By Nina Interlandi Bell – Guest Blogger
As a graphic and web designer, I think a lot about presentation. I believe that first impressions are important, and that little things can provide clues to potential contacts about your personality and how you do business. Little things like business cards can say a lot about your attention to detail, your ability to recognize the value of good design, and even how “plugged in” you are to current trends. I’m not saying that your precious 2″ x 3.5″s are the end all be all of your networking skills, but I absolutely believe that a well designed card can make you stand out from the pack.
Important as the design itself is, textural paper and print quality are perhaps even more interesting. Human fingertips are the second most sensitive parts of the body (after the tongue, but I don’t think you want people licking your cards), so why not give people a little something extra to lodge in their sense memories? I specialize in letterpress printing, so I must admit I’m somewhat biased when it comes to texture. The first time I felt my letterpress printed wedding invitations several years ago, the words deliciously sunken into the paper, I was sold. I have actually watched people stand at a networking event for a half an hour as we chatted, running their hands over and over my cards in sort of a trance. My cards immediately present a discussion topic, even to people who wouldn’t normally take any notice of print material. Things get even more interesting when I tell them that some of the paper is recycled from my junk mail or made from post-consumer cotton fabric, the inks are vegetable based, and my printing process is eco-friendly. I’ve had people tell me they like to keep my cards around because they’re like miniature works of art.
Letterpress printing has been around since about 1400, and was the primary method for the print industry until it was replaced by offset in the early 20th century. The presses themselves, giant behemoths made of cast iron and gears, aren’t even made anymore. It’s a matter of will and determination to find them, restore them, learn to print with them, and maintain them. The results, however, are definitely worth the effort. For each print I do, a plate is inked with rollers, the paper is placed by hand into the press, cranked to imprint against the image, and then trimmed to size. If a print requires more than one color, the press is cleaned, re-inked, and another pass is done using the same piece of paper. The result is a much more tactile experience. When you hold a letterpress business card in your hand, you can feel the impression the artwork has made into the paper. It feels like something special. Not just any paper receives a deep impression well, so letterpress pieces are frequently printed on exceptionally thick, soft stocks.
The bottom line is, if you’ve found a way to get people looking at your business card and remembering you more than the other guy, you should take advantage of it. I’m not talking about a funny shaped card that can be awkward, a cheeseburger scented card, or giant neon popout print. A subtle texture, impressive use of negative space, and a sensuous cotton paper are sometimes all it takes to get someone’s attention. Letterpress printing isn’t the only option, but a good design and proper print choices are essential. I find that the people I enjoy doing business with the most are the ones who are really good at what they do, and can also recognize when it’s time to pay someone else for their expertise in another area. I’d never try to give myself brain surgery just to save a couple bucks, so don’t try and kludge together a clip art design on perforated cards from your office laser printer instead of consulting a professional. Good design is worth every penny, and you shouldn’t leave home without it.
Nina Interlandi Bell
Tweedle Press, Chicago, IL
Using earth-happy materials to create stylish, unique paper goods: a full-service design, papermaking, and letterpress print shop. Yay!