The Anatomy of a Calendar Order

not enough steps

I took this (only slightly staged) picture of my desk in the process of packing up the VERY LAST outstanding Wondermark calendar order. All orders placed in December have now gone out the door!

Due to overprinting by the printer, I still have a handful of calendars left, and I’ll keep the product page active until they’re all spoken for.

I am down to just a few of the special Deluxe Edition stands in particular, so that particular product may go out of stock before the “classic” stand or the refill-only calendar cards.

Now that the Kickstarter has ended, I will no longer be enclosing Kickstarter-exclusive Cast Cards — although if this’ll be your fifth calendar or more, go ahead and tell me so at checkout, and I’ll still send you the Calendar Ace card. YOU DESERVE IT.

I’ve heard from several people who missed the Kickstarter and have been happy there was still time to snag a copy!

This won’t always be the case every year, but as of right now, extra copies do me no good sitting on my desk. I would rather you have them! Order now, and your calendar will ship ASAP.

(It’s also not too early to order Valentine cards! I will have no new designs this season, but there are plenty from previous years available still.)

The anatomy of a calendar order

The reason I posted the above photo isn’t just to make you jealous with how cool my desk is. (I made it out of a tabletop I found in an alley! Story for another day.)

If you’ve been following my work for a while, you probably know that I like to tinker. I like to make things!

I have a workshop, and things like the calendar and its stand, or my new wooden magnets, or the various one-off special projects I’ve made over the years, all came about because I learned some new tool or technique, and pushed myself right to the bleeding edge of making something interesting with it.

In fact, here’s something I made this week for a calendar order going to Brazil…

I have had, shall we say, less than perfect success with mailing merchandise to Brazil in the past, so I asked this recipient if he had any tips for getting the package safely through customs.

“Books usually make it OK,” he said. So, I made his calendar into a book, using an old Yellow Pages:

I don't understand. What are yellow pages used for, if not this?

First, I carved out a calendar-shaped hole.

I picked the wrong day to stop sniffin' glue

A little white glue stiffens the cut edges so it doesn’t all fall apart into confetti.

I picked the wrong day to stop eatin' paste

As a container for a calendar, it could now technically work as-is… But I don’t like things to look messy, so I covered the unsightly opening with kraft paper, the same way I do with potholes on my street.

CHOP CHOP

The industrial chopper makes short work of any ragged edges caused by the pages getting rustled around in the carving and gluing steps.

You know, I actually stopped myself and thought, ''This isn't acid-free!''

It’ll need hard covers of chipboard so it doesn’t bend in the middle, where big chunks of paper are missing. Here I measure and make the hardcover assembly, or “case.”

It still does kinda function as a yellow pages

Gluing the textblock into the case is called “casing in.”

What, no chocolates?

Eventually the phone book covers found themselves glued into the case to serve as endpapers. The kraft paper serves as Page 1.

And I wrapped the whole thing with a book cover I designed years ago for an entirely different project.

I’m not sure if I succeeded in making the package any less conspicuous — I could have chosen a different title, perhaps…

NOT ILLUSTRATED

There are also a lot of great jokes on the back cover that you’ll just have to imagine!

This is the sort of thing I love doing. Not because this customer ordered a jacked-up phone book, but because it was the most fun way to solve the problem.

With this year’s calendar, the tenth anniversary and the abilities of my new workshop coincided in the creation of the Deluxe Edition stand…

HOW FANCY.

You’ve heard me describe it previously at length; I’ll spare the details.

It’s way more complicated than the previous version stand, because it requires assembly and it requires a bunch of pieces made out of all different materials, which is a many-step process.

It wasn’t until I’d committed to packing up 300 calendars that I realized that somehow, I’d created a product and a task for myself in which EVERY SINGLE PIECE that went into an order required an absurd multi-step process to create.

So once I could catch my breath after all the packing and shipping, I sat back and took stock. The picture at the top of the post is an ENTIRELY TYPICAL example of a calendar order for some person. It includes:

  • The 2017 calendar, as a card set
  • The Deluxe Edition stand, to hold the cards
  • The commemorative Cast Card plaque and a Calendar Ace card
  • An order of 4 Wondermark magnets
  • The packaging and accessories for all the above items

Significant to note is that not only did the calendar, the ostensible purpose of the order, require creative development – all the other things in this order did too, and they required assembly as well.

When I actually counted how many discrete steps went into putting together all the pieces for this one order, it was over 50.

NOT ENOUGH STEPS!!!

(Click on this image, or open it in a new tab, for a closer look.)

The calendar required being signed, numbered, collated, and packaged.

The stand required being assembled along with its component pieces into a sort of mailing frame, which itself had to be designed and manufactured.

Same with the Cast Cards, in a parallel but entirely separate process.

The magnet set, which isn’t part of the calendar itself but was included here as a premium with the Kickstarter order, had its own production and assembly chain, both for the magnets themselves and the little packet I designed so they could ship flat. (Otherwise they stick to one another in a clump.)

Even the box they all ship in requires a few steps of taping and trimming that’s above and beyond what you might normally do for a mailing box. (To keep weight down for international orders, for example, I trim off any unnecessary extra length in the cardboard flaps.)

I don’t list it all out here to brag, that’s not at all what I’m getting at — rather, I’m trying to reckon with myself; trying to examine how the simple process of making a calendar evolved into something this baroque.

I’ve somehow fallen into a gravity well whereby everything I do has to be elaborate.

The only answer I have is that it’s… fun?

I mean, I get a lot of satisfaction out of laser-cutting a jig out of cardboard so that I can send something flat as a USPS Large Envelope, rather than all jumbled together in a bubble mailer as a Package.

It’s not just about spending an afternoon to save a dollar…It’s about feeling like I did my best, like I brought all my cleverness and creativity and resources to bear, and in doing so ended up with the best product I could make.

(True story: For the aforementioned jigs, I actually cut up and used the cardboard from the boxes USPS themselves used to send me an order of bubble mailers. You can’t buy the satisfaction that comes with that stupid little accomplishment.)

I am happy to have done the Deluxe Edition stands this year, although I’m also now happy to be done with them.

I am continuing to send out unique Cast Cards every month to Patreon subscribers (this last month’s featured the Phryday creature from the culmination of the Eternal Monday saga — a 5-part storyline which started here.)

I have other cool things in the planning stages too!

And although it might seem like I’m not learning my lesson, continuing down this path, I do indeed learn something new with each new project, something I can build on for the next one.

To those of you who have little pieces of my dumb ideas littering your home, I hope they bring you a tiny bit as much joy in the using as they have me, in the creating.

Grab one of my last few calendars! Take them off my desk, so I can start the next project…