[Nancy Wu] It started off innocently, collecting cards from classmates and design professionals for inspiration and print possibilities. Eighteen years and 600-plus cards later, my obsessive desire to continually learn and collect has never waned. I’ve always been a fan of print and the tactile details that I discovered as a design student. I learned as much as I could, knowing that if the specialty print or letterpress opportunities didn’t come, I could still savor and appreciate them. An outgrowth of that hunger was my business card collection.
It has come in handy to show a printer, a creative director or a client a real-world sample of what can be achieved — proof that you can execute something that is deemed impossible. My collection was built from working at some outstanding places, creatives I’ve met in person or already know, or simply writing a polite request by snail mail or e-mail. Here is some of my collection, focusing on designs that are not your standard 2 x 3.5-in. paper card.
When I met Stefan Sagmeister at his last visit in Vancouver, he asked me if I’d like his autograph. Instead, I asked for his first business card, the classic S-slider card. Stefan laughed, impressed that I knew about it, and observed that I was indeed a follower of his work. (He noted that he designed other versions from the low-tech handwritten e-mail one, which I got in 2003, to the blue pop-up one — which I don’t have but have seen.)
The S-slider was his very first project upon opening up shop in NYC in 1993 and has proven to be a constant favorite, demonstrating its lasting power and his classic way with interactivity. The card is presented as a clear plastic sleeve with lines printed on the inside front, matching up with a paper card inside. As you slide it out on the right side, the moving lines create an optical illusion while his studio’s contact information is revealed in the outer ring.
His low-tech card speaks for itself and was printed on a cheap, thin, glossy stock.
This card created by Rethink knocked me out when I first saw it in 2003, plus it has a great concept too. (Rethink’s card designs always start with great ideas and are often made of things other than paper: metal, wood, foam, sandpaper, meat….) Rep Art is a Vancouver-based agency representing commercial illustrators and photographers from across North America. This card promoting Rep Art’s services is a nod to old-school drawing templates and is precision-cut out of green plastic for authenticity. And yes, it actually works great.
Another Rethink design (from 2008) features iconic graphic illustrations by Von Glitschka. Kolachy was a unique Vancouver-based shop that served homemade soups and whole wheat buns stuffed with savory fillings (it closed this past August). Each card back features tiny illustrations for every flavor offering and uses a die-cut red tone-on-tone sleeve to showcase one of many delicious filling options.
Suburbia Advertising in Victoria, British Columbia, created the first hard plastic business card I’d ever seen. An agency specializing in retail clients, this card concept coincided with a 2005 rebrand launch, and was produced like a real credit card with embossed silver type, magnetic strip, signature strip and all. Designed by Martin Aveyard, it took three weeks turnaround (produced by www.signaturecard.net), but they pulled it off in terms of authenticity and uniqueness.
Susur Lee is well-known in Canadian foodie circles as a top culinary and entrepreneurial talent. On a 2008 trip to Toronto, I visited the modern, trendy restaurant Lee and its higher-end counterpart, Susur (now renamed Madeline’s). As Susur (the man) is all about fine details and leaving a positive impression, his respective restaurants boasted cards that did the same. Lee’s business card has simple gold foil typography on a transparent magnifying substrate (to provide a sharp close-up view of the immaculate dining presentation). Conversely, the dark color and soft surface of Susur’s flocked card is as rich and subtle as sophisticated flavors, matching nicely with the restaurant’s dim interiors.
I admit I don’t know who created this card, nor have I even been there (yet). My friend Biren knew my love for cool creative cards and picked this up in 2008 from Dutil, a popular all-denim clothing shop in the Gastown area of Vancouver. The cream type screenprinted onto a frayed, off-cut piece of jean fabric is so simple and low-tech. It’s not a highly polished or refined design piece — which is part of its charm — but it is effective in that it communicates what the store specializes in with economy. Feels nice to the touch, too!
Would you believe: My precious card collection lives in black plastic sleeves or in an IKEA box for the oversized ones. I know — hardly glamorous compared to some (see Mohawk VP Laura Shore’s super-cute business card file here), but it does the job. My solution keeps the cards from getting beat up in handling, both sides are easily visible, it’s dust-free, and there’s no chance of the cards getting sun-bleached (like those blue posters seen in the windows of corner grocery stores).
Thanks a lot to the Felt & Wire team for the opportunity to share my love of business card design. Next up I’ll be sharing some letterpress and unique cuts (dieline, handcut, lasercut). If anyone would like to send me their creative cards for possible inclusion (sorry, they won’t be returned, and yes, they must be real printed samples), please contact me.
Nancy Wu is an award-winning designer, art director and illustrator with experience in the development of logomark & brand identity systems, packaging design, custom typography and print communications. She has over 18 years of design experience with established firms and her talents have been recognized by Communication Arts, Applied Arts, Lotus Awards, How and Identity.