Monday, November 20, 2006

The Wilco calendar

Last year, at about this time, I ordered the 2006 Wilco calendar from their website. I essentially got it for free because I was buying the live album Kicking Television at the same time. The calendar arrived, and I placed it on the wall at the place I was working on site.

I didn't really think about it again until the new year began and I started trying to use it as a calendar, which proved more difficult than I would have imagined. A calendar is a relatively simple thing to put together. It isn't tricky.

And yet, I soon found out that they had created something perplexing. From month to month, the columns shifted in which day they represented. So while the first column was Sunday in January, it was Monday in February, and Saturday in other months. This makes it impossible to just glance at it and know what day falls when. You have to stop and squint at it and think for a second. I also discovered that February was missing the 25th, which happens to be the birthday of a close friend. While I appreciated the money I saved on a present, these things are kind of unacceptable in a calendar.

The art was pretty, though. They recreated tour posters, one for each month, and Wilco has long attracted some pretty interesting designers for their stuff. It's possible that this is just one of those form versus function arguments which always plague design when it attempts to innovate. I just happen to be one of those people who have no use whatsoever for a pretty form with no function.

With a list price of $15, people should be able to expect a functioning calendar, not just something pretty.

So here's my tip for all designers: do not, when designing a calendar, attempt to reinvent the entire concept of a calendar. People are generally fine with this item as it currently exists. Also, maybe have someone check to see if you put all of the days into each month.

This post was inspired by my receipt today of a third email from the Wilco store trying to get me to buy their 2007 calendar. I checked out the samples on the site, and while all of the days appeared to be represented on the thumbnails I saw, they were stretched out into 14 columns, taking up three rows per month. They put the day of the week into the little box with the date.

I will not be buying this calendar. Even if I still listened to Wilco all the time (and I don't), I really don't need one anyway, as I don't technically even have a job anymore.

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