Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Geek Calendar photo competition

Tomorrow is the 1st of December, the day when you can finally unwrap your Geek Calendar and hang it with pride on your wall (that is, if you haven't already). We want to see your calendars in action! Email or tweet us a photo of yours, and the pic we like the most will win a signed copy of Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw's illuminating book, Why Does E=mc2?

Your photos will be judged on the following category: whatever makes Alice, Louise and Mun-Keat smile the most. Do whatever you can to show off your calendar, make it funny, make it beautiful. Send in your pics by the end of Friday, and we'll announce the winner next week.

For inspiration, here's Mun-Keat's calendar at his desk at the Wellcome Trust:

Monday, 29 November 2010

Season's Greetings

"Season's Greetings" to you all.

Yes, we know it's a bit early but (a) Team Geek Calendar love Christmas so much so, we had a Christmas party in July. (b) We thought you might like to use this pic as an e-card to your friends (might be a good way to drop present hints...).

So if you like the card, please do forward it on. You can use our Season's Greetings page or download a larger version on flickr.

Big thanks to Aleks for letting us use one of the out-takes from her shoot, as well as to Greg Funnell who took the photo and our amazing designer Cosima Dinkel for turning it into a card.

We have more out-takes of our shoots ready to share... watch this space.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Design for life: Geek Calendar's Cosima Dinkel

A big part of Geek Calendar's character is its bespoke design, including our lovely logo (now plastered on badges, T-shirts and the like!) and our fantastic infographic cover. All of this is down to our amazing designer, Cosima Dinkel.

An ex-colleague of mine, Cosima's worked for a variety of geeky institutions including the Science Museum and the Wellcome Trust. I was lucky enough to rope her in early on in the project (little did she know what she was letting herself in for....).

Here, Cosima gives a little insight into her inspiration for the Geek Calendar design, and what makes a Graphic Designer tick.

Would you call yourself a geek?
A closet geek. I collect tea stirrers. I think that probably qualifies me.

Actually, I think graphic design is a quite geeky profession. I like the mix of the creative and technology. Having said that I'm not particularly techie like some designers are.

What's the geekiest thing you've ever done?
I once impersonated a typeface at a party. Everyone had to guess which typeface I was pretending to be. Is that geeky? Or just pretentious? It's a fine line ...

How was it designing Geek Calendar?
The pictures are so great, it really didn't need much designing! For the type, I thought it needed a geeky/quirky typeface so I chose a font called Pop designed by Neville Brody, which seemed to fit the bill.

What was your inspiration for the cover?
The idea was to do an infographic depicting the a breakdown of the geek year, based on the participants and all the geek anniversaries we'd collected for each month.

My inspiration was David McCandless's excellent book Information is Beautiful, which is the obvious starting point for infographics. His diagrams are really interesting, depicting data in original and unconventional ways. I wanted to do my own version of one of those. I chose a pie chart as I could just about cope with the maths!

Geek Calendar cover

What was most enjoyable about putting the calendar together?
It was really good fun working on a project with lots of people who were all committed to producing a thing of beauty.

And the most challenging?
The maths for the pie chart! See above.

Do you have a favourite month from the calendar?
I've got to admit I love the Cox/Milinovich because it's quite theatrical. But that might also have something to do with the ginger cat... ;-)

February 2011

How did you get into design?
I've always been into art and design. My grandparents were artists. I did a foundation course and went to art school and then I got an Apple mac...

What's a normal day in the life of a designer?
Lots of cups of tea. A fair amount of procrastination. I have to say the Internet is really really distracting!

What's the best thing about your job?
The cups of tea. Seeing the finished product and sniffing the ink.


Who's your favourite geek?
I'd have to say the photographer Martin Parr because of his geekish obsession with collecting ephemera. I particularly like his collections of crap postcards.

Pontins, Camber Sands

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

From Greeks to Geeks

This post was originally written for and published on the Wellcome Library blog. Thanks to Ross MacFarlane for letting us re-post it on our blog, and for coming up with the genius title.

A 16th century woodcut from Wellcome Images has been used as the inspiration for a 2011 calendar page. The page from the Geek Calendar features mathematicians Alex Bellos and Matt Parker in a 21st century interpretation of an image from German writer Gregor Reisch's Margarita Philosophica.

The Margarita Philosophica is a beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of knowledge created by Carthusian humanist Reisch (1467-1525). First published in 1503, it was used as a university textbook throughout the early sixteenth century. It contains twelve illustrated books on subjects including grammar, arithmetic, music, geometry, physics and physiology.

