Sean Adams’ Luxe biz cards: Joy, delight … sad places

[Tom Biederbeck] Sean Adams’ new business card designs for the MOO Luxe Project are evidence that, sometimes, when you muzzle your internal naysayer and pursue what you love, surprising things happen. Adams is the latest designer to offer his vision to this series of cards on Mohawk Superfine … and he’s using the occasion to raise funds for a cause close to his heart: Proceeds from the first month’s sales of these ultra-colorful, hip designs will go toward scholarships at Art Center College of Design, where Adams teaches.

First things first: As we’ve previously written, the Luxe Project from online printer offers HP Indigo-printed cards that fuse four layers of Superfine, a technique made possible by Quadplex technology developed in partnership with Mohawk. These cards are 600 gsm (32 pt), almost three times as thick as a typical card, and the Quadplex approach allows a seam of color to be embedded in the middle of the stock.

A color seam that shows up on the side of the stock can be specified in a range of colors. The fronts are printed with the buyer’s personal information (in this series, the type is Sabon).

Adams’ just-released collection comes in three flavors: Pattern & Color, Ships Ahoy!, and the only slightly tongue-in-cheek-titled Sad Places. All three series embody the wit that Adams and his colleagues at AdamsMorioka are known for, and feature art and photography he developed for this project. I spoke with him about his inspirations and his motives.

What’s the idea behind your Pattern & Color cards?
Why can’t a business card just be about joy? These designs were inspired by the paintings of Joan Miro, the sculpture of Harry Bertoia and the color palettes of Saul Bass. At first, I was concerned that there was nothing conceptual to them, that they were just patterns and shapes I like. I mentioned this to Noreen [Morioka, Adams’ co-principal at AdamsMorioka], who told me, “Don’t be an idiot. I love them.” She pointed out some work Saul Bass did for a matchbook company. I developed more patterns in that direction.

What about the Ships Ahoy! cards? Your enthusiasm for nautical themes is well known.
They were inspired by a kitchen towel from my grandmother’s house. I don’t mean I pulled them off a dish towel — I did draw them all myself! It started with Noreen saying to me, “I’d love to have business cards with some of those clipper ships on them. So I did one, and she said, “What about a sidewheel riverboat?” So I did one of those, and it went on from there and became a set.

Tell me about the Sad Places. By the way, I don’t find them sad — they’re more like a funky, roughneck, American vernacular you’d find in a down-at-the-heels neighborhood.
Most of these are photos of different places along Route 395, which goes up the back side of the Sierras. The images are of trailer parks, pickup trucks, abandoned houses, struggling businesses. Our work at AdamsMorioka is known for being upbeat and optimistic. These cards sort of stand that notion on its head.

With all three sets, I’d love to say I had some really clever, kick-ass concepts, but all Noreen and I could think of was, “What would we want?” I’d want cards with really cool patterns and colors. I’d want beautiful ship illustrations. And sad places — I’d love to hand out cards with sad places.

Sad or hopeful? You decide.

The cards are certainly colorful, and in that they’re characteristic of your work.
I started with the images, and once those were done I worked on the colors. There’s a single palette of five colors, and I did three color variations on each of the images. I wanted a unified look, not just a riot of colors, so the single palette is what ties everything together.

AdamsMorioka is also known for working on charitable causes, like your support for the AIGA Archives Vault. In this case, you’re donating proceeds to the Art Center Scholarship Fund. Why?
This was the number one reason I got involved in the project. The money will go to Graphic Design students at Art Center, where I’ve taught for a number of years. There are some incredibly talented students there, and I hate to see them struggle just to get from one semester to the next.

The second reason I got involved: Designers often complain about crowdsourcing and templates, but everyone should have access to great design. Not everyone can afford to hire a designer to do a business card — it gets cost-prohibitive. These cards are more affordable, and they’re superbly printed on amazing stock.

This has been a great opportunity for us to do work we really enjoy, and at the same time give access to them to people who use them to help their businesses. Why not? Design is like the oil in the gears of commerce. A business card creates that first impression, and you can’t underestimate how important that is.

They’re cards I’d want to pull out of my own wallet. You can think a concept to death. This was one of those times when design is about fun and delight.

Order your cards at They come in a swell box.

Sean Adams is a partner at AdamsMorioka, an AIGA Fellow and past president of AIGA, recipient of countless awards, an author and a teacher. His blog, Burning Settlers Cabin, has been named one of the top 10 international design sites. You can read his personal account of this project there.

We’ve previously written in Felt & Wire about MOO Luxe business card sets designed by Michael Osborne, Dan Rubin and Katie Barcelona.

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