Hung Up on the NPR Wall Calendar : NPR Extra A look inside the 2013 NPR Wall Calendar, from the renowned illustrators who create the art and the graphic designer who brings it all together.
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Hung Up on the NPR Wall Calendar

NPR 2012 Calendar bluelines, which aren't actually blue. Katie Burk/NPR hide caption

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Katie Burk/NPR

Spend a few minutes chatting with NPR Graphic Designer Katie Burk about the 2013 NPR Wall Calendar and you quickly realize that selecting the art work that brings the calendar to life is much more complicated than a game of "eeny meeny miny mo."

The Artists

The seven-month 2013 calendar project officially started in January 2012. However, just as you were hanging up your 2012 calendar, NPR Consumer Products Director Barbara Sopato and the NPR Creative Services & Branding team - made up of Burk, Junior Art Director Betsy Martin, and Director Kathie Miller - had already spent months scouting possible artists and designers for the 2013 calendar. They perused magazines, design books, portfolios, and even received referrals from other artists.

After the research phase, the team invited 13 illustrators, who work in a variety of styles and media and are willing to donate their time and art, to participate in the project. Each artist was asked to illustrate their vision of NPR for a month of the calendar.

Inspired by what NPR means to them, the artists are given freedom to create a new piece of art portraying that meaning. Just as no artist is alike, every contribution is very unique. In the past, works have included a broad range of images including a radio-loving yeti, robots, and a comb.

"We're always impressed at how artists choose to express themselves in unique and exciting ways," says Burk.

The 2013 NPR Wall Calendar, during the editing process. Katie Burk/NPR hide caption

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Katie Burk/NPR

The Red Ink

The artwork is just one component of the NPR calendar. Although it's a team effort, Burk is responsible for managing the whole process. She selects the paper and the style of binding, and designs the monthly grid, which is never the same from year to year. The grid needs numbers with fonts and sizes easy enough to see from far way and boxes large enough to write your best friend's birthday in the space.

Each editor takes a different color pen and goes to town marking up the calendar's draft pages. Katie Burk/NPR hide caption

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Katie Burk/NPR

Once the monthly grids are set and the non-traditional holidays confirmed (this year's include: International Waffle Day on March 25, Vinyl Record Day on August 12, and Cat Herders Day on December 15), the final check of details begins. A select group of people from the NPR Communications team and the NPR Library comb over the calendar, looking for any type of error. During those editing sessions, Burk hears everything from "You spelled February wrong" to "Maybe the NPR logo should be a little bit bigger?".

The Printer

The final step for the calendar is the printing. Burk and the rest of the design team take several field trips to the print shop to give a last check to calendar pages as they come straight off the press. With a detailed eye they check for any abnormalities in the final printed piece, including a check of proper shade of the colors in the pieces of art.

Burk says a trip to the print shop is not complete until they are taken on a tour through the whole facility.

"It's a designer's wonderland," she says. "Machines that print, stamp, emboss, cut, fold, and bind. If that doesn't get your blood rushing, maybe you're not a designer!"

With that, the process is finished. Burk and the design team get a couple of months rest before they start the whole process over again.

In the meantime, the 2013 NPR Wall Calendar (without any editor's ink) is now available at

Artist Kyle Webster's illustration of his vision of NPR is featured on the September page of the 2013 NPR Wall Calendar. Kyle Webster/NPR hide caption

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Kyle Webster/NPR