2012 Business Cards, Round 2

2012 Business Cards, Round 2

A couple days ago I started working on new business cards, doing a bit of on-the-fly thinking to come up with an idea. Now, it’s time to do some refinement.

Here’s the image from Round 1:

Business Card Draft 1 Here are the new Round 2 tweaks, based on feedback from readers both on the site and on Facebook. Thanks for all the great comments!

Business Card Draft 2a AA: I’d changed the way the tagline looked, replacing the & with a +, and removing the spaces to make the line more compact. The use of a plus sign creates a compound word, sorta, instead of the “Sanford & Sons” association I have with the use of the ampersand. Plus, it just looks tidier to me. I like this.

C: This is a suggested tagline change. I actually tend to use this construct in my writing; it’s a habit I’m trying to break, actually because it’s “listy”. Great for ending a paragraph with authority. However, it spills to two lines, and makes the card just a bit too dense for my liking. I also feel that it’s somehow become less focused in the offering…are productivity, workflow, and learning all related? Sorta. It seems a tiny bit less credible than just having productivity+learning. Or workflow+learning, which might be better.

D: This is a change in the phrasing of the blue words, converting them from action verbs to categories of action. I don’t really like this, because it seems now that there are two conflicting hierarchies. Before, the blue words (deliberately less bold, and a cooler color) were intended to be descriptive of the process to the right. Now, they seem to be two systems that are implied to be related, but the linkage is not clear. Confusing, I think. But that’s just my interpretation. For all I know, my original diagram makes sense only to me.

Business Card Draft 2b E: It was suggested that I add a gradient. Usually I don’t like adding gradients to printed designs, because they’re tough to reproduce smoothly in paper and can be super-cheesy if overused. The gradient is one of the first things that a stuck graphic design student will do to a background to try to add some life and interest…it’s sort of like adding reverb to a bad recording, or using a synth pad to create atmosphere in a piece of techno. However, when applied subtly, it can add dimension and bring visual elements forward. And if I’m going to graphic designer hell, I might as well add a drop shadow! I applied a light one to just add a bit of dimensionality, and it does change the nature of the card…I kind of like it. So, I guess the moral of the story is don’t poo-poo the gradient until you’ve tried it. But do it after you have a strong layout concept, and are using it for a reason other than “filling empty space”.

There is a practical worry: the smooth gradients may look great on a screen, but they could break up into visible bands when it’s printed. The printer I’m considering for this run, 4over.com, is using process color, which ordinarily means that I need to be very careful about gradients. However, this printer is also using a 500-line screen, which means that the gradient pattern dots will be very tiny, and maybe will blend well. It depends on the resolution of their RIP, too, which is unknown. That determines the number of fine gradations that can be reproduced, unless they’re using a stochastic screen, which would eliminate the banding altogether. If I were really serious about this I would do my own stochastic black plate in Photoshop, but now I am really getting into the weeds.

Oh, this revision also has digital hearts, or what could be interpreted as heart. I didn’t feel they worked on the non-gradient designs because it creates more complexity in the interstitial spacing of the word boxes, which grabs our attention and breaks the flow of reading a little too much. I don’t want these to be focal points. I want them to attention guides that read once, then fade away from conscious sight.

F: One commenter said something about the text alignment being distracting. I wasn’t sure exactly what was meant, but this is one interpretation: the ragged left edge interfered with the flow of the card. So, flipping the graphic horizontally is one was of fixing that. I had deliberately reversed it, though, because I liked how the eye moved diagonally from the upper right to the lower left, taking a detour through the blue text. More eye movement is interesting. When I have the card laid out like this, you can just read straight down from top to bottom very fast which is…somehow diminishing. The original layout is like an IKEA store, which makes you wander through a maze so you see everything. The flipped layout is like straight slide, and it’s more difficult to catch the blue words the first time around because your eye is being pulled down that left edge so fast.

Incidentally, this card does have verbiage change to seek inspiration, which I didn’t think would work but it actually IS much better. Gotta see things in context, sometimes.

G: This is another interpretation of the alignment comment. I left-justified the text in the boxes and then was forced to move the diamonds. I really don’t like this layout.


  1. Kel 10 years ago

    David, what if you take E and left-justify the blue text ?

  2. Author
    Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Kel: I’ve avoided it because I thought that the uneven spacing between the brackets and the words would look bad. But I should give it a try. Maybe I could use guide lines to compensate.

    • Kel 10 years ago

      I see your point but I think ragged left is more disconcerting than ragged right. It might not need guidelines at all…

  3. michael bells 10 years ago

    looking good. I would right justify “web, email, skype” and the left justify the contact info

    • Kel 10 years ago

      Michael, you’ve raised a good point – my own taste runs towards left justifying “web, email, skype” and then left justifying the contact info, but that’s just me.

  4. CCN 10 years ago

    I like F so far. Better flow.

