Monday, October 6, 2008

Obama - Biden campaign cards

Obama-Biden '08

The art is my original work, and I printed up 1000 of these business card size Obama - Biden '08 campaign cards to pass out during these last few weeks leading up to the election. Here's the file, and you are no longer welcome to download it - the election is over.

This file, is no longer available - the election is over.

If you would like me to have 500 or 1000 of these cards printed and delivered to you in the continental U. S., send me the money through PayPal (below) and I'll do it . . . for the next week or so. After that, there will not be enough time before the election to get them to you.



- 2 in. wide by 3.5 in. tall
- 14 pt. heavy gloss card stock
- 4 color process on one side - blank backside
- Gloss UV finish

500 cards for $29.00 (includes shipping)
1000 cards for $39.00 (includes shipping)
(Payment through PayPal)

Continental United States only, please.

Ships from Cleveland, Ohio.


Tom Fox
Carmen-Thomas Designs
1704 Brentmoor Lane
Louisville, Kentucky 40223

tomwfox at gmail dot com

Friday, May 30, 2008

Playing with pattern backgrounds

Creating repeating geometric shapes is a good way to spend those hours when neural activity is just too sluggish for anything else, or when you wish to give expression to your OCD within.

A pattern background can be the starting place for a business card design. This pattern is much too busy to be used as-is. There's no place to put your text so that it will be visible.

Translucent overlays are useful for creating room for contrasting text, but resist the temptation to do the conventional. There may be a time and a place for brown and rectangular boring, but I'd say it's an exception.

Combining the patterned background with overlaying translucency of various shapes, along with blurs, fades, filters and art, produces interesting results.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Introducing backgrounds

It's my best guess that many business card designers are still working within the technical restraints that existed in the color printing industry in the past. Solid colors are safe, and a smooth gradient fade is now technically possible.

But color printing technology has come much further than that. Intricate and subtle color printing is possible now. A bazillion interesting printed backgrounds are an easy and inexpensive way to jazz up even the most basic layout. Business cards can look better.

Maybe designers need less vector design and more raster design, and it's an Adobe Illustrator vs. Photoshop thing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Variation on a bizcard theme - 2

I suppose the natural tendency is to darken a dark photograph even more in order to create the necessary blank area for contrasting text. That's what I did in my prior sample, in Photoshop tip - variation on a theme 1

This, however, is my preferred variation:

Photoshop tip - variation on a theme 1

In my Cropping tips for business card design I started off with a big photograph and cropped it down to business card size, like this:

I've looked at more than a few business card templates that use a photograph as a background. Stock photography is useful, and it is easy. One common problem with using a photograph in a business card design is the need to overlay the photo with text. Although many stock photo compositions naturally provide an appropriate dark or light blank area for overprinting text in a contrasting color, many do not. The common solution I've seen other designers use in this situation is to select an matching color for a superimposed gradient fade. Like this:

The main problem with this technique is that it looks cheesy. It looks like someone spray painted over the right side of the photo. The transition from the organic texture of the photograph to the flat monotone of the gradient is obviously artificial.

One solution to this problem is this. Starting with the same green gradient fade to transparency shown above, switch the Photoshop layer mode from 'Normal' to 'Color Burn', and reduce the opacity setting for that layer.

I also duplicated the gradient fade layer, left the mode as 'Normal' and lowered the opacity setting. This is the result:

To my eye, this has a superior appearance. It looks like an unaltered photograph with a naturally occurring dark shadow area perfect for overlying white text.

Bodacious simplicity - letterpress

Letterpress printing is a holdover from the 19th Century, being kept alive by a small band of dedicated artists. Whereas offset lithography printing lays ink down on the surface of paper using rubber rollers, letterpress pushes ink coated metal type onto the paper under pressure. Letterpress literally creates indentations in the paper that you can see and feel. I'm sure that 100 years ago it was easy to find poorly designed and badly executed letterpress print jobs, it has since evolved into an art form. Nobody survives in the letterpress printing business these days except by being excellent.

Letterpress printing is not my thing, personally, except for a 3 month stint in 7th grade shop class many moons ago. Letterpress printing is very expensive compared to other printing technologies. 1000 business cards designed and executed for letterpress could reasonably cost $800, or more.

Yet, just looking at the beauty and artistry of letterpress printing on a fine thick cotton card stock fills me with appreciation.

The above sample was created by Erin McCall, who is Principal of Sunlit Media, a freelance graphic, web, and identity design firm and letterpress studio based in Vancouver, BC. See her post: Happy New Year! - Adventures in Letterpress

Sunlit Media | Graphic Design
5862 148th Street
Surrey, British Columbia

Tel: 604.572.3143
Mobile: 604.842.3143
Fax: 604.575.2235

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

No art of the business card

It was pure coincidence that the same day I wrote Basic narcissism of business cards, Guy Kawasaki was waxing enthusiastic about his new business card in The art of the business card.

