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