  5. Author
    Dave Seah 10 years ago

    I’m thinking of pushing a 100% left-align version to make the left as strong as possible, just to see what it’s like.

    On a side note, I tend to like lines that meander down the page (hence the original layout) because I prioritize on contrast, then proximity, then line when doing my visual coding. Ideal eye scanning pattern for me is a diagonal or saccade-friendly pattern between 2 or 3 anchor points…this might be more appropriate for a poster-size design, though, than for a business card.

  6. CR 10 years ago

    I don’t like F. I agree that it’s too friendly to the eye so you glance right over it. I remember reading somewhere that if you want to look for something you scan right to left because reading teaches us to group up items for summary. I feel the bracket pointing the other direction helps counter this. Also this makes the blue Value words the focus by placing them to be the first things you would read naturally.

    I really like the + over the &, however I still like workflow over productivity. I’m not sure how I feel about performance, but by first instinct says it feels more generic.

    “Seek” feels much more active to me and thus fits the other two active Values better in my mind. I prefer it hands down over “Be”

    I like the digital heart design and how it feels more directive from a higher vantage point. I could take or leave the gradient. I think it looks fine both ways.

    I agree that the justification on the contact info feels haphazard. I think that any combo of justification could fix this, or maybe staggering the spacing off to make it more intentional. Like:

    web __email ____skype

    The order could also be played with to get a more intentional look, but is there an implied preference of method of contact or importance by the order on the card?

  7. Kristin 10 years ago

    I like so many things you did with E, it just pops! Provided it will print cleanly of course. I made the comment about alignment for the first set and I apologize that I was not clear. It was the bold contact prompts with your actual info not being lined up hyat bothered me, I think what CR may also have been saying and I agree with his/her statements here.

    Your blue term adjustments rock. The digital heart is much better than the red ones, it might be worth pursuing. Did you try another lighter value for the color when you tried without the gradient?

    Fine work.

  8. DRB 10 years ago

    I like the verbiage change. For me (as a writer), it flows better because you’re using active verbs and verb-object parallel structures for each blue-text label.

    I like “F” the best. As I read it (left-to-right), I see the boxes encapsulating “what I do” and the labels “why I do them”. Great work!

  9. Author
    Dave Seah 10 years ago

    CR: Great comments…very much in line with what I’m thinking. I’m not really sure about the digital hearts, though…maybe it will become clearer in the next, hopefully final round.

    Kristen: I didn’t try a lighter color…it actually is a lighter color, I think, but only slightly. I forget, though :) If I go with the digital hearts I might lighten them considerably. It might be a secret detail, these digital hearts, because I don’t think the first assumption will be “heart”…it will be “fancy arrow head”. Because of that, I ‘am thinking I should just stick with triangular arrowheads because it’s just simpler. Maybe the design goes on the back of the card, but I don’t think it’s strong enough to stand on its own. So many issues!

    DRB: “Verb-object-parallel structure”…THAT’S WHAT IT’S CALLED!!! Thank you! :)

    My overall thoughts:

    I’m thinking of making a variant of AA, with verbiage change “SEEK INSPIRATION”, and addressing the justification issues on the contact information.

    As much as I like the popping of E, I personally don’t really like to “pop”, so I think it’s not for me. I tend to like flat color. I may use a very subtle gradient color, and do some color and hue tweaks here and there to balance their weights (thick text, for example, reads darker as thin text even when using the same color).

    Perhaps a next exercise would be to create the super over-the-top version. I almost never do that so it would be a good stretch.

  10. Author
    Dave Seah 10 years ago

    One last thought:

    The “Productivity” versus “Workflow” debate rages within me too.

    Productivity has both positive and negative connotations for me. Its main draw is that it’s a recognizable term that more people understand. On the other hand, I think productivity as a term has fallen from favor in recent years because of the surge in productivity-oriented content, followed by audience burnout.

    Workflow sounds a little better to my ear, but so does “investigative designer”; both terms evoke curiosity because they’re a little mysterious and process-oriented. It combines the word “work” (which seems to be a current focus in the productivity-related realms on the web) with “flow” (shades of Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi?) But I don’t know if people really know what it means (“Do I want a workflow? What?”) and it sounds like something people already think they have and do well enough; challenging that is a negative draw. If I substitute the phrase “breathing specialist”, people reading that might think, “Oh, I already know how to breathe well enough”. What it is really is “optimal breathing specialist”, which raises the sense of curiosity and creates desire. This latter is what “productivity” shares with “optimal breathing specialist”; “productivity” is “optimal workflow”. But I don’t do optimal workflow.

    Which gets me to learning…ultimately, the things I do fall on that diagram: explore, learn, build, share. It’s the complete cycle, though, that gives me the energy to keep doing it. Building and sharing is an important part of it.

    Which makes me think that what I’m trying to say in the tagline isn’t quite thought out enough.