The Pentagram 365 Typography Calendar now celebrates its tenth year, prompting us to ask its originator Kit Hinrichs what drove him to create this now popular product.
What was your inspiration for the calendar?
I’ve long been an admirer of Massimo Vignelli’s iconic Stendig calendar, introduced in 1966. It’s classic Helvetica typeface is boldly graphic, contemporary and easy to read. If I may speak for Massimo, it was “Perfetto!” Yet as someone who loves and uses type, all kinds of type, I felt there was room for a wall calendar where the typography was in more than one face. So many people, designers included, have no idea who designed the beautifully crafted typefaces that are very much a part of our everyday life. I wanted to enable people to become more aware of type as a designed object.
Why have you changed the typographic theme each year?
I was drawn to the educational possibilities of such a calendar, which is why one year it showcased classic typefaces such as Bodoni, Garamond, and Bembo, and another year it featured only the fonts of Matthew Carter, followed by the works of Hoefler-Frere Jones. The 2009 calendar displayed the favorite typeface of the Pentagram partners, with their explanation of what they liked about the font. The 2010 calendar will present the works of Veer type designers. The change allows the calendar to evolve and stay fresh.
You list the birthdays of featured type designers in the same way you do national holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
In my opinion, type designers are the unsung heroes of design, that’s why in addition to citing their birthdays, the featured font for the month is accompanied by a brief bio of the designer or an explanation of what inspired the design. It seems right.
Did some design approaches not work?
My original plan was to just produce the calendar in one size – 33×22 inches, but it soon became clear that the size was hurting sales. Many people didn’t have the wall space to hang it up or didn’t want to make it the primary art on their wall. So we introduced an 18×12 inch version for smaller spaces. It is now nearly double the sales of its “larger brother”. The other change we had to make was switching from the European style of listing Monday as the first day of the week to the American style of making Sunday the start of the week. Some friends complained bitterly that they were scheduling appointments a day off. Old habits die hard; they hated it.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from typophiles?
In addition to pointing out a few wrong holiday dates, we occasionally get someone who argues with the kerning of a particular number and writes us an irate email. The number eleven is particularly problematic. In 2008, a leap year, we had suggestions that we should change the name of the calendar from 365 to 366. Needless to say, we didn’t do it. A brand is a brand.
You love type, but you’ve never tried designing your own font.
Yeah, well, I love great wine, but I don’t try to make my own either. I respect the process and admire those who do it better than I could.