Part 5 – Exercise 4: Birthday List

For this exercise you are going to make up a poster list for yourself. It is intended that you keep it pinned to a noticeboard or wall to remind you of the dates and, as it will be there a long time, it needs to look good. Design your own ordering the information that best suits you and including as much additional information as you would find useful.

I am hopeless at remembering people’s birthdays and I always feel bad when I forget or when I know a card will arrive about three days late because I haven’t been organised to post it early enough. Social media has helped by sending prompts on days when friends have a birthday but there are some people close to me for whom I really need to make more effort than a quick ‘Happy Birthday’ post on their Facebook timeline.

Therefore, a wall-mounted birthday chart would be a good idea for me! However, I wanted my personal birthday list to be designed as a reproachful reminder of how bad I feel when I forget a friend or family member’s birthday… a ‘memento mori’ style of design. I decided to base the decoration of the chart on a skull, but so that it didn’t look too morbid, I decided to include flowers into the design.

My design ideas and thumbnail sketches are below:

I drew up the wall chart in Adobe Illustrator. I made it 400mm square as it was easier to measure the position of my data entry boxes with a number that was divisible by 10. Positioning and sizing the boxes was a very fiddly job!

For the decoration, I created a pencil drawing of a skull.

I did attempt to paint my own water colour flowers for the skull’s garland but my painting skills weren’t quite up to the job, so I decided to leave the painting to the experts and purchased a set of water colour flower PNG files from Creative Market.

The final wall-chart Birthday List is below:

Thoughts on this Exercise

Laying out repeating boxes like this in Adobe Illustrator is quite time consuming and fiddly and requires both patience and good reading glasses. I also found it difficult to get an idea of the actual scale of what I was designing without being able to see the printed version. I resorted to mocking up a quick piece of paper of roughly the correct size, sketched data entry boxes on them and then measured them as a way of gauging the size that they needed to be on my final document. I had fun with this exercise in drawing the skull and decorating it with flowers… a bit of light relief after the frustration of measuring and positioning the boxes.



Research Point – Posters

Posters have a long and rich history documenting everything from boxing matches to
Bollywood films, the Soviet Revolution to punk, encouraging young men to join the army to persuading women to buy bras. There are many collections in books in museums and galleries and on the internet. Find out more about your own particular areas of interest.

My mother was from Luzern in Switzerland and I was delighted to discover recently that Luzern has a bit of a name for itself as a ‘Poster Town’, renowned for the quality and style of its posters!

As a family we would always visit Luzern, late in the summer around the time when the Luzern music festival was on and the town would be covered in stylish posters and shop window displays promoting the festival.

The Design Museum in Zurich has an extensive display of Swiss posters and has an online archive here. A trip to this museum is definitely on my bucket list.

I particularly like the old posters promoting Switzerland as a tourist destination, some of which are here:

For me, these graphics really evoke my memories of Switzerland and make me feel quite nostalgic, especially because I can also recognize some of the places depicted in the posters.

Similarly, I recently went to see the ‘Poster Girls’ exhibition in the London Transport Museum. Details about the exhibition are here. Again, I really enjoyed the ‘retro’ style of a lot of these posters.