The Business

A heartening array of responses to the first draft of my business cards, sensation-seekers…many thanks. There were a wide variety of reactions and I can confidently acknowledge that all of them are spot-on. Particularly:

Awesome…this is totally you.” Cool. This is a major design goal. Speaking about “the Ihnatko brand” without adding implicit air-quotes gives me diaper rash, honest to God. But the fact remains that I do have a brand. My business is based on being the only person in the world who can deliver an Andy Ihnatko-ey sort of style and perspective on a topic, as opposed to one of a thousand who could list all of the ways you can boldface a word on a webpage…so it’s important that my business card duly represents my peculiar form of fabulosity.

Are you sure that this is a professional-looking business card?” Which is a good point. You can get so creative that your business card looks like an arts-and-crafts project. You don’t want your overall design statement to be “Wow! Look what happens when I click on this button…Golly!”

I do have some extra freedom thanks to the circumstances under which someone gets my business card. It’s almost never “Why don’t you call me on Monday? I think I can convince you that IhnatCorp is Mullet County’s most competitive and comprehensive solution for roadkill removal and disposal.” By the time cards are swapped, the transaction’s more or less locked. Either the company has agreed to mail me some hardware for review, or an editor/producer/conference organizer and I have decided that we want to work together. It’s just a matter of making sure they know how to reach me.

That’s totally not going to get lost in a pocketful of business cards.” Another design goal. At the end of a four-day conference, I have this huge stack of other people’s cards. Sometimes, the reason why LambadaWare’s software gets reviewed a month before DiscoSoft’s is because Lambada’s card had a bright orange back and a punch-out of a little dancing guy. As I riffled through my cards on the plane ride home, my eye was drawn to that design. I instantly remembered “Oh, right; they have that really cool new presentation tool” and thought about that open slot on my editorial calendar coming up in a week’s time.

My eyes didn’t know where to go.” Yup, that’s no good. Graphic design is all about user interface. You can exert a form of mind control over the observer by choosing a layout and color scheme that more or less forces someone to look here, then here, and then make sure that they take in this.

The background is way too busy.” Right, and that’s just a first go of this. The photo is one of my “standard” portraits, available to folks who need a shot for a conference program or whatever.

I’m sort of waffling on putting my mug on the card. Pluses: I have sort of a unique “look” and so seeing me again on the business card ought to help you remember who I am and what we talked about three days earlier at the trade show; also, we come back to that subject of “branding.” Negative: putting your photo on your business card is the sort of d-baggy, loserish thing that Jerry Lundgaard would do.

If I do it, it’ll be more of a design thing than a photo thing. Which is why I homed in on that particular photo. It’s not a “Hey, look at me!” sort of shot…it’s just sort of an interesting image.

But I agree that it’s sort of a busy background. I softened it a bit by desaturating everything but the eyes in the sculpture, but it’s probably a bit too noisy…even for the back side of the card.

There’s no space on the back for the recipient to jot down notes.” Very true, but I don’t know how to process that problem. If a business card is going to have two sides, then it has to have a clear Front and Back. If you put too much white on the back, it looks like the front.

This is an open problem and the answer begins with my deciding whether or not I care.

Well, this is why I enjoy graphic design. You don’t slap down your first design and write a check to the print shop. Nope, you keep noodling at it. You work up an idea, decide what you like about it, and carry those elements over to the next design. The stuff that doesn’t work — hell, even the stuff that you’re just not excited about — gets left behind.

I like the phonetic spelling of my name. That’s a nice little graphical element (and a useful one). That stays. Here’s the next evolution of that first design:

Second-Generation biz card

You immediately see the results of a few decisions: I like the phonetic thing as a design element, so it’s bigger and more prominent. Plenty of white space so someone can jot down “Remove this person from the contact lists on all future press events,” etc. And the background has been reduced to just my portrait, which in the printed version would look a shade or two lighter than it does on your screen.

If this design makes it to the next round, I’ll prolly wind up shooting a new photo specifically for the card. Same sort of shot, different expression. And wearing sunglasses in a promotional photo seems kinda…well, I don’t want to say because if I say it, someone will send me a photo of one of my favorite authors wearing sunglasses in a promotional photo.

But I’m still firmly in “screwing around with ideas” mode. Here’s something I whipped up for fun the other night:


I like it a hell of a lot. Yup, it’s a “quote” of the classic Marlboro Man design. But this wouldn’t look out of place as a sticker on a guitar case backstage at a Lansdowne Street club in 1988, either.

This is a relatively quick-and-dirty implementation. If this went forward, I’d smooth out a lot of those shapes to make it look like vector art (even though this was a fairly simple Photoshop job). The trouble with this design is that any thoughts of using a cheap “100 business cards for $30” service goes RIGHT out the window. It’d only work as a process color job, where I hand the printer three separations (one piece for each of the three colors) and pray to God that it traps out properly. It’s v.tricky to have the grey butt up against the red without winding up with some sort of halo between the two areas. Either the two separations don’t register properly, or you “trap” it wrong and the grey and red bleed into each other a little, resulting in a maroon sort of outline.

Maybe I’ll do this as vinyl stickers. Do guitar players read my stuff? Are they willing to pay $24 per sticker, to make sure I come out even? Or $42 per, so I can maybe finally buy myself the “Calvin & Hobbes” omnibus?

Onward and upward. Admittedly I’ve tanked my original goal of placing an order for new business cards 48 hours after pulling the ripcord on Adobe Illustrator, but with any luck, by the time I settle on a design I’ll have left the business entirely and the problem will have solved itself.

