Quickie Business Card Design III

Quickie Business Card Design III

I got some more critical comments from some designer friends of mine. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to cut still more stuff out of the card to clean it up. While it’s nice to make a business card into a miniature poster, you nevertheless have to make some pretty brutal edits to keep it clean and usable.

The primary functions of a business card, as far as I’m concerned, are the following:

  1. Provide contact information in a convenient form…
  2. In such a way that the recipient remembers who you are.

You could call 2 “branding”, but being memorable is the minimum requirement. I don’t really have a brand for myself yet.

Anyway, here are the Generation 6 card variations, taking many people’s comments into account. The horizontal format comment I think was actually important. Another friend suggested some wording changes, so I tried them. Finally I reduced the amount of information, so I had more white space to play with.

6A Vertical

6B Horizontal

6C Horizontal I’m leaning toward the horizontal version with the larger “dot story” and the arrow strokes. It needs to be tweaked a bit proportionally, but otherwise it’s my current favorite.

Designs inevitably get to a point where you can no longer tell what’s better or worse. I’ll probably choose the most shocking one (not that any of them are shocking anymore) and go with that one. What do you guys think? I need to walk away from these for a couple days.

For reference, here’s yesterday’s Generation 5 card design:

5 Vertical

The BOLD versus NO BOLD Controversy

This issue keeps coming up…see Josh’s comment. Although I like the bold, I had to see what it really looked like:

6C Bold versus No Bold Which looks better? I’m curious what people think.

The ARROWS versus NO ARROWS Controversy

I like the bit of organic “boxes and arrows” feel that these brush strokes add to an otherwise sterile vector piece. It draws in a bit of the paper-based stuff I like to do also. But someone suggested that they weren’t necessary, so let’s have a look:

6C Bold Non-adorned versus Bold Adorned Opinions?


Continued in Quickie Business Card Design IV


  1. --Josh 18 years ago

    I like the large dot horizontal design too – but I think that the undeerlines and bold “this” and “story” are redundant. Try it without the bold, leaving the underlines and arrow.

  2. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    But I like the bold :-) Though, you are the second person to make that comment. It may be a little much now with the underlining and arrows now. I keep putting the bold back in though because it matches the way I emphasize the words when I say this out loud.

  3. rick gregory 18 years ago

    large horizontal design, bold, but without arrows or underlines. The message is important, not the graphics.

  4. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    I think the graphics do carry some weight as far as making the card seem a little less sterile (it needs SOMETHING, I feel). Anyway, I just put up a “without arrows” version to see what it would look like.

  5. evariste 18 years ago

    The arrow should be for the “But this is a story”, not for the “three dots”. I like the bold.

  6. Andrew Kumar 18 years ago

    v5.vertical with the reduced information / more whitespace

  7. Ed 18 years ago

    I’m indifferent on all the Gen6 variations.  I think I prefer the vertical better than the horizontal, but not enough to make a big deal about it.  I am commenting because I wanted to say “Thanks” for going with “These are…” rather than “This is….”  Given the lousy state of most business writing, rather than thinking you were clever or avant garde, I would have assumed you were a mutton-head if I knew nothing else about you but this card.  We grammarians are like that.

  8. Dan 18 years ago

    I’d throw my support behind the No bold dot story text w/ arrow—the bold makes it too busy, but the arrow nicely “unsterilizes” the effect.

  9. Mark 18 years ago

    Vertical: There is something to be said for differentiating yourself and standing out.

    Bold: I like the bold. If you do go horizontal, I like B.

  10. Jeni 18 years ago

    Visually, I love yesterday’s Gen 5, but for usuability I’d vote for horizontal, bold, no arrow.

    The biggest benefit of the horizontal format—apologies if this comment has already been made—is that it lends itself well to a Rolodex system.  Saves a user a head tilt.

  11. Senia 18 years ago

    I like the aroow, the bold, and especially the underlining of “this” and “story”.

