tuned...

On Jan.07.2004 at 12:58 PM
vibranium’s comment is:

I've just enlisted the help or our local (next door to my office) laser cutter...and the binder down the street, okay kids... homemade/designed.analog.datebook.version.1.0 coming soon...

i'm giddy...

On Jan.07.2004 at 01:01 PM
Tan’s comment is:

When I was growing up, my mother used to get these horrifically cheesy calendars from the Asian markets where she shopped. They were filled with pictures of glamour-shot asian women posed in front of orchids, bamboo, and shit like that. I absolutely hated them. I think that's why I detest large wall calendars to this day -- no matter how tasteful they may be.

Whenever I come home to visit, I do chuckle a bit at the current one she has up on the kitchen wall. It's still cheesy, but has become endearing in a nostalgic way. Like bad wallpaper or marshmallow furniture. Maybe one day, I'll get a chance to design a tasteful version of one of those calendars.

But I don't really use printed calendars anymore. I used to swear by my PDA, but even that has lost its luster. Entourage is my master planner now -- which I can access online from anywhere, even mobile if necessary. But honestly, no one is really that busy.

I'm w/ Armin, Far Side rocks. So does the word of the day ones. You might as well laugh or learn while calendaring (new made-up word of the day).


back to the fluffy animal pics... here's a couple to brighten up your day.

...and it was a Photonica stockbook -- titled "Neo 6", from Neo Vision, one of their Japanese collections. Told ya.

On Jan.07.2004 at 01:44 PM
marian’s comment is:


It's Laugh Yer Head Off Day here at Speak Up. The rabbits even have a bamboo ornament in the background! Too, too excellent.

On Jan.07.2004 at 01:55 PM
JZ’s comment is:

iCal on my macs. Syncs with my phone. Has REMINDERS. Syncs with my work computer. Looks pretty. Sharable.

On Jan.07.2004 at 02:05 PM
Sarah B,’s comment is:

Valerie... Sometimes Veer has some too that are nice...

Yes, very nice.

And I do like the calendars that have you doing (like Wooly Willy) - or learning something (like the new word a day ones) For Christmas I got my Dad a 'Tangram (no, not Pentagram)-a-Day' desk/box calendar - told him it would 'keep his mind sharp as a tac' and 'give him something to do other than crosswords'... I am really not that awful of a child.. really.

On Jan.07.2004 at 02:20 PM
kyle’s comment is:

Another big-up to the Palm and battery life. I stopped using mine because I lost all my data every time I changed the batteries. I had everything backed up on my computer, but it takes a long time to get all that information and games back onto the Palm.

I use a color-code type system at work, but it's more of a to-do list than a calendar. I use Excel and I have every client on a different tab, then for each client I have all the projects listed in one of three colors: Black for a scheduled project, orange for a project I've worked on and blue for completed projects. If I talk to a client over the phone, I'll note it in the spreadsheet, I can list due dates, etc. I've used it for about two months now and I'm pretty happy with it.

If anyone wants to see a template, I'd be happy to email it.

On Jan.07.2004 at 02:21 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

I wish I had this to tell me what day it is:

But for now I use this:

I got my Mother a nice calendar from Muji this Christmas.

Yes, Moleskin does rule.

On Jan.07.2004 at 02:24 PM
vibranium’s comment is:


What phone/service syncs with iCal. ilove iCal...portability is a problem tho...


thx in advance.

On Jan.07.2004 at 02:28 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Here you go Steve.

On Jan.07.2004 at 02:34 PM
Bram’s comment is:

For years, I've relied on the A4 Architects & designers diary, from Paragraf. Hardcover. Totally analog.

Combines calendar with note-taking space. The bottom quarter has boxes for "time sheet" and "expenses," but I just write over 'em. Space at the back for phone numbers (transcribe every year and weed them out); various reference charts, along with a couple year-at a glance formats, up front.

Tried going digital, but found I was having to tailor how I recorded information to fit the format, rather than take notes like I wanted; and then, I had the battery-running-out-and-losing-everything problem previously mentioned.

Each year, there's a full-color intro featuring an industrial or architectural-type designer. The layout and typography is straight out of the pasting-up-laser-prints days of early desktop publishing.

On Jan.07.2004 at 03:56 PM
marian’s comment is:

Close ... what would make this better for me is if the rows of boxes below, instead of being expenses and timesheet, were the coming 2 weeks.

On Jan.07.2004 at 04:06 PM
Valerie’s comment is:

Tan - those fuzzy little animas are super-creepy. They look like they were photographed in the portrait studio at Sears. I'm going to have nightmares about them.

On Jan.07.2004 at 04:22 PM
Mr. Jones’s comment is:

I have been through many calendars and have finally given up on the paper version and use ical and LOVE IT! I always know where it is, virtually impossible to loose and best of all it beeps and reminds me of approaching appointments, deadlines, bithdays, etc.

I used to use the huge MoMA wall calendar (3 x 4 feet, massive and cool) but I was never good at writing on walls. Once I filled it up with my scribbles it didn't have the same appeal. I used a Filofax for years (and liked it because it was so low tech) but I am now “streamlining” so the less I have to schlep around the better.

On Jan.07.2004 at 05:11 PM
Jacques’s comment is:

Graphic Thought Facility worked with the Tate to design an instant-classic perpetual calendar: PVC pocket-sleeves contain regular Tate postcards with numbers overprinted in red on the reverse. The works shift around every day as you move the cards to make up the day's date.

On Jan.07.2004 at 06:03 PM
Kirsten’s comment is:

Hey Marian,

I made my own b/w laser blotter calendar today. The theme is Pomeranians. Actually it's a real Pomeranian I met named Chester. He would fit right in with those hampsters and bunnies. I can print one out for you if you want and give it to you next time I see you. The second I printed it out and put it on my desk I filled in about 5 dates. Felt soooooo good!

On Jan.07.2004 at 10:29 PM
Mark’s comment is:

iCal is too portable - I sync mine on the trusty iPod (contacts too). Handy I tell ya.

On Jan.08.2004 at 09:25 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

marian, I am using palm to create my calendars. You have a couple of options on how to print it, the only thing you need is the color printer to make it "pretty". I will try to take some photos this weekend to show you.

On Jan.08.2004 at 12:29 PM