The image that inspired Geek Calendar’s mathematical photo shoot shows Arithmetica supervising a counting contest between the Christian philosopher Boethius, and Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician whose name will be forever associated with triangles. Boethius is using Hindu-Arabic numbers to calculate; Pythagoras a counting board. The image represents new versus old: Boethius is sometimes credited with introducing Hindu-Arabic numbers into Christian Europe.

For May 2011, the Geek Calendar’s mathematicians are calculating a restaurant bill tip, one using a 1970s Casio calculator, the other using a modern abacus. Argument ensues between the two hot-headed counters, unlike the much more dignified Boethius and Pythagoras.

The Margarita contains many more fascinating illustrations, including some famous depictions of the human body. The Wellcome Library holds a number of editions of the work, the illustration shown above being taken from an edition published in 1535.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Geek Calendar flyer

We're still looking for people to spread the word about Geek Calendar at universities and colleges across the country. We've uploaded our flyer to this website, so you can download it, print it out and stick it on a noticeboard near you. Please help give the Libel Reform campaign a boost by telling as many people as you can about the Geek Calendar!

Click on the image below to download a hi-res version of the image that you can print out.

Geek Calendar flyer

Monday, 15 November 2010

Our photographers, part 2: Ben Gilbert

Ben Gilbert is a colleague of mine at the Wellcome Library, and when I approached him to ask if he would photograph the Geek Calendar, I'm not sure he realised what he was letting himself in for. Ben normally photographs inanimate objects such as 16th-century anatomical "fugitive" sheets, so I was a little worried he wouldn't be able to cope with the demands of our geek divas.

In the end, the geeks were as good as gold. And so was Ben, even though we made him drive all the way across London on the hottest day of the year for one shoot, and operate in the pitch black dark for another. Here, he recounts his Geek Calendar experience, and tells us more about his work at the Wellcome Library.

Strike the pose

Are you a geek?

Definitely. Being a photographer in the digital age brings with it a playground packed full of highly technical cameras and computers, as well as a multitude of other gadgets. These tools are so intrinsically linked to successful photography that a healthy geeky side is pretty much essential to my job.

If that wasn't enough to convince you, I'm one of those strange people who will happily sit in bed reading an instruction manual from cover-to-cover.

What's the geekiest thing you've ever done?

It's probably sitting on the pavement with my folding bicycle outside an O2 shop in the pouring rain for three hours, in an effort to become the first person in East Grinstead to own an iPhone 3G. My discomfort was rewarded when I emerged from the shop, clutching my brand new iPhone, to the cheers of the waiting queue. Sorry, was the question geekiest or saddest?

What was the most enjoyable calendar shoot?

I think this would have to be Sydney's shoot. It was in her flat, just south of the River Thames. It was a really hot day, the traffic getting there was terrible and Sydney's studio, although packed full of interesting things, was a very tight space in which to photograph. Syndey was understandably nervous, as she’s not used to being in front of the camera. But as soon as we got her to wear her trademark top hat, she immediately relaxed and we captured the shot you can see in the calendar.

Babbage's hat!

What was the most challenging?

Perhaps the most challenging was Lewis Dartnell in the Planetarium at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. We only had an hour from walking in to walking out and it was pitch black inside – the videographer Barry had to use iPhones to light his filming! For the photos, each shot was a 16 second exposure, during which time I had to throw a cuddly alien into frame and catch it with the flash lights just at the pinnacle of its trajectory.


Do you have a favourite month?

I'm fond of all of them. However, my favourite is Imran. We got the final shot right at the end when I decided to do a quick set of photos on the roof terrace outside his small office. There was a lovely, evening light with a beautiful sky, and Imran was a natural model, sporting a 'rosette' lollypop in his lapel. It was the first shoot we had done and I guess it showed us that geeks can look cool, and that, visually, the calendar could be really interesting.


How did you get into photography?

When I was growing up, my Dad had a Pentax SLR that intrigued me, and at about age twelve I got my own. We built a darkroom in the attic and that was that - I never really considered doing anything else.

What's your day job?

I work as a photographer in the Digital Imaging department of the Wellcome Library. I photograph items from the Library for readers, academics, book publishers and the editorial press. The material I photograph is varied, from ancient manuscripts to oil paintings, prints to drawings.

What’s the best thing about your job?

As a photographer, I’m allowed into places you could never normally go and to see and handle objects that would normally be kept safe behind bandit-proof glass. One of the most interesting things I’ve ever photographed was the marine chronometer H4, which I shot while working at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

F7024-008, H4 Harrison Marine Timekeeper - Internal Movement © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, LondonImage © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

H4 is the chronometer with which John Harrison won the British Parliament's competition to accurately measure longitude 250 years ago. It laid the foundations for accurate navigation at sea from then onwards. The chronometer is rarely taken off display and it was a real privilege to spend time photographing it. To hold in my hands an object that so profoundly changed the course of history was truly mind blowing.