  12. Joan 18 years ago

    if you switch the dot placement you don’t need the arrows:
    . . .
    these are three dots

    .. .
    but this is a story

    also I think separating the dots with text helps make it clearer.
    Vertical is just another element to deal with, and you’ve got plenty going on.

  13. Senia 18 years ago

    ps I like the orange and blue idea.  the orange is an excellent shade!  the blue is quite unusual, right?  it’s not a typical-feeling blue, not turquoise either.  Just an off-the-wall suggestion… have you tried a brighter blue, something that pops out more?  or were you going for a more serious feel for the blue?  blue is such a nice contrast to orange… this blue feels a little unstable…. interesting blue! and maybe not grounded, not rooted – but that may get the card holder to move into action!

  14. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    This is fun! Everyone has a different opinion, and from this I can see a few different themes behind them.

    Usability: This favors the horizontal format and rolodex card users. Boring, I know. I like 2:1 aspect cards also…usability advocates HATE those :-) I’m all for standing out, but I think the dot story might be doing a better job of that than just format.

    Grammar: Though originally I was attached to the stylistic than the grammatical—-repetition of THIS/THIS for impact, still grammatically correct if “three dots” is considered a singular group—-one rule of design I follow is to go with likely first interpretations, and eliminate distractions that might result from things like spelling and grammar. The other constraint is space…I can’t really add more words without visually unbalancing the dot story, or clarify it without losing impact. At least, I haven’t found a way I liked. As it is, changing THIS IS to THESE ARE really destroyed the text length balance…I can’t think of an instance when paying attention to grammar actually has HELPED me ;-) Just kidding!

    Underlining / Bolding / Arrows: There are two camps: no bold and bold, and also arrows / no arrows. There’s also suggestions on groupings. I think the factor here is probably which part of your brain is more dominant: visual or verbal. I’m a verbal person with a strong visual side; visual tends to support verbal in my designs, not the other way around. I’m not saying this is the right way to do it, but I’ve just become aware of it again while reading all these comments.

    Grouping: Interesting idea, Joan, on the grouping. One of the variations actually does that (the grouping is off, but it’s generally what you suggested). I think it would work in a single-column format, but not as well in the double-colmn format. While it sets up the parallel structure more clearly (verbal), I think the new grouping actually is more interesting to look at (one pool of orange dots attracts more attention) and allows me to use the underlining on the second line (I tried it when the text was over the dots, the lines just added awkward separation). The new grouping also positions the text as a FINAL statement, which has its own kind of impactful punctuating quality.

    So there’s a fine balance I’ve been floundering with between VERBAL, VISUAL and EMOTIONAL/TACTILE elements of my creative DNA. It’s probably roughly in that order or priority for this business card, though for other projects it could be different.

  15. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Senia: Interesting that you commented on the blue! Some of the weirdness of that color might be due to the CMYK-to-RGB conversion of these colors, which tends to screw them up (these are all photoshop mockups). But I did play around with that blue quite a bit, trying darker shades (more serious and business-like) and lighter shades. I tried green, purple, etc. I chose this blue for its very slight electric quality (this might be the unstable part you’re describing). It’s a bit more electric than the orange is, which is interesting because orange is normally a more activated color. The round forms and regularity, though, tend to mellow it out, while spiky bright lines of blue text produce a more intense concentrated effect (especially since I’m using a condensed typeface, but I could be imagining that).

    I have a tendency to pick colors that balance out to white; orange and blue are color complements that do this. In my final pass I’ll probably tweak these colors yet again, though my printer isn’t color calibrated so I am not too obsessed about it. If I actually go to press, I’ll have to reconsider color and choose some pantone…even though this card looks simple, I would have to set up 4 custom color plates. It would be cheaper to go with 2 color if I could redesign to that, or just design for process CMYK. Pure process cyan is actually a color I like a lot, it’s a kind of electric intense blue.

  16. Dave 18 years ago

    Since you’re doing them yourselves, why not go two sided?

