New and Improved
Seven years of making pocket calendars. Arranged chronologically, with 2011 on the top
Nowadays ‘New and Improved’ often seems to mean that your deodorant is pink now instead of blue, so we thought it might be good to talk about the development process that led up to the seventh “new and improved” version of our calendar.
When we started in 2005 the idea was very simple. We couldn't find a pocket calendar that suited our needs, so we made our own, a combination datebook and sketchbook with 120 pages of straightforward weekly overviews and 10 pages each of six different pre-printed grids for sketching and designing type—plenty of space to make personal notes and keep life organised.
We printed just 250 copies, giving away half to friends and family, and thinking that we might be able to sell the rest. Astonishingly, all copies sold out within a week. (Which just goes to show that if you make something that just feels right without thinking too much about how much you could sell it for, you can create a product that benefits not just you, but others who share the personal values it embodies.)
2005: Perfect binding, sewn sections and painted edges. Note the excessive amount of glue, which is characteristic for hot melt adhesive binding. The book is difficult to open and the binding is likely to crack.
That first calendar had its flaws, and it was clear that if we wanted to make another one we’d have to do serious research into available binding methods. Like most books its size, the 2005 version was simply too hard to open and keep open. And if you tried to force it, the spine would break because we used an ordinary ‘perfect’ binding with hot melt adhesive. There were also other problems. The numeric format of the dates (e.g. 10.5. monday) was potentially confusing, given the difference between European (dd.mm) and North American (mm.dd) conventions. And the product’s original name, ‘agenda / sketchbook’ sounded fine in Dutch, Slovak, French and other European languages, but was awkward for native English speakers. So our first step forward was to write out the names of the months in the 2006 ‘diary / sketchbook’.
2006: Otabind with sewn sections. The book block is glued with cold glue taking up 6mm on the first and last page.
2007: Hardcover with sewn sections. Hard cover is the only method allowing easy integration of bookmarks sewn into the spine.
Our next step forward was the hardcover binding of the 2007 edition, which was an improvement, but not a complete success. The small (85 ×130mm) size made it somewhat impractical and too stiff to work with, so for 2008 we tried increasing the size to 100 × 150mm and combining the hard cover with a cold glue ‘Schweizer Broschur’ binding. Stronger and more flexible than the more common ‘hot melt’ method, this binding opened easily and lay flat, which is ultimately what we were after. In response to user feedback we also added more sketchbook pages.
2008: Schweizer Broschur with sewn sections. Linen on the spine holds the book block and the cover together. Book lays flat exceptionally well.
User feedback also led us to change the name of the 2008 edition since the word ‘diary’ means different things in British and American English, and we use the title ‘pocket calendar / sketchbook’ to this day. The 2008 calendar was also the first to make use of PHP scripts we developed to generate production PDF’s complete with calendar events. We also launched the Typographers’ Calendar website, where you can find information about current and upcoming holidays, subscribe to events in iCal format, and generate PDF calendars with yearly or monthly overviews. The website also enabled us to get ongoing feedback about how people were using the calendar. Today there is even a Twitter feed with information about holidays and events.
Searching for an even better binding, we looked at Otabind, a patented softcover binding in which the book block is detached from the spine. It is more flexible than perfect binding and pages lie flatter, but it is more expensive and the first and last pages are glued to the cover, which makes them largely unusable for content. For the 2009 calendar, we tried Otastar, a variation of Otabind with a double cover that hides the unusable pages. The only Otastar-licensed bindery we know of is Hexspoor in Boxtel, Netherlands, but there may be others.
2009: Otastar with sewn sections. The book block is glued with cold glue. The first cover (orange) is separate from the spine and has a double crease for easy opening. The second cover (black) is hot-melt glued to the first one.
Otastar’s double cover precludes using very heavy paper, and the 2009 calendar with its 170g paper didn’t stand up well to heavy use. So the 2010 version introduced 1mm cardboard covers wrapped in vinyl (Balacron). Our two month testing procedure showed that this cover handled wear-and-tear, the main problem of the 2009 version. Unfortunately, we forgot to test what would happen if the book was closed with a pen inside… We also changed the layout of the double spread. Instead of dividing the week into 6 parts and cramming the weekend into one slot, we decided to divide it to 8 parts, giving each day the same amount of room (and leaving an extra slot for notes).
2010: Schweizer Broschur with sewn sections. The linen is longer than usual, and the Balacron-wrapped hardboard is glued on top for extra protection.
Which finally leads me to introduce the 2011 edition of our pocket calendar / sketchbook. It is based on the 2009 model, but with a 290g outside cover protected by anti-scratch lamination. We have successfully tested this cover for months and can now say that this is the most sturdy yet flexible cover we have ever used, truly new and improved. Enjoy.
2011: Otastar with sewn sections. Second cover (navy blue) is protected with anti-scratch lamination.