We’ve collected the most beautiful, distinctive and offbeat business cards from creatives around the country. See how these designers make a great first impression.
In HOW’s December 2007 issue, we showcase 26 business cards that each caught our eye, whether it was because they made us laugh or because we couldn’t resist picking them up and admiring their tactility. Here we take that a step further as the designers behind the cards share the stories behind creating each one.
The Chopping Block
Design: The Chopping Block team
Printer: Printing Concepts
The Chopping Block crew has a bit of a reputation for changing up their identity on a regular basis. “We’ve wanted to be robots for, like, 5 years,” says principal Matthew Richmond. “After the other themes, it seemed like a good next step, and They Might Be Giants wrote us a robots theme song.” Previous themes have included Nascar, horror, NASA, Boy Scouts and orange farmers. But even with a great sense of humor, these cards serve a serious function. “They’re fun, folks like to collect them, people get excited and sometimes start complaining about their own cards,” Richmond says. “They make people want to work with us. Our cards are a force for good.”
Jason Santa Maria
Designer: Jason Santa Maria
Printer: Jason Santa Maria
Paper: 100% Cotton Rives off-white
Designer Jason Santa Maria’s card is both humorous and handmade. Santa Maria used traditional wood type to letterpress print his name across an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. He then designed a polymer plate with his contact information and eight different sayings. Each message—from “sleeps with his eyes open” to “once sneezed 28 times in a row”—is followed by an asterisk, which leads to a line on the back of each card reading, “he’s also a graphic designer.” When cut apart, Jason’s wood type name becomes an elegant typographic form on the cards.
Designer: Ian Bailon
Printer: Canon i9900
Paper: Red River 50lb. Premium Matte
A recent grad of the communication design program at the University of North Texas, Ian Bailon needed a card to catch the eye of potential employers. “I knew I wasn’t going to make something that was just plain or safe,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to work at a place that was plain, I guess.” So Bailon went with humor, creating two cards with two similar illustrated self-portraits. One card shows Bailon making a “call me” gesture with his hand. In the other, Bailon points to a blank space on the card. “This is so I could write whatever needed to be said,” he explains, “whether it was ‘graphic designer,’ ‘art director’ or even ‘your next potential date.”
Designer: Jason Tselentis
Paper: vintage Star Wars cards
Printer: laser-printed labels
When designer Jason Tselentis moved from Seattle to Charlotte, NC, in 2005, he came across his original Star Wars trading cards in his basement. In a flash of inspiration, he dusted them off and used the cards as a quick way to give clients and prospects his new contact information. “I still enjoy flashing four or five cards and watching people choose one,” Tselentis says. “They smile ear to ear.” He’s also discovered that people remember the cards weeks and months later. “Typically, men take characters from The Dark Side,” Tselentis says, “and women grab Princess Leia. I wonder who they would pick if I used some of my Garbage Pail Kids cards?”
3 Dogz Creative
Creative Directors: Dave Gouveia, Chris Elkerton, Roberta Judge
Designer: Dave Gouveia
Printer: Cumberland Press
Paper: Mohawk Navajo
With a name like 3 Dogz, it’s no wonder that clients often asked the firm’s partners, “Which dog are you?” When it came time to update the 3 Dogz brand, the partners kept that in mind, deciding to focus on what made each team member unique by assigning each one a different dog breed: a chihuahua, a lab and a bull terrier. “The thought of doing a circle card appealed to us right from the beginning,” says partner Roberta Judge. The design capitalizes on the firm’s logo, three circles with a different dog in each one. Despite their fears about the production issues involved with a round card, the partners decided it was worth the risk. “The uniqueness of the circle card outweighed any production concerns,” Judge says.
Jessica Van Horn
Designer: Jessica Van Horn
Printer: Canon i9900
Paper: Papersource-Cement, cover
“In addition to print design, I also design for the web, take my own photography and make jewelry and handmade books,” says the multitalented Jessica Van Horn. So her business card had to be multipurpose to capture her varied interests. “I combined a formal grid structure on the front with a more playful antique illustration on the back,” she explains. “This card represents an elegant design nature rooted in simplicity with lots of old soul flavor.”
Designer: Brady Vest
One of the benefits of being a printer is that you can find inspiration in the colors and papers lying around the shop. “Sometimes our color choices, particularly for work we do for ourselves, are totally random,” says Brady Vest of Hammerpress. “It really comes down to what ink we might have leftover on the mixing palette and that’s where we start. Usually the choices for other colors are based on that first choice.” For this oval card, Vest also reached for a die left over from a previous job. Not that he doesn’t take his business cards seriously. “I think that business cards are one of the only little pieces of paper ephemera that we still use on a regular basis and look at with some amount of importance,” he says.
Designer: Angela Ferraro-Fanning
Printer: DWRI Letterpress
Paper: Mohawk Superfine 100lb. Cover in eggshell finish
With lovely typography and intricate letterpress printing, the 13.thirty.one card stands out simply because it’s fun to look at. “I think they’re great because they combine the texture of letterpress printing with a clean, vintage style,” says principal Angela Ferraro-Fanning. “I get compliments on them all the time.”