    Have your dots story (which is very cool) on one side, then have the rest of what you want to convey on the back with a tagline of something like “Let’s tell YOUR story!” with the three dots next to it and your info on the back.  Doing it that way would allow you to cover the info you want to provide.

    You could do the dots story vertically (which has more impact) and your info on the other side horizontally so that those with rolodexes can stick your car in there, and those with card carriers (which is more what I use) can carry the card with the story sticking out.

    I like cards that are uniquely designed within the constraints.  Two sided cards are still rare, and they grab attention, but if you tie the two sides together, it even has more impact.

  17. Kat 18 years ago

    I like the bold without arrows better. My two cents.

  18. Emily 18 years ago

    They are all nice but I find I am liking the vertical cards…the horizontal ones make my eyes involuntarily skip back and forth, while the vertical one just has a natural progression. But hey, why not have both kinds? :)

  19. Damascity 18 years ago


    Here are the main constraints I see:

    1) The way the dots are now placed its hard to really focus on either of the two. My eyes are picking up all 6 dots like its one big connect-the-dots excerise. I love the dots idea but it worked better when there was more white space around each set.

    2) You still need to keep in mind the usability factor of the cards. You need to be able to give out a card that people can fit into their wallet.

    I have a couple of ways I think this can be done:

    A) One is the one that Dave (#16) proposed by not being afraid to use both sides. There is always a ‘wow’ factor when someone grabs a card and sees something on both sides. It’s like “wow they really put alot of thought into this”. The dots would be nice there as they allow the user to focus on the message and still provide ample space for someone to write info on the back of the card if needed.

    B) Use the four-card Generation 5 style but allow the bottom one to function as a business card in of itself. This way the person gets that “wow, this is one super-huge business card” reaction but then you can just easily tear off the bottom one and hand that to them. No one would forget you after that! It would work like calling cards do when you pull off the card from the bigger package. Perhaps using the Dave idea of the dots on the back of the bottom card and the dot effect would be reinforced. When they look at the dots on the back they will remember the huge business card that this smaller business card was pulled from.

    I hope that helps.

    Keep up with the great work!


  20. Alvin 18 years ago


    I love the idea behind these cards!

    If I had to vote, I’d say:

    1) Vertical looks better over horizontal, although vertical might cause more confusion in the rolodex.

    2) Please lose the arrow :p The shape of it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the elements…no harmony.

    3) I love the bold (without the bold and the underlines).

    4) I wondered why it was that I liked the vertical over the horizontal, then I realized the text intuitively made sense easier, because both the ‘This is…’ and ‘But this is…’ text are above the dots, whereas in the horizontal one is below. Why? It doesn’t seem to make the punchline as obvious.

    5) I love the cleaner look now that you’ve dropped some info out.

    6) Very nice typefaces, spacing and color choices throughout. Very cool.

  21. Alvin 18 years ago

    P.S. Since you’re cutting out extraneous elements, I’d suggest losing the grey margin on the horizontal too. Your design looks cleaner and clearer that way…but then again I’ve been critiqued that my designs always lend towards the minimal :P

  22. masukomi 18 years ago

    I have to vote for bold and arrow. The bold makes a huge difference for me. The underline doesn’t really help or hinder much. If I were to use the underline I think i would do it under THIS but not story. To emphasize the way you would say it out loud. I don’t think “story” would ever be said with quite as much verbal emphasis as “this”.

  23. LS 18 years ago

    I liked:
    – Bold
    – No Arrow
    – Horizontal

    I liked the gray strip on the vertical format, but agree with the creativeness inside regular social accepted boundaries.

    It does not harm the Mona Lisa the fact that is inside a “boring” usual rectangular format.

    I can be very stand out and different if a make my cards of glass but it wouldn’t be practical.

    I like the dots, but still don’t get the message.  Can you kindly explain it?

  24. Alex 18 years ago

    Dave, My two pennies worth.

