"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Business Cards

Toby Roworth

Jun 25, 2013

Since buying large amounts of movable type I've been holding off getting business cards printed, as I planned to letterpress them. However, a couple of weekends back, when I had three gigs in one weekend, I got asked for cards enough times that I thought it prudent to whip some up. And by "whip some up" I, of course, mean painstakingly get them just right, make a small change before sending them off in a rush an, almost certainly, missing a massive kerning error.

The Design

The design is fairly simple, with the quote on one side and my details on the other.

I tried lots of approaches with the back, including variants with my roundel on, but in the end the quote on its own seemed best, with a bit of yellow to lift it. The typeface is Cala, as usual, as it's elegant, subtle and pretty - everything I'm not!

The front is fairly standard fare, featuring a bit of smallcaps and old-style figures because I like them. And Ubuntu makes its usual appearance on high-level text.
Interestingly the roundel seems to make people want to draw in the rest of the face, based on what nearly all my colleagues tried today - when WBHB becomes big enough to run competitions best portrait graffiti might be a keen contender!

Moo Review

Thanks to cunning marketing I gave moo.com the oportunity to print my business cards - their free sample service didn't do proper two-sided cards, which means this is an honest review of a service I actually paid money for.

Ordering Service

Information about size, file format and proof colours was readily available, although the InDesign template was pretty rubbish - apparently the bleed function is better replaced by a low-res picture of a border. This wasn't ideal, but as I wasn't letting them do the design for me it wasn't too concerning.
Once designed, uploading suitable PDFs was easy, with in-browser (basic) proofing tools available. This included a preview of the bleed extents, but the bleed was all coloured in purple, which was very unclear what it was showing, and seemed to obscure anything in the bleed area. Payment etc was easy and quick - in short the ordering process was very good, if not perfect for a control-feak designer.


Once ordered the cards turned up quickly in a nice box. This contained the cards themselves, dividers (to separate your cards from the swapsies) and a card with the order information on, along with a word game (companies have to be fun now, it would seem - maybe I'll do a whole post on why that somewhat annoys me sometime). The box had a pink sleeve round it with what was essentially advertising on. which was, thankfully, easy to remove, leaving a very professional-looking box.

Print Quality

Of course the best service design in the world means nothing if the cards turn out to be printed on old napkins with a 72 DPI potato print.
As an aside, my collegue also recently got business cards printed - with a name like Bright Potato, if there was ever an excuse for potato-printing business cards that was it.
The key thing I wanted was a proper black background - the type a home inkjet can't give you. The black quality was excellent, although it picks up greasy fingerprints easily. Before writing this post I did some washing up, and now the card I've been handling isn't really suitable to be given to anyone. This kind of deep black is what professional printing does best, and moo delivered.
The yellow stripes also came out quite well, both against the black and white sides.
However, the greys are a very different story. Once within about six inches the dithering shows up quite clearly on the rear side. On the front side, where the text is smaller, this starts to impact the quality of the text edges, to the point where I'd use words like disapointed. For reference they're CMYK renderings of Pantone Cool Greys 6 and 9, so these might be worth avoiding. I've noticed other companies struggling to reproduce greys adequetley too. I expect this is just a fact of digital printing though - see below for further thoughts!
Detail on some of the serifs was a bit tricky too. They sugested a minimum of 8pt fonts, so I was right down at the limit. hwne looking closely I realised that some serifs are missing entirely. At first I put this down to the dithering, but then I went back to my original artwork and got out the measuring tool. At 8pt the serifs are only 0.1mm wide, which is just under 4 thou[sants of an inch] . At 300DPI, this is only slightly over the size of a single dot (0.00333... thou), so it stands to reason that it might not print too well. This is a lesson worth learning - screens may be significantly lower resolution than their printed-media brothers, but 300DPI still leaves room for quantisation errors. Unfortunately this is quite hard to proof in the digital domain, without access to their printer driver.

The Future

The next iteration, hopefully due in October, will probably have a similar layout, but the main text will be letterpressed by me. Hopefully people will notice how much nicer they are, and give me lots of money/work/enjoyment/all-of-the-above as a result.
It would also be nice to get them offset printed, with proper spot colours. This will probably prove prohibitively expensive given how short my print-run would be, but one can dream!
What I'll probably end up doing it getting blanks printed, with the graphics on, and then letterpress over the top. Eventually I'd like to cast my rounded as a font (or maybe plate), but that's quite involved, and requires me to settle on a size to use it at every time I print it. It's times like this where I remember by digital typography is so nice.
I've also considered engraving a plate for the graphics (like the yellow lines) and pressing the type as a two-step process.
If anyone really wants a genuine Toby Roworth business card of their own, give me a shout. but if it were me, I'd wait for the MKIIs...