Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome to New York ... now go move your car (2009 calendar)

New Yorkers who own cars and don't have off-street parking (which can cost as much per month as a small apartment in Cincinnati) spend exorbitant amounts of time trying to remember whether their car is parked on the side of the street that'll get them a $65 ticket if the street-sweepers come through. Street sweeping is suspended for 30 or more days a year, but few of us can remember which days it's safe to ignore the posted alternate-side signs.

I was inspired to design an alternate-side parking calendar by an atonal piano piece sandwiched into an otherwise enjoyable concert. I didn’t want to walk out (the pianist was amazing), but I didn't want to listen to the "music," either. So I assigned myself the task of devising a way to incorporate some of the photos I've taken of New York into a marketing piece for my husband's dental practice. By the time the piano abuse was over, I'd had the idea of doing an alternate-side parking calendar for 2009 with photos of our neighborhood around the edges. It had to fit on a single 8.5 x 11" page, include all my husband's office info, and give a URL where people could print more copies. It had to be attractive enough that people would cheerfully post it inside their front door or on their refrigerator.

The next day I laid out the calendar using the conventional format: 7 columns and 4-5 rows per month for 12 months. Alas, there wasn't enough space for pictures. Then I decided to apply some of the principles I'd learned in Edward Tufte's Visual Displays of Quantitative Information. I raised my hands and backed away from the computer (sometimes one must), and considered what information had to be included and how to organize it with the least possible visual interference. After much tweaking of font sizes, table margins, and text colors, I managed to fit all the necessary information plus quite a few photos. A scanned image is below; to see the calendar as a PDF, click here.  (The blog text continues below the scanned image.)

Tufte's Visual Displays of Quantitative Information focuses on organizing visual information so that it's comprehensible at a glance. Reading it will change the way you look at printed material and websites as well as the way you organize material on a page - even if you're only printing a flyer for a garage sale.

Print as many copies as you like of the calendar for your front door, your refrigerator, your glove compartment, and your friends. If you're curious about the images, the locations are given at