    I like the dots motif A LOT. I think it gets across a strong message about purposeful design very simply.
    I preferred the horizontal format. For western cultures left to right works well. The dots/story on the left says I’m about an interesting person its worth keeping me, the more mundane details on the right allow the followup. I don’t know how many people keep rolodexes of business cards. Mine are just in a pile in a drawer.

    This rather than These – I think you’re spot on. You’re talking about the group.

    I preferred your original dots/story format where you alternate the text then dots. When you push the dots together with the text wrapped around it lost a lot of its impact for me.
    Also the grammar did suddenly become wrong because it seemed to me it should then be:

    This is three dots
    dot dot dot
    dot dot       dot
    That was a story

    Because sequentially the dots are now in the past – maybe that’s something weird about me though.

    Liked the bold text components – its a subtle emphasis to help people get the point of the motif.

    Lastly on the arrows and underline. I was divided on this. At first I disliked it because it makes the card look untidy. Then I thought a bit more that it look unfinished and thought that someone looking for a designer might like the sense of dynamism it brought.

    Amazing how stimulating something as simple as a good business card can be! And I guess as a designer that’s what you want. Right?

    Just as a comment – two sided cards may be relatively rare in western culture (Though lots have company logos) but in eastern culture the back side is often where the English version of the contact details go.

    Thanks for the design workout Dave.

  25. peninah 18 years ago

    I’m a bit slow adding to the discussion:

    I like: horizontal, no bold, arrow is plausible, but no underline.

    I prefer a functional card! I want one I can write notes on. I used to care horizontal/vertical … I still prefer horizontal but have seen some good vertical ones. That said, I like David’s idea of trying to double side and include something there? i’m not sure what at this point.. (perhaps a small description of the dots.. while it is good to foster discussion with potential clients perhaps … hmm.. i’m not sure) well, let’s put that at phase two. Let’s get a nice front we like first.

    I do like this much better. :)

  26. Ditto what Joan (#12) said. The text, dots, dots, text setup—rather than text, dots, text, dots like you had in the vertical design—is confusing.

    And I prefer bold with no underlines, but don’t feel as strongly about this.

    Great general concept for the card. Now I just want to know what the story is :)

  27. alceste 18 years ago

    I prefer the horizontal but my main comment would be on the fact that when you separate the dots with the text the effect works better.
    I feel that having the text once on top and once below contributes to the idea of one set of 6 dots instead of two sets of three.

    I think I would try something like:

    These are three dots (without the arrow)
    dot   dot   dot

    and this
    dot       dot dot
            is a story

    also I believe that you would gain from less different typos (caps, small caps, plain, bold)

    You might even gain in soberness (and if you’re willing in the future to have a go to Offset printing) you might want to consider using grey + 1 color instead of two.

    Great site by the way

  28. alceste 18 years ago

    the spaces I added didn’t show..
    I meant

    .dot…. dot..dot
    ………is a story


  29. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Thanks for the great feedback, everyone!

    Liked the double-sided card idea, wrote about it too! The restraining factor is that the business card stock I can run through my printer (at least what I’ve found locally) is suitable only for printing on one side with any quality.

    (1) I’m starting to come around on the dot story grouping that Joan first mentioned…looking at it with fresh eyes, the group is just way too strong, and it de-sequences the message.

    (2) I’m also thinking that bold / underline / arrows are probably in the “if it works, keep ‘em” category…probably secondary considerations, so long as they don’t interrupt the flow.

    (3) This is the really interesting insight. I was talking to another designer friend of mine, and she hated the whole dot story execution. Can’t please everyone, but it did get me thinking that the execution probably does need to be tighter. I pretty much lifted it from the original post I wrote about it. I still think the idea behind it is strong, but as my friend said, the execution could be better. I think the large number of comments on this might be taken also as an indication that it needs more work.

