Quickie Business Card Design IV

Quickie Business Card Design IV

Generation 7 card When I last visited my business card design, I was having trouble resolving the whole “dot story / text” thing. Plenty of people weighed in with excellent comments. The conclusion: well, you can’t please everyone.

Still, in the back of my mind, I thought there was something that could be improved, but I just couldn’t quite see it. That was a good sign that I should step way back and not think about the design for a while. That was back in August. Curiously, I haven’t had to hand out any cards during that time. However, SXSW is coming up, and I might need cards for Barcamp Manchester, so I spent an hour or so working on them.

Generation 7 Card Big

Change in Layout

When I look back at last round of design, I can see some good elements obfuscated by conflicting messages. The messages:

  • three dots somehow make a story
  • making a story is relevant somehow to Dave Seah

Some people got it, some found the text distracting, still others argued about the use of bold, arrows, and underlined text. The problem is, I think, a message that when put into words sounds very specific in its intent, yet is quite open to interpretation. The graphic never really did fill the space well either, creating a somewhat clunky white space that I never resolved. Compounding the problem was the difficulty in choosing a good place for the expository text to sit close enough to the dots.

As I reassessed the card design, I had the notion that maybe I should just show a middle step. I started with another row of three dots. I bumped all the rows up to 5 when I figured that I could also show grouping using color as a coding scheme; plus, 5 dots seemed to balance nicely. The result: a progression from “chaotic” information, to an “organized” state, and then to an “informationally grouped” state. It’s a design cycle in a nutshell, which tells almost the same story as before but without words. I also moved my name to the bottom of the dot group so it could serve as a kind of punctuation; I’m hoping that an observant viewer will find the patterns in the rows of dots by scanning them from top to bottom, and after he/she puts the pattern together, my name/work is the next thing seen.

Bonus 1: Without the “this is three dots, this is a story” text, the dots become more open to interpretation, which might head off disagreements. The dot story works for a few people, but some people just don’t get it. That’s not a problem actually, since I would prefer to work with people who DO like it. Nevertheless, I count the ambiguous-yet-inviting nature of the pattern as a small benefit.

Bonus 2: the additional dots fill the space sooo much more nicely. I was able to pull a nice golden rectangle out of the combination of dots and text and center my name in the middle of the card. I think it reads pretty cleanly, and the visual balance feels about right to me. There’s a rhythm to the layout that is not too rigid, thanks to the organic “chaotic dots” at the top of the graphic: a welcome two-for-one.

I also pushed the top margin upwards a bit compared to the bottom margin to get a taller aspect ratio (visually speaking) out of the layout. This creates a second golden ratio (2:1), which is pleasing. It’s not exact, but close enough to impart a slightly architectural feel to the card.

I’m a little torn on the whitespace between the contact information and the name/services text. Should I have made it an exact multiple of the height of the contact information box, creating a stronger visual pattern? I ended up breaking it, because it didn’t feel right to me. Instead, I mirror the spacing between the bottom of the card and the “www.davidseah.com” text with the space between “davidseah” and the dots. I think the extra space was probably necessary to give the blocks of text their own identity and separation; using an exact multiple would have probably ended up grouping everything into one and would have looked clumpish.

Change in Title

The original card said “information graphic designer”, which always seemed a little awkward to me. Plus, it still puts me into the services category, albeit a more focused one compared to “designer”. After talking with a few people last month, I’ve come to realize that I really like doing more of the conceptual work: finding patterns, solving problems, working as a sounding board, and so forth. With that in mind, I put the insight + ideation tag under my name. Damn, I could have also put inspiration there too. Oh well, when I go to print I’ll consider putting ideation + insight + inspiration under the name. It’s a little different than the usual business card which would list a title or a role, but this is a drive to reposition myself in the market. Therefore, I’ve listed it prominently. Hopefully the new progression of dots supports the tagline in people’s minds. It does if you sort of squint at it.

Having a new positioning line is fine, but what people want to know what you do. The line “offering information graphics and interactive design” is specific enough, I think, without pigeonholing me. It will be up to me and my two-minute elevator pitch to further explain the dots and myself in person.

Lastly, I’ve chosen to bold the phone number in the same way as my name, subtly hinting that you should call me. The blue text has no meaning other than it’s vaguely hyperlink-ish (hence its use in www.davidseah.com). I used it again for “insight + ideation” because the repetition looks nice, and the blue is an energetic color complement to the oranges. The last bits of information are in gray, because these are the least important bits of information on the page, and it helps the important bits stand out more. Plus, gray + orange always looks nice to my eye: energetic, but not too over-the-top. I picked the gray tone to be similar in value to the orange dots too instinctually…I think the weight is pretty close to ideal. It could be a little darker for the email address though; because the text isn’t bold as it is for “information graphics and interactive design”, I’d have to darken it more to compensate. I can probably safely ignore it.