Who’s your favourite geek?

My favourite geek is Stephen Fry, but Greg has already snapped him up! So, my second favourite geek is Richie Adler, the main character from the TV series Whiz Kids.

Friday, 12 November 2010

WANTED: students

We're looking for student volunteers to put a few of our flyers up around campus notice boards across the country.

We'll send you a handful of flyers to put up around your uni. along with a few of our super-exclusive Geek Calendar pin badges. You can keep the badges for yourself, or give them to your friends, or even award them as prizes for best dressed geek at this year's departmental Xmas party.

Interested? Email us with your uni, name and postal address at geekcalendaruk@gmail.com First come first served basis, so be quick!

Our photographers, part 1: Greg Funnell

A big reason why the Geek Calendar looks as great as it does is the fabulous work of our amazing photographers. We are greatly indebted to Ben Gilbert and Greg Funnell, who, between them, produced the remarkable images of our geeks -- and all for nothing more than their artistic curiosity and the odd baked treat!

In the next two blog posts, we'll turn the spotlight round on them, revealing what it was like to be behind the camera for Geek Calendar.

First up: Greg Funnell, a freelance photographer and an old school friend I brought in to the project. It was a good call too -- judging by some of the tweets we received, many of you agree, and some would even have liked him to appear in the calendar!

Greg takes a shot

Would you call yourself a geek?

Yes, but I think I'd have to classify myself as a 'photo-geek'.

What's the geekiest thing you've ever done?

Probably the large amount of old cameras I collect could be considered an ongoing geeky habit.

Which was your most enjoyable Geek Calendar shoot?

I enjoyed them all and they each had different plus points. Photographing Chris Addison was great fun because he's full of interesting factoids and good banter. Jonathan Ross was similar to that extent *and* he had the toys to back it up. I got a little bit jealous of his collection of retro cameras though.

Johnny 7

Which was the most challenging shoot?

Probably the shoot at Crossbones because it's always quite challenging working in fading light conditions. Added to that, we were positioned on the middle of a road that was still in use, so we had to keep breaking set and dashing to the sides with the lights!


Which Geek Calendar month is your favourite?

I think I like the one of Chris best - something about the look of genuine pleasure he's getting out of playing with that space rocket.

December 2011

How did you get into photography?

The long-winded way, but let's just say I'm self taught because I'm so much of a geek. I wanted to study History and War Studies at university instead...

Israeli tanks crossing the border with Lebanon during the Israel Hezbollah war, Aug 2006. Copyright © Greg Funnell 2007. All rights reserved.
What's a normal day in the life of a freelance photographer?

Drinking lots of tea, responding to emails and occasionally getting flashes of inspiration that send me scurrying off researching ideas for projects. On shoot days it's very different, altogether more hectic and exciting depending of course on the job. No two jobs are ever the same. 90% of photography is about overcoming problems, whether they're logistical, technical, personal or creative.

What's the most interesting thing you've ever photographed?

I've spent time in the middle of sewers, sex dens, arenas, war zones, the black bloc, high class hotels and dirty forgotten street corners. Photographed A-list celebs one day and convicted murderers the next. That's why I love my job. Variety is the spice of life and the camera gives me the excuse to sample its many flavours!

Finally, who's your favourite geek?

Probably Steven Fry, or Ray Mears (let's face it, he's a geek of nature...)

See more of Greg's freelance photography, at http://www.gregfunnell.com/

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Mass Libel Reform Blog

Geek Calendar are pleased to join today’s mass-blog in support of the libel reform campaign (which is, of course, the reason we're doing the calendar in the first place!).

As well as the piece below, you can read our piece for the Times last week (now liberated from behind the paywall) and watch Greg Foot's great video.

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The response

As Louise mentioned in the previous post, we've been taken aback at the amazing response to the calendar.

We don't want to gush, but... ok, we will gush:

You can see a full list of press coverage on our new media page.

What's really been making us grin though is people's reactions to the calendar, particularly on Twitter. The pics were especially lovely: here's one already on a wall! But it's been great to know that the calendars have safely arrived and to eavesdrop on the nice things people are saying about our little project. Here's just the smallest of samples:

So, a huge thank you to everyone for their kind words and especially those who've already ordered a calendar. If you haven't yet, do it now.

Incredibly, we've already sold out our first print run. Don't worry, a second print run is on the way. But they won't be reprinted forever, so get in there quick to secure yours (and tell your friends!).