22 thoughts on “The Business

  1. MacGeek Pro

    Andy, I really like the “Mark II” design of the card with the phonetic spelling & grayscale image. It’s very you. Remember, Iron Man didn’t get it right until the “Mark III” version of the suit. Third time’s a charm, right?

  2. zacksback

    Are you going to keep the “I’m-bummed-because-I-just-sat-on-a-cannoli” expression?
    Maybe something a bit less negative looking? Not thinking smile, of course.
    Just saying.

  3. Moeskido

    White space is nice, especially if you eventually decide to go with an interesting paper stock, like one of the newer recycled varieties that incorporate their own organic colors.

    But as much as I admire your written work, I can’t imagine that full-face image making much of an impression upon folks who don’t already know your worth. I still think there’s value in considering enlarging the face enough to keep only the upper half.

    As for the cigarette box, it is indeed loudly proclaiming that you’re either in a band, or a mascot for someone else’s. Bold and graphic, but something of a mixed message, in my opinion.

  4. Leonardo

    I don’t like the first design. You look like one of the Blues Brothers.

    The second one is just perfect. It screams Ihnatko. (Maybe is because of the huge neon-light letters.)
    Anyway, that’s the way to go.

  5. Thomas J.

    The 2nd design is looking pretty cool. Have you thought about having them cut into a different shape to make them stand out even more? I know that jacks up the cost but aren’t you worth it? Speaking as a guitar player, I would definitely slap your “Marlboro Man Ihnatko” sticker on my case. I could not pony up the $24 or $42 though, that’s booze money.

  6. Scott M.

    I think the second one looks really cool! I like the colors that were used. I’m a keyboard player, and I would definitely slap one on my case. Yeah, baby!

  7. Thom Zahler


    The first one (white card, color lettering, gray photo) looks very nice. If you go with this one, I’d run the contact info on white type on a solid maroon or orange, just so they balance. And there’s plenty of white space on the front for people to write notes if they wish, so that shouldn’t be an issue. What I suggest trying is your photo as a duotone of the maroon and gold. I’ve done a rough sample of it on my site at Mirroring the colors in the photo just ties them in together.

    The Marlboro Man version looks cool, too. I don’t think you have a wrong choice. As far as registration (a constant concern for me, too), you’re not in bad shape with your design. You’d just need to make the final PSD yourself. But, since you’ve got black/gray on a CMYK mix, it’s not that hard to send them a proper file. I could talk you through it if you want, but it’s pretty easy. If you were trying to trap two CMYK mixes, I might be more worried.

    I have to trap my comic, Love and Capes (unabashed plug) myself, and you just wind up making the black line into a separate channel, selecting it, contracting it two pixels and filling the area with white. Then you take that spot channel and fill it with black.

    I look forward to seeing which one you select.

  8. Rup S

    Can we play the “Rathole” theme for the first design? It’s very boring and it deviates from your purpose. Nobody is going to pick it up!

  9. Donn

    “…I’ll have left the business entirely and the problem will have solved itself.”

    What a wonderfully (Douglas) Adams-ian way to think about it.

  10. Geo B

    I like both – but for those of us that don’t speak proper phonetic pronunciation how about the more conventional guide –
    in-NAT-ko – oh wait, how DO you pronounce it? ;-)

  11. A. Nonymous

    I like the first redesign. Clean, simple, and straightforward. Instead of vinyl stickers, I think you should go all the way and have giant banners made instead. You can drape them from buildings along the Mayday parade route in Moscow. “Remember children, Comrade Ihnatko implores you to study hard so that you may defend glorious Soviet worker’s paradise from the invading Yankee imperialist dogs!”

  12. A. Nonymous

    Sorry for the ambiguity. Giant, building-sized banners should be made of the second redesign only. (much, much smaller) Banners of the first redesign should be hung above IhnatCorp’s MacWorld booth next January.

  13. Mike Gunn

    Your Malboro Man take does nothing for me. With the colors and font used, you need a Communist Star on your hat!

  14. Tim harness

    Unique and memorable, but could you perhaps find a picture that doesn’t suggest “Samurai Blues Brother”?

  15. Voodoo Bob

    FWIW, I like the original partial head shot better than those of your more recent efforts. I also like the phonetic spelling – especially the fact that you managed to spell your name phonetically without changing a single letter. I’m sure there are many others out there like me who tried for years to put the “k” in the first syllable of your name. I can’t say that I like the new white space much; it encourages my mind to wander aimlessly.

    The one thing about the original design that left me puzzled was the purpose of the four-eyed Mona Lisa-esque image. “What’s that all about?” I thought. I finally settled on thinking that it might have something to do with the fact that you wear sunglasses in public all the time, but I’m not at all sure of that. If that was indeed the point, I think you could have done as well with a 50% opacity shot of Ray Charles or Jack Nicholson looking over your shoulder.

    But overall, I like the first one best. Like I said, FWIW.

  16. Rocky

    Phonetic spelling=good, full face=bad. I like the playfulness of the first photo with you peering over the lower border, let the viewer guess if you’re smiling or frowning. The key parts of your image are the hat and sideburns, let ’em make the statement. Don’t worry about being too business like, you’re an “Internationally known and beloved pundit” dammit, act like one…

  17. Jay

    You can use the second design and get 100 cards FedExed to you from CHINA for $30 (including shipping.) Last year I got a bunch of cards like this– they have a nice little laminate type covering, are full color on BOTH sides and include rounded corners, Gratis.

    The company has a funky website, and I cant’ remembe the name offhand…oh, but I was able to guess it on the first try, here you go:

    Totally loved their quality and had the cards in my hand within 5 days. They are so cheap I did three different card designs!

  18. Markw

    You mean “match color” (or “spot color”), not “process color.” Process color is halftones with magenta, yellow, cyan, and black, CMYK.

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