Other than the small nits I’ve found, I think I’m pretty happy with this final iteration. I’m on the fence about expanding the tagline from “insight + ideation” to “ideation + insight + inspiration”; the latter sounds a little fruity, while “insight + ideation” sounds positive enough without getting too touchy-feely. Maybe I’ll change my mind later…we’ll see how I feel a few months from now.


After multiple discussions, I think the white space IS a little too large. But by how much? I do like the adjusted one better, because it feels better packed, but it’s subtle enough that I’m wondering if I’m imagining things:

Left vs Right Which is the better card? :-)


  1. Doug 17 years ago

    As always, Dave, I love your work and that you explain why you made the design choices you’ve made. Thanks for sharing.

    Now, my $0.02 worth (and remember, with inflation it isn’t worth even that meager amount)…

    I agree with you that the white space is a little odd. It is a bit unsettling, though on first glance I didn’t notice it and liked the visual space between your name and your contact info. Since most people won’t give your card serious scrutiny, maybe it’s okay.

    I don’t like adding “inspiration” to the text. That would be too much text, and it wouldn’t add anything to the first two. Rather, I would take it as a generalized, marketing, catch-all word. I’d avoid it.

    One other thing… the second row of dots shows “organization” or “graphic design” has been applied to the chaos of row one. But, because the order of the dot colors is not the same as the first row, it weakens the impact of the move to “information” in row three.

    To put it another way, I think you’re saying that many people can be graphic designers and pretty-up and organize chaos. That is what most designers do for their clients. That is all they are hired to do (“here’s a powerpoint presentation, make it look nice”).

    But you are saying that David Seah is different. By hiring David Seah, the client can expect him to take a muddle of disjointed, unfocused, data (row 1) and turn it into more than just a pretty picture (row 2), he’ll turn it into information that conveys a message/story (row 3). It is the all-too-uncommon leap from row2 to row3 that makes David Seah unique, right? That is your “positioning statement” if you will. Therefore, don’t diminish the impact by changing the order of dots in row2. Leave that to row3, which is clarifies that “insight + ideation” is what you really offer, not simply graphic design.


  2. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Doug: Well said! Thanks for sharing your own thoughts on this, your comments are immensely valuable!

    So you see the weird whitepsace too? It does seem like it should be closer together, but I couldn’t tell you why other than for some kind of space consistency. Then I’d have to look for opportunities to repeat that space / proportion at least once to really make it feel good. Worth looking into, I think!

    Regarding insight, ideation, inspiration: I think you’re right in that it suddenly takes on the “rule of 3” tagline form that people automatically reject. Staying with TWO might actually be the way to do it now. That’s an interesting idea in itself. One is also a little glib sounding, but two at least invites people to clank the ideas together themselves and come to their own conclusions. Three is a crowd :-)

    I like that observation you’ve made on the middle row and order of dots. I originaly did have them all the same order, but I didn’t like the way it looked. I also thought that the design process does take the courage to move things around, which is why I chose to have the order change; if they were all the same order, then that seemed too contrived to me. I think it would be interesting to make the middle row alternating colors, which might more strongly speak to organization of elements, though it may look overpowerly ordered because of the pattern. I should look at it anyway, because that’s one variation I didn’t try. I’ll add on a couple variations and see how they look.

  3. Doug 17 years ago

    Yes, I can visualize what you mean about leaving row2 in the original order. Hmmmm. Okay, let’s get crazy for a minute… what if you left row2 as it is, with regard to order of colors but worked to highlight the relationship between row3 and yourself? Row3 and David Seah shouldn’t be juxtaposed, but in apposition.

    How do do this? [crazymode=on]
    * Alter the spacing between rows to suggest a grouping of row3 with David Seah, relating the final portion (especially) of the graphic as relating to the person. Such grouping help balance the whitespace, too, though it might just exaserbate the issue.

    <li>or, leave row1 and row2 where they are, and move your “offering…” text between row2 and row3 so that row3 and David Seah and “insight+ideation” become more of a single, consonate idea.</li>
    <li>or, lighten the tint of row1 and row2 so that row3 stands out as primaryily the “message”.</li>
    <li>or, combine any of the above</li>
    <li>or, ???</li>



  4. Joan 17 years ago

    I like it.
    I wouldn’t worry about the white space, it gives you a place to scribble down something at the moment, which I find I’m often doing when someone hands me a biz card.

  5. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Doug: Good ideas! I had briefly considered something like that too (grouping that last row more directly with my name in some fashion). I’ll have to try that variation, but my gut feeling is that by leaving the emphasis on the group as a whole, with my name adjacent to it, tells a more interpretation-friendly space for people to think in. I like its ambiguousness in that sense, inviting mental patterns to form in the viewer’s mind without me getting in the way. I think I would lose that if I emphasizes row 3 + name, and end up with more of a direct statement that is just a shade too overt. That said, I won’t know until I try it :-)

    Joan: Thanks! The issue I was thinking about the white space isn’t whether to have it or not, but whether it should be slightly smaller to improve the overall balance.

