Sometimes the obvious ideas work best. A couple of years ago, I was on a London-bound train to meet my great friend and collaborator, Supple’s Jamie Ellul, when I saw ‘2020’ printed in a newspaper. I immediately thought of 20:20 vision, opticians, glasses and Jarvis Cocker.

So how about tying the numerical pun all together in a self-promotional 2020 calendar? A dozen iconic spectacles representing each month of the year?

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I put the idea to Jamie over coffee. On the train back, he sent me a text saying he’d found a font called Optician Sans, used in Snellen eye charts, that would fit the bill perfectly. We could play around with the conceit. And he’d thought of a title … ‘2020 Visionaries’. ‘Eye, eye,” I thought. “We’re on to something here.”

There followed something of a hiatus. Of course there did. This was back in 2018. But as the months went by, we kept thinking of great people (or glasses) to include. Stevie Wonder. Dame Edna. Malcolm X. Steve Jobs. Iris Apfel. The spec list grew month by month.

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It quickly became clear that we had far too many contenders. How would we whittle it down to a mere dozen? We needed a good spread of men and women from different eras who’d made their mark in different fields — arts and sport, film and fashion, music and politics. There also needed to be some kind of a link to each month, a birthday, anniversary or significant date. Gradually our shortlist came together.

Over at Supple, Yee Poon and Sheri Dykes began exploring different illustration and design routes …

Just using the silhouettes of the famous glasses were enough to suggest the wearers, but this didn’t feel enough. Eventually, they hit upon the idea of using the reflection in the glasses frames to hint at the life of the wearer. So, for instance, there’s a cigarette holder and a plume of smoke in Audrey Hepburn’s Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses; a piano keyboard in Elton John’s heart-shaped specs.

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The design was kept clean and minimal. Mainly black on white, but with the odd spot colour of green and red, picking up on the familiar optician’s duochrome test.

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Our research for the stories behind the glasses took us down all kinds of obscure avenues. We learned that Andy Warhol had lazy eyes in his youth and wore pinhole glasses to correct them. That Michael Caine once had a pair of specs stolen by a monkey. That John Lennon favoured orange-tinted glasses because Feng Shui has it that orange is the colour of creativity (hey!).

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At one point, Dame Edna was in the mix as a possible December contender, but we had to drop her because she had no lenses in her extravagant eyewear, so our reflection conceit wouldn’t work.

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We tried to keep each story down to around 80 focused words, plus a small month-linking factoid of around 30 words. 051219_calendar_006 copy

Happy 2020 one and all. May your eyes be bright, your thoughts sharp and your mind focused. See what I did there?

Can’t get enough of it? There’s further coverage of our 2020 Visionaries calendar on the Creative Boom and Design Week websites, click through for more …

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