    So I have to take a step back now and ask myself what the purpose of the card is, and what purpose I want to convey. That means back to the drawing board. And here I thought I was almost done!!! :-)

    So look for Quickie Business Card Design IV for the reassessment. Thanks for your interest and participation! I really appreciate it.

  30. Tom Morris 18 years ago

    Horizontal, bold, no lines.  I’m not strongly against the lines, but they don’t really add much and there’s a lack of symmetry because not all bolded words are underlined.

    Another possibility for an organic element would be a riff on the theme with “by” and an arrow or some other authorship related notation connecting to the contact details block.

    BTW, I kind of agree with your friend in point 3 of comment 30.  I like the concept of telling a story, but the rearranged dots don’t say “story” to me.

  31. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    I’m realizing that the original post did a better job of placing the dots in context. And maybe it has to do also with how readily one sees a story in thing, like seeing faces in inanimate objects.

    To me, the story of the 2 + 1 dots is that there are two dots together, and one dot alone. That is the jumping off point for a whole slew of stories. They’re all the same color, so they code visually as being equivalent, but why are two of them together and one is apart? Is it by choice? Is there some hidden backstory?

    SO maybe it’s more of a HINT of a story…that’s something that I’m very attuned to, and when I see it happen in real life I often like to probe further to get to the bottom of things, because I know there IS a story. But strictly speaking, perhaps the initial trigger isn’t the actual story.

    I may have to abstract the example up a level to more properly frame it, but I lose some drama.

    Stupid, stupid dots…they were supposed to make this EASY :-)

  32. Bo Jordan 18 years ago

    The bold is a bit distracting to me.  I like your bolded phrases in your blog entries… it adds great emphasis while reading quickly, but the individual words tend to read with a bit too much inflection when done individually. I want to see the dots before I read the text, since I like the drama…

    … but overall, I like the idea of having both horizontal and vertical cards.  Alternate the cards in the stack you carry and I think it will give a subtle nod to your attention to detail.  Classy.

  33. Harry 18 years ago


    O O O—> Three dots

    OO O—> Story


    O O O Three dots

    OO O Story

    I suspect that’s a little bereft of personality, though. What about turning it into a sparkline?

    “Data O O O should tell a OO O story.”


    “I turn O O O data into OO O stories.”

  34. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Bo: Good point! I need to rework it again I think.

    Harry: I like the reduction. I had tried something like that before, and at the time it seemed too brief, but maybe that’s exactly the way to go.

    Maybe I’ll just buy some nice stock photo of, I dunno, a glass marble and just cheap my way out of this.

    (although, a glass marble shot right would look AWESOME).

  35. Eric Scheid 18 years ago

    On the This/These issue, I’m glad you went with These, but for reasons other than just grammar: the first three dots represent just three dots, but the second set of dots represent a whole whose sum is greater than the parts. The first three dots don’t form a whole.

    That’s the story you’re trying to tell, right?

  36. Gabe 18 years ago

    my $0.02… Vertical dot story on one side, horizotal personal data on other. Always hand the card to the receiver with dot story up. On personal data side, put (OO O) graphic to remind the user of the card that the dot story is on the other side. Personally, if I had been handed your card, I would remember the dot story first and be looking for that in my pile of cards or roledex, but I would want your information immediately viewable. Remind me of the dot story so I can find the card, but don’t tell it to me everytime I look at the card.

  37. Angela 18 years ago

    Where you have the six cards laid out together…I like the bottom one on the left. Love the arrow and bold. Really hate the underlining. Makes it look messy rather than clean and it’s an unnecessary element given the bold.

    Just my initial reaction…

  38. Bridget 18 years ago

    Yo Dave :) The underlining made me focus on the words… I liked the graphic layout/colors of the cards, but I didn’t “get it” at all until I saw the italics colon-and-exclamation mark version you posted on flikr! I had followed your link to see what Dad’s mooncakes look like, and had one of those ‘OH!’ moments when I ran across the 7/24 (so pre-version-5) version.