Designer: Josh Gleim
Printer: Pomco Graphic Arts
Paper: Neenah Environment Duplex Cover in Desert Storm and Alpaca
The Studio at Kathy Davis is one of three brands under the Kathy Davis Studios umbrella, a design firm that licenses original art for use in the social expression and gift markets. When The Studio was first launched, designer Josh Gleim created a new card as part of a complete identity package. “This card needed to showcase the diversity of talents within The Studio and feel unique to prospective clients,” explains John Mavrakis, executive vice president/COO. In order to include a collage of work on the back of the card, the designer spec’d a duplex paper, sandstone against white.
Designer: Eric Kass
Paper: coated cover with satin film laminate
“Thoughtfully created business cards not only increase and enhance business by providing the obvious functional information and brand extension, but can even become precious brand souvenirs of people, places, products and events,” explains designer Eric Kass, who’s known for the creative cards he designs for clients. For his own card, Kass was inspired by dilapidated roadside typography, mundane printed ephemera and vintage printing techniques. “Specifically, the decorative brackets are the remnants of an old children’s shoe store sign photograph,” he says. “And the subtle naturally aged herringbone texture on the back of the card is from a leftover store sales insert discovered behind a photo in one of my great grandmother’s decades-old frames. I wanted the design to embrace contradictions, feeling decorative but everyday, considered but happenstance.”
Designer: Jason Carreiro
Printer: Sioux Printing
Paper: Mohawk Superfine 130lb. Cover in Ultra White
“I wanted a shape that would accentuate the ‘loop’ concept, and a simple circle just wasn’t cutting it,” explains designer Jason Carreiro. He chose a droplet shape because it has a natural visual end point. “I also wanted to use a custom die to inspire clients to experiment with more ambitious printing techniques,” he says. Carreiro also notes that he’s received a lot of positive feedback about the “handle tip” that people can use to insert and extract the card from their wallets.
Designer: Bryan Jay Delfin
Printer: Studio Graphics Philippines
Paper: C2S 180 with matte lamination
The Bloat & Ogle design team, based in the Philippines, wanted a card that would stand out once it got mixed in with a pile of everyone else’s. They also wanted it to reflect their culture: fun, flowing and flexible. “So we came up with a card with rounded corners, lots of curves and slanted text for the contact details,” says principal Mia de Lara. “It’s been well-received and has been an ice breaker when we introduce ourselves to new clients.”
Red Circle Agency
Designer: David Maloney
Printer: Bolger Concept to Print
Paper: Fox River Paper Co., Evergreen-Hickory 80lb. cover
Designer David Maloney chose muted hues and natural papers for the card for this Native American-owned advertising agency. The eyelet is hand-set in the corner so that the top part of the card can rotate freely without feeling too loose. “The card gets a great reaction from everyone it’s handed to,” Maloney says.
Studio Nine Creative
Designer: Jeff Nine
Printer: Select Impressions
Paper: Classic Crest Smooth 130lb. Cover in Avalanche White
“This card works well because of its distinctiveness. People are getting used to seeing cards that are short-cut or have rounded corners,” says principal Jeff Nine, “but people aren’t used to this kind of die-cut.” In fact, the Studio Nine card had the most unique shape of any business card submitted for this story.
Designer: Mark Sanders
Paper: French Speckletone 100lb. Cover in Kraft
The Q Collective business card is designed to send a specific message. “It’s important to us that the card shows we are innovative and capable of creating uncommon graphic design that stands apart,” says principal Sandie Maxa. To send this message, the firm introduces 30 new color combinations each year, printing the logo on stickers that can be affixed to the cards. “Using the stickers allows us to inexpensively add dramatic color to each card, communicate our hands-on process and even start a conversation,” Maxa says. “I usually carry several cards in my wallet and give the recipient a choice of which color they’d like.”
Art Director: Andrew Hladkyj
Designer: Alison Garnett
The design firm name Supercapacity was inspired by large-load washing machines, so it made sense to design a waterproof business card. “The company name plays into our credo of clean design/clean code,” says art director Andrew Hladkyj. It also relates machine wash cycles (pre-wash, wash, rinse, spin) to their design process (research, design, production, testing/pre-press). In the end, the super-clean card turned out to be a great conversation starter.
Designer: Catherine La Haye
Printer: Completement Litho Paper: Reich Paper Shine 80lb. Text in Pearl; PC Film 20pt. PCVE Velvet Smooth Clear for the card
Montreal-based firm Cellule Design was inspired by stem cell research when designing its unique business card. “Each card presents a different cell sample, as if extracted from the individual,” says creative director Stephane Leathead. The clear cards slip into protective sleeves, which include the firm’s mailing address and fax number.
Designer: Joe Price
Printer: The Graphic Touch Letterpress Co.