  6. Joan 17 years ago

    Yeah, I looked at it, thought what it might look like
    “evened out”, and thought it was more intentionally brave to let it be.

  7. Liz I 17 years ago

    Nice job. It’s clean and elegant and “snappy” and the circles are so you!

    But, ideation? That word just puts me to sleep. Yeah, I know it’s “the process of forming ideas or images” but I just think most readers/clients will either not be sure what it means or not care what it means.

    I realize other possibilities might sound a little “dippy.” But better dippy than yawn inducing.

    What about “imagination”. I.e., Insight + imagination. ???

    Because you are selling your thinking-imagining aren’t you?
    And you already have “design” in your subtitle.

    Now, about that subtitle. Lose the extra words. Don’t say “offering”. For one thing, you don’t want anyone to (unconsciously) focus on you just offering, do you? Don’t you want to be accepted? To get clients? And business cards need to be concise. Don’t waste words. Just say “information graphics and interactive design”.

    Finally, the white space works because that white space or negative space is strong enough to balance the positive forms of your two text blocks. That said, the top text block (with your name) really, really wan’s to come down just a nudge or two. The negative space between the last row of dots and your name is just the tiniest bit stingy and really wants to be a tad larger. You’ll still have a nice asymmetry, and you’ll still have a powerful white space. It will just be a tad smaller and the overall design will look stronger.

  8. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    Liz: Thanks for the great feedback! Great comments on the choice of words, whitespace. Here’s my thoughts:

    I like “ideation” better than “imagination”…the imagination word to me sounds more dippy, because a lot of people say they have it (the word “empowerment” also has that connotation to me, though I believe in it also). On the other hand, you’re right in that it probably a better keyword for a broader audience. That assumes, of course, that I want that broader audience. I don’t want “most readers”, I want “the right readers”. Whether ideation is the differentiation word that does that is up for debate, so I probably should probably ask around. The kind of design I’m offering on this card is probably more of the foundational pragmatic kind…I’m working on an article to explain the difference there, which would also explain our different stances on design == imagination (it does not always equate). So yeah…a little yawn inducing here, but to a certain audience it may not be.

    “Offering” … I originally did have it as just “information graphics and interactive design”, but added those words deliberately to make it sound a bit more personable. I am offering tangible skills to you. That is what I want to convey, using that single word. It is an important aspect of my personality, and I wanted that to show. It’s a little less mainstream in thinking, but again I am willing to lose a little market share if I can strike the right chord with a smaller crowd. People who value the sentiment are the ones I want to reach. I don’t think it’s wasted.

    Finally, I agree with you on the white space…it IS a tad “stingy”. I was torn on how close to move those letters to the implied box of the orange dots, and (as doug suggested) be grouped more closely with that LAST line. I think as it is, I should sacrifice that closer association with the last line because it’s waaay too subtle, and go for the bigger win of visual balance. That big white space actually is a bit too dominant, I think, and overshadows my name. It is, as someone I showed it to said, almost the first thing you see, not the text.

    So that’s my two additional cents…I applaud your reasoning for all your comments; I am deliberately choosing to limit audience with those choices.

  9. Dave Seah 17 years ago

    I just posted an updated image with adjusted whitespace…thanks again for the comments Liz! Not enough? Too much? I am starting to wonder if I should remove the offering line now…gah! :-)

  10. Liz I 17 years ago

    Well, I like the newer version, with the “tad” (technical term!) more white space.

    It is a very subtle change, but yeah, I think it looks better.

    You’re right, “imagination” is difinitely on the “dippy” end of the spectrum. If “ideation” is too stuffy, “imagination” is too generic and unspecific.

    More importantly, you have good reasons for your word choices.

    “Offering”is a beautiful (and generous) word, so offer away!

    Really, it’s a good design: crisp and clear and with the added delight of that little organizational “narrative’ with the dots.

  11. Liz I 17 years ago

    David, and all, at BLDG BLOG (bldgblog.blogspot.com/), check at the business card as portable garden! This landscape architect’s card is impregnated with seeds, and when they sprout, they create a micro-terrain. There’s a great visual contrast between the order of the site plan which is the background image on the card and the structured disorder of the sprouted seeds.

  12. Alex Young 15 years ago

    I think the David Seah bit should come down a little more so that the white space is even between all elements on the page. This would make the unsettling white space, as someone already mentioned, seem a little less unsettling.

  13. Jameson 15 years ago

    I don’t agree with that. The white space clearly separates the title from the contact information, you don’t want those things occupying the same space as a general design rule.