Guy Kawasaki business card

If you don't know Guy Kawasaki, there is not much about this business card that tells you who he is, what he does, or why you should contact him. This card does not pass the "Would you pin this business card to your bulletin board just because you like to look at it?" test.

No. This business card looks like a garment tag.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Online printers

It has been an on-going project of mine to look at the scores of commercial color printers that advertise on-line, and to make some sense of it all. I've started a page that, for the moment, simply lists eight commercial color printing companies across North America with contact information.

Although I feel comfortable with each of the companies listed, and have done business with most of them, they are not equally suited for commercial color printing amateurs.

See the collection here: Commercial color printers and printing.

Business card mistakes

Nine months ago marketing expert and author Seth Godin listed seven business card mistakes.
  1. Don't print your own cards.

    I confess that I was obsessed with self-printing business cards for a number of years, mainly because digital color printing advanced faster than did commercial color lithography. Once the price of 1000 professionally printed color business cards dropped below $75, the incredible chore of producing good quality do-it-yourself business cards lost its appeal.

  2. Don't use big type for the address and contact info.

    I take this one step further and suggest moving the contact information to the reverse side of the business card. Double-sided printing is a minor additional expense

  3. Don't buy those color business cards with your face on them.

    One good reason not to put your mug shot on a business card is that's what everyone's business card has.

  4. Don't go with metal business cards.

    OK. No problem. This is not a fad that made it across the mountains alive.

  5. You might think it's a great idea to do a full color card with a big (lousy) picture on it. It's not.

    Photographs are popular because they are easy. Well, lousy photographs are easy.

  6. I like rounded edges.

    I like rounded edges too, but not necessarily on business cards.

  7. Margins matter.

    Seth Godin's design preference consistently runs to the minimalist. Sometimes pushing the margin is a useful design option. For another example of the style of business card Seth likes, look here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Six fractal based business card designs

Sorry, it is actually one less than six designs. I got confused.

These five fractal based business card designs were adapted from fractals created by Ben Gilberti a few years ago, and they are used with his permission.

Image of 6 fractal business card designs

Each of these designs is available for free download at the Bodacious Business Cards Group Home.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cropping tips for business card design

This is an advanced topic for Adobe Photoshop users.

Starting with an average size digital photo (3872 x 2592), composing and cropping the image down to business card size (615 x 1062)can be a challenge. To solve this problem, I created a Photoshop template with an outside border, an inner translucent border, and a transparent center rectangle. I copy and paste this template image into a separate layer in the digital image I'm working with, and I can move the business card sized crop frame around the larger image so I can easily visualize and select the business card composition.

For this example, I am using Dreamstime stock photo of Multnomah Falls, # 921724 by Polish photographer Leszek Wilk. This particular photo is available for free download from Dreamstime, subject to its Limited Royalty Free Licenses (RF-LL).

Multnomah Falls - photo by Leszek Wilk

The Photoshop business card frame file is created to VistaPrint business card technical specification. The file, vistaprint_frame-Horizontal.psd, is available for download, here. By copying the cropping template file image and pasting into the working photograph in Photoshop, the relative size and dimension of a business card is easily visualized, as seen in the image above.

Multnomah Falls - photo by Leszek WilkThe floating crop-frame can be repositioned anywhere on the larger image. The framed area of the photograph will be selected using the Photoshop selector tool to grab and copy an exact-sized copy of the photo.

Once you have framed the business card composition you like, use the Photoshop slector tool to grab both the transparent inner rectangle and the wide translucent white border of the crop frame. Then switch to the underlaying photo layer, copy the contents, open a new file, and paste. This is the result:

Multnomah Falls - photo by Leszek Wilk

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First VistaPrint business card editor tutorial

This is a walk-through of the basic text manipulation feature of the VistaPrint online business card design editor. Before actually practicing the steps in the live VistaPrint online business card design editor, you may wish to learn how to create and save a blank business card design template in your VistaPrint account by following the step-by-step instructions at Business card basics 101 on Squidoo

1. Add a text box
2. Resize a text box
3. Moving a text box
4. Text field options window
5. Enter your text
6. Open the text color selector
7. Basic text color options
8. Font size selector
9. Font typeface selector
10. Closing the text field box
11. Resizing the text box to the right
12. Centering the text box
13. Centering text inside the text box

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Political campaign cards: Obama cards

Two Obama cardsA business card is usually a rectangular piece of paper card stock with about seven square inches of printing space on each side. But, the beauty of the situation is that you can use the blank card stock to print fairly much anything you want, within the limits of imagination and good taste.

Color business cards are ideally suited to promote political candidates. These campaign cards are small, inexpensive, and can be handed out personally with great abandon. That is to say, profusely.

The reverse side of the the card can be printed with candidate biographical information, important voter information, a calendar of upcoming events, or inspirational quotes from the candidate's speeches. Think outside the business card.

Think small and think person-to-person. Color political candidate cards are targeted grassroots marketing. They are the opposite of big media blast advertising.