Paper: Half the run was printed on 145lb. French paper, the other half on thick chipboard
“The design is inspired by the ’50s and ’60s,” says designer Joe Price about his heavy-duty business card. “To me it feels creative without relying on the latest design trends. I wanted to use interesting paper stock and have it letterpress printed to be tactile as well as visual.” Price says that he reserves the thick version of the card, printed on chipboard, for contacts in the creative field. “I often hear them say something like, ‘Wow, you could hurt someone with this card,'” he jokes.
Designer: Ric VanSickle
Printer: H&H Graphics
Paper: .020 clear PETG (Polyethylene Terepthalate Glycol)
Designer Ric VanSickle originally developed the concept for a clear card as part of a grad school project. When he started his own company, Plan B-The Agency Alternative, he remembered the impact the project had and decided to adapt it for his fledgling firm. “I decided to convert the concept to represent the transparency of our operating model, as well as the openness of our culture,” VanSickle says. “And, of course, to be initially impactful and ultimately memorable. It also reflects our appreciation for clean, simple, somewhat minimalist graphic design.” VanSickle notes that this simple card has turned out to be “one of our most consistently effective self-promotional tools.”
Designer: Julie Friedman
Printer: Printer: Pinball Publishing
Paper: 120# Chipboard Cover
Designer Julie Friedman had two goals in mind when she set out to design a business card for herself. One, it had to coordinate with her portfolio box-an untreated wood artists’ case lined with bright red fur. And two, it had to be something she wouldn’t be sick of looking at in six months. “I love how all of the textures work so nicely together,” she says. “And most important, it’s been six months and I still love the card.”
Inky Lips Press
Designer: Casey McGarr
Printer: Inky Lips Press
Paper: Mohawk Strathmore Writing 130lb. Cover in Ultimate White Wove
The main goal of this card for McKinney, TX-based Inky Lips Press was to get people to ask about the printing (a three-color letterpress job with hairline registration). “It’s a bit goofy, it’s friendly and it has a unique name and tagline,” says designer Casey McGarr. “When someone asks for another one of my cards, that’s when I know it’s working.”
Designer/Printer: Julie Mader-Meersman
Paper: French Dur-o-Tone 80lb. Cover in Butcher; various other papers
Julie Mader-Meersman is an artist as well as a designer so she wanted her cards to reflect both. She letterpress printed her whole stationery system, gang printing the cards over a large background image, so that when cut out, each card is different. She also included collage fragments to make them even more special. “All of this contributes to the idea of originality, expressed in the studio name,” she says.
Designer: Max Kaplun
Printer: Canon ColorPASS Z3000
Paper: old Metropolis magazine covers
In an ingenious example of recycling, designer Max Kaplun turned a pile of old magazine covers into his business cards. This solution saved the recent School of Visual Arts grad a lot of money, while also saving a tree. “This way I can give something back to the planet,” he says, “after plundering for four years of graphic design school.”
Designer: Grant Unrau
“We realized that we give away relatively few cards,” says designer Grant Unrau. “Throwing out the regular cost and time equations, we gave ourselves permission to do something audacious.” So instead of just having the cards printed, Unrau does all the production work in-house, affixing memorable materials to the backs of the cards. The current substrates include cork and faux ostrich. “The main requirement for backing is that the texture needs to be obvious enough to grab you by the nerve endings and make you turn it over,” he says. “We rarely give out a card that doesn’t earn a double-take or a ‘wow.’ Maybe in some way this helps prepare prospective clients for unconventional solutions from us.”
Creative Director: Steve Sikora Designer: Jay Thiege
Printer: Tandem Printing
Paper: Neenah Classic Linen 80lb. Cover in Avalanche White
“On our identity system, Cherries, our office canary (since deceased), serves as a metaphor for design, and illustrates how design (or, more specifically, Design Guys) can help a business, or product, take flight,” explains design director Barry Townsend. The bird motif is also an integral part of the firm’s website where a paint-by-numbers image can be changed to suit the visitor’s color preference. The same image appears on the back of the business card and letterhead and also serves as the security pattern on the inside of the envelope.
Designers: Nelson Couto, Dan Stebbings
Printers: OmniColor Printing, Laser Excel (laser cutting)
Paper: Neenah Classic Crest
“As brand designers, we create points where companies touch targets,” says Fresh Oil principal Dan Stebbings. “For our business cards, we wanted to convey the relationship-facilitating role of our work through a solution that was visually ‘there but not there.'” This idea led the firm to a laser-cut logo, which took advantage of its stencil typography, as well as the hand-applied stickers with each employee’s contact information.
Blufish Design Studio
Designer: Aaron Oxborrow
Paper: Mohawk Via 100lb. Cover
The concept of this business card for Blufish Design Studio actually happened by accident. “I wasn’t happy with the initial layout of the cards,” says principal Matthew Hasher. “Out of frustration, I stuck a pencil through the middle of the sample card. The idea then came to die-cut a hole in the card where the eye of the fish would be and have it line up on the front and back of the card. The end result was to incorporate the hole into all of our stationery, thus creating a memorable identity package.”