Stories of design across all media


Around the World in a Year

Smartphones, email, social media, the bottomless rabbit hole that is Google – our lives are one long cabaret of distraction. And pity the poor company that not only seeks to break through that distraction, but to remain top of mind every day of the year.

  • print
  • website
  • mobile app

When premium stock-image agency Corbis took a serious look at differentiating itself from the competition in 2011, it realized the only way to do so was to demonstrate to designers, publishers and other potential customers the quality and diversity of the images tucked away in its vaults.


corbiscalendar4In October 2010, the company brought this challenge to San Francisco’s Studio Hinrichs. The firm came up with the perfect way to highlight some of the more than 100 million rights-managed and royalty free photographs and illustrations Corbis boasts: a 365-page desk calendar.

“They just liked the idea of having something that’s evergreen through the year that people would actually come to,” says studio founder Kit Hinrichs. “But I don’t think that when they made the decision that they understood the complexity of being able to put that together.”


A Year on Your Desk
Part of that complexity was one of economics. What Corbis and Studio Hinrichs ultimately agreed upon was a sharp, 365-page desk calendar with the Corbis name stamped in silver foil on the base, and dubbed the “Corbis 24/7/365 Calendar.” This piece is less a traditional “let me note down an appointment” calendar and more of the “this day in history” variety, with each day’s photo tied to something that took place on that date years before.

Each page featured:

  • One large photograph gleaned from Corbis’ vast archives
  • A few sentences about the person or event depicted
  • That image’s unique code, which could be used to locate the photo on the main Corbis website.

This promotion wasn’t cheap. To keep costs in check, the calendar’s print run was limited to about 2,000 sets, which were sent to Corbis’ high-volume customers. As you can imagine, a lot of thought went into their construction.

Working closely with the printer, Studio Hinrichs leapt headlong into the endless details that separate the professionals from the merely talented. How, for example, do you get a desk calendar to remain open on its stand without tipping over? Among other things, they had to determine how thick the base had to be, what kind of Chicago screws needed to be used to hold the pages to the base – “Just myriad little things,” says Hinrichs. “And you never notice it when you see the finished piece.”


A Year of Rights-cleared Images and Info
Before they could even get that far, the studio first had to choose 365 photos – spanning the worlds of history, sports, entertainment, world figures and events – clear the rights for their use in the calendar, and research their subject matter. And they had to do this all quickly enough to meet the project’s deadline – a lightning fast six weeks from contract to completion, with delivery in January 2011.

“We thought it’s on the Corbis site so any picture we want to use we can use,” says Hinrichs. “Well that wasn’t true. If it was Elvis Presley, for example, his estate may say it has to be approved by us on every use.”

Fortunately, the design firm had three strong allies – longtime collaborator Delphine Hirasuna, who researched all 365 images and wrote up the short descriptions for each; Brick Design, which handled the online component; and Corbis itself, which cleared the rights for each photo. “That,” says Hinrichs, “was a job.”

A Year Online
Because there was no way Corbis could afford to send a premium desk calendar to every company it had ever done business with, they quickly decided that they also needed a strong digital component, too.

Studio Hinrichs turned to Brick Design, an interactive design firm in the same building co-founded by creative director Brian Jacobs, who had worked with Hinrichs back at legendary design firm Pentagram for more than 10 years. “It was really just translating what he did to a website,” says Jacobs humbly, which makes the process sound a lot easier than it was.

For starters, the website had to be translated into five languages to appeal to Corbis’ worldwide clientbase, with it serving up the appropriate language based on each user’s IP address.


Yet the boldest online choice came with the way the images were presented. When a user clicked on the day they wanted to view, they were given a large version of that one image, the short burst of text below, the photographer’s name, and that’s about it. You could go back a day and forward a day, and there was a grid of thumbnail images for the month, but no more. For a medium that regularly bombards us with multiple links and images at once, this was a bold move – the user was forced to contemplate each photograph, one image at a time.

Best of all from Corbis’ standpoint, each day also carried a link to that image on Corbis’ main site making it easy for the visitor to license it.

Finally, the Corbis 24/7/365 site was one of the first “responsive” websites around, meaning that the Web experience adapted to whatever device it was viewed on, from desktops and laptops to iPhones.

And just in case there was an art director, designer or editor out there who somehow missed the website and premium desk calendar, Studio Hinrichs produced a 20.5-by-31.5-inch wall poster featuring all 365 photos, which was folded neatly into an issue of Print magazine.

Though they designed the poster to be easily inserted into the issue, “it was still something that could go in a tube or be folded in a different way,” says Hinrichs.

Whatever else happened in 2011 – the Arab spring, the Japanese tsunami, and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (it was a busy year) – Studio Hinrichs and Brick Design managed to put Corbis in front of thousands of eyeballs each and every day.

Author: Aaron Berman

A former writer and editor for USA Today, Aaron Berman is also the editor of PaperSpecs, and covered the newspaper industry for the Newspaper Association of America’s monthly magazine, Presstime.

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