The Obama campaign cards shown here are not only suggestions to show what is possible, they are also free art created to the technical specifications and requirements of VistaPrint. In other words, you can download these files and send them to VistaPrint and have a few (250) or quite a few (thousands) printed up quickly and inexpensively.

However inspired the Obama campaign has been, it has missed a few neat tricks here and there. What every grassroots Obama supporter needs is a pocket full of Barack Obama mini-posters to hand out. Yes, they look like business cards and they smell like business cards, but they are really Obama-cards.

You have to be a self-motivated do-it-yourselfer, but the downloads are free and the printing is easy, courtesy of me and by blog Bodacious Business Cards.

Two Obama cardsFirst, download all or any of these business card design files to your computer:

Obama card 1 download

Obama card 2 download

Obama card 3 download

Then, send the files to VistaPrint for printing:

VistaPrint 80% discount business card link

Friday, May 9, 2008

Royalty-free photos from NASA

Some of the most fascinating photographs I've seen have come from the space program. NASA photo - astronaut on moonThis photo of a space-suited astronaut standing on the dusty surface of the moon, nearly 40 years ago, is a never-ending source of wonder for me.

One quirk of the U.S. copyright law is that photos produced by the U.S. Government are not protected by copyright. This means that anyone, including you, can use them for free.

I have used several of NASA's space photos to create 7 business card designs you can download and use as you wish. The links to the download files are on the Bodacious Group Home.

Obviously, you will have to add your own text.

NASA photo - view of planet MarsNASA photo - view of planet Earth from space

You can also find a great collection of NASA photographs here:

Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Earth Images
JPL terms of use

NASA Image Gallery
NASA terms of use

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

If you want it tomorrow, order it last week

It wasn't that many years ago that if you told a commercial printer you wanted your 4-color business cards next week, they would laugh in your face. The standard turn-around time for color printing was 21 days or three weeks, whichever happened first, not including shipping time.

Some parts, but by no means all, of the printing industry have modernized, have developed highly automated work flow, and can accommodate the desire for right now! results, but there is a premium price to be paid for it.

One of my favorite printers is Print Place in Arlington, Texas. Print Place is a highly automated low-cost printer with outstanding service. If you are savvy enough to know how to provide a commercial printer with the type of digital file that it requires, I recommend you take a look at it.

After the design work has been completed and a digital master is ready to be sent to the printer, there are two remaining components to delivery time: 1. The time the printer takes to complete the job, and 2. Shipping time. Print Place offers four different in-house turn around times ranging from five business days to one day. Print Place ships through FedEx, with its standard five, three, two, and next-day delivery times. Combining the printing time with the shipping time, we have a variety of time frames ranging from ten business days for receiving the print job, down to as quick as two days. Every reduction in delivery time results in an increase in cost, at your option.

The following graph shows the total printing and shipping cost for 1000 4-color business cards from Print Place for different delivery times after the job is submitted. As you can see, for two day delivery the cost of shipping exceeds the cost of printing. This example uses the shipping costs from Arlington, Texas where Print Place is located, to Louisville, Kentucky where I am located.

If you need 1000 color business cards in less than 48 hours, that too can be accomplished by using a totally different technology. Overnight color laser printing, at FedEx-Kinkos for example, is available, but the printing costs alone would be in the neighborhood of $130.00, without including any shipping costs.

When it comes to color business cards, "right now" is a possibility, but it is an expensive option.

Monday, May 5, 2008

If I were in residential real estate

I'm not in real estate, but I've known quite a few real estate agents over the years. I'd say that, as a group, real estate agents use the most boring, predictable, and nearly identical appearing business cards. The sheer tedium of real estate agent business cards is surpassed only by those used by lawyers and accountants.

If I were a residential real estate agent I'd have, in addition to my standard boring business card, a good supply of this card to stick in the door of every FSBO I passed. All my usual contact information would be printed on the back side of the card.

Rethinking business cards

After looking at thousands of business cards over a lifetime, a person has a good idea what they are, what they are for, and what to expect. A name, address, phone number, and various other methods of contact, with a logo perhaps or a photo of a grinning face, and there you have your basic business card. What more is there? When was the last time you were surprised and delighted by a business card?

I have a different way to look at business cards.

I see a business card as a blank two-sided canvas. With about 7 square inches per side, a business card presents a very small blank canvas to work upon, but its blankness stands as an open invitation to print anything I wish in any style I can imagine.

The utter sameness of the business cards I've seen over the years tells me that there is a vast unexplored gap between the unquestioned business card conventions and the untapped potential.

The small size, portability, and picayune cost of business cards make them a perfect marketing tool. The ideal is to have a "you gotta look at this" or a "put this one on the bulletin board" type business card. You can have seasonal business cards, holiday business cards, humorous business cards, pin-up girl business cards, special offer business cards, limited time business cards, and inspirational message business cards, or more.

This is much too good to keep to myself, so I started this blog to share my ideas.