On the creation of my contact (business) cards

2012-06-17

Recently I have been attending bikey and techy events/Meet Ups and have begun to find that I have a problem when it comes to easily and quickly transferring my contact information to someone. In the "mature" world of business this task is accomplished with the handing over of a "business card", and while I am looking to keep touch with people outside of work-related services I decided it was time for me to make an equivalent "contact card" of my own.

There are a lot of clever people out there who have taken the craft of contact or business cards to surprisingly creative levels, and while it is inspiring to see lockpicks, a trebuchet, or a functioning iris I think this is all overkill. For my part I want a card which I designed from scratch, that reflects my passions, and reinforces the connection with the card to me so the recipient can remember me later. I decided to include something bike related and a QR code pointing to my website's About page, I considered this appropriate since cyclists and tech-savvy folks are the most likely people I will hand one of these cards to.

Earlier last week I placed an order with Botanical Paperworks for their double-sided business cards that can be planted to grow wildflowers, and hopefully later this week I will be receiving them. This will be what I ordered to be printed on them:

Front of contact card. Back of contact card.
Contact card front and back.

I'd like to go a little in to the process of the design process I went through to create these cards, I had a lot of fun working on them and I'd like to think there are some elements which are interesting to share.

From the outset I decided the front of my contact card should have something that links me in the mind to the person I give it to, as well as some form of immediately useful contact information. I wanted the focus of the front of the card to be the link to me, and have the contact information be simple. My goal here was to keep it simple and clean to create an elegant appearance, the more visually smooth it is the more likely someone will remember it and link it back to me.

Featured prominently on the front of my card is the identifying component, the thing which will make people remember who it was that gave the card to them, the abstraction of a cyclist. I recently started taking basic drawing classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education with Douglas Kornfeld. The style focused on abstract, elegant curves. For my card I wanted to apply some of the visual appeal I started to appreciate from these classes which also reflects on of my major passions (and targets the second most likely group of people I will likely be giving my card out to, bike enthusiasts), here is what I came up with before starting my card design:

Cyclist drawing.
Cyclist drawing.

I later installed and began messing with Inkscape, a vector drawing program similar to Adobe Illustrator that is free and open source. In a couple of hours I watched a few tutorials and had begun dabbling with it enough to feel comfortable with my paper-to-digital adaptation. My drawing became digital, editable, and scalable:

Cyclist made with Inkscape.
Cyclist made in Inkscape.

At no point in this design process did I intend to put my phone number on my card. Here's the thing: I am an introvert, my most favored form of communication is face-to-face and very small group settings of, at most, a few individuals. I don't like talking on phones, they are barbaric and require syncing time away from other activities for both parties involved while each person remains in separate locations, possibly lacking privacy or even causing a disturbance to others who may be within earshot of the conversation. If I'm going to bother to sync my time up with others then I prefer to meet in person, and barring that I favor asynchronous communication like text messaging, e-mail, or Twitter. As for text messaging I opted to leave my phone number off since it's difficult to convey my discomfort with phone conversations while leaving open the option for accepting text messages. It takes an entire paragraph here to explain this facet of my introversion, and even in here I feel I'm abbreviating my reasons.

Of course the point of contact information on a card is to allow continued communication when not in direct human contact with the person. For brevity and economy of space on the card I came up with the idea of combining my Twitter handle and GMail e-mail address as for me it's the same handle with the '@' sign on opposite ends. Recently Twitter announced their new branding, and a quick image search provided me with the iconic symbol for GMail. Putting everything together provided something I found rather well balanced and succinct while providing enough information for most tech-savvy people to find usable (this is one of the more likely groups of people that will receive one of my cards, so I intentionally target their ability to recognize the branding). I first messed around with the concept in the GNU Image Manipulation Program, GIMP, to see how viable the concept was and if it would read well.

Twitter handle and GMail e-mail address combined.
Twitter handle and GMail e-mail address combined.

Between the hand drawn and digitally rendered cyclist I decided I wanted to create the cyclist with shapes that could be reused in another design, my initials DLK. I have come up with a way that I write my initals so that, when turned to the side, it looks like the basic shape of a human. I wanted to find a way to bring this concept to my card as a personal touch, and while I could have added clues that this reuse of shapes between cyclist and initials was intentional I decided the card design needed more whitespace and less clutter, so this tidbit I left for explaining in person or on this page.

DLK drawn. DLK drawn and rotated to look human.
Initials DLK drawn in marker.

With the rendering I made of the person on a bike I had a collection of shapes I used to construct my initials. This required some work and the end result is still imperfect, but for about two hours of tinkering in an image program I only just began to use I felt comfortable enough with the results and felt the effect was good enough for now. Time was a factor in trying to get these cards ready for handing out in upcoming events I already have planned to go to.

Bike with conversion colors added. DLK after conversion from bike, with colors added.
Conversion of bike drawing to DLK initials, with color guide.

The back of my card has both my initials and initials-as-a-human displayed, as well as a textual URL that matches the QR code. I used a freely available online QR code generator and placed a copy of my initials-as-a-human over top, this still functions as I wanted it to because the QR code has enough redundancy in the pattern that it can handle a certain amount of it to be obscured by the graphic. The back of the card is also where I wrote the instructions for growing the wildflowers the paper contains seeds for.

Which brings me to my finally decision of what my medium was going to be for the cards, the seeded paper material. I remembered reading about the existence of plantable-paper and was excited with the idea that something beautiful could be grown from my discarded card. I really like the idea of my card being used once to provide a continued connection, then the holder of the card would have me in an electronic address book and no longer need the card. In the near future I will work to make that even easier as I think I'll provide a link to a vcard on my About page for easy importing to electronic address books. After its first use the card may be useless for assisting with contacting me, so I wanted to add a secondary purpose to the card's existence while also bringing some amount of joy to the holder of it. If you receive my card, please plant it and let it grow, maybe the flowers will be a pleasant reminder of me and I would be quite happy about that.

Prev << Thoughts during my analysis of flight N48DL

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