Exercise: Birthday list

This exercise was all about creating a poster list, detailing the birthdays of my friends and family. It’s intended for display (on a notice board), so a good aesthetic was required. I was required to come up with information or data for the following areas:

1. Birthdays of friends and family.

2. Whether or not to buy them presents, card or send a text…

The brief finished saying it was my choice how to order the information and also whether or not to add any additional information.

I decided to remove some information, namely the ‘text’ option as I didn’t really like the thought of people coming into my home and seeing I’d decided to just send them a text.

My start point was obviously the list of names and birthdays:

Birthdays list in sketchbook.

Birthdays list in sketchbook.

Swiftly followed by a brief search for some examples of birthday posters or calendars on pinterest and etsy. I have four examples, none of which used the same amount of information in their calendars:

1. Birthday Calendar by Polkadot Prints Studio:


Their calendar offered a longer format, with small areas for names to be written alongside the numbers of each month. It did not contain an option for whether or not to send a card or present.

2.Forever & Ever – The Perpetual Calendar for Birthdays, Wedding Days, Jubilees or.. by 77etc 


This was an etsy listing for a multiple sheet, month by month perpetual calendar. The design isn’t suitable for a large poster format but I like the use of a photograph at the top of each page, simple but elegant design.

3.Perpetual Birthday Calendar by Eastwestdesignco – Etsy


This design took a different approach, allowing the dates to flow in a landscape fashion across the page rather than down the page. Each date could be circled and a persons name written in to indicate a birthday or anniversary. It’s a much simpler, cleaner design approach, but didn’t give much room for detail. The aesthetic is pretty, thought with the calligraphy font and watercolour behind the text.

After looking at those limited examples (I’m aware far more research could be done) I drew a few thumbnail designs for posters:

Thumbnail designs of birthday list.

Thumbnail designs of birthday list.

The idea I then focussed on is visible in the top left hand of the sketches…

I decided to go for a large sized poster, A3, to allow for smaller fonts to still be visible, and for the addition of any hand written notes. I wasn’t aware previously of how to create tables in Illustrator or Indesign so had to watch some tutorials on those..

Illustrator Grid Tutorial by Howtographics:


Indesign Table Tutorial by Technologyguru77:


I ended up using a grid in Illustrator to create the table in my first version of the birthday poster:

Birthday List v.1

Birthday List v.1

I was trying to create a kind of mix between vintage and modern with my first poster. I used a script or calligraphy based font  called Buttercup, for the heading and Idol wild, a handwritten looking font for the subheadings. I tried to turn the grid lines into watercolour lines used a stroke/brush effect, but you can still see the original black lines underneath. I’m sure how to rectify this, and it spoils the intended effect. I tried to add a little bit of life in the aqua blue and orange pink, which were bolder against the vintage paper background.

I found it tricky to fit all the dates for each month in and as you can see I had to tab across the text boxes to add a second row of dates, it wasn’t in my thumbnail design but it was the only way to include all the numbers in a legible size!

For my second design I wanted to create something more fun and illustrative. I had an idea to create a repeating pattern to use as a swatch in illustrator. The idea being the pattern would be of fun things associated with birthdays, doughnuts, candles, cake etc.  I did some little sketches and then tweaked them in Photoshop before copying them into illustrator and creating a pattern:

Sketch for birthday themed pattern.

Sketch for birthday themed pattern.

I also did some very rough looking sketches for icons to represent the ‘present or card’ option on the poster list. These two were tweaked in Photoshop and coloured and vectorized in Illustrator:

Sketch of present and card icon.

Sketch of present and card icon.

Unfortunately I had an odd problem with my first go at the second version. Somehow I’d managed to get an overprint effect or option ticked in the attributes menu and this greatly altered the look of my table and the colours of the poster (see image below):

Birthday List v.2 - with visible error.

Birthday List v.2 – with visible error.

I used an transferred Indesign table for the second version (and sorted out the overprint problem:

Birthday List v.2 - complete version

Birthday List v.2 – complete version

I prefer the second version, partly because it seems more  visually interesting than the first version, I think thanks to the pattern background. But I also prefer the use of the icons for the option of ‘present or card’, and like the white of the table, it makes it very clear. I tried to use a less ornate font for this version to sit with the vector graphics of the pattern. I think it works well altogether, although I would (with more time) like to run two columns of 15 dates in each text box. I reckon having two columns of 15 dates in the boxes would allow me to increase the size of the font and therefore the visibility (just slightly).

Again this is another project with plenty more room for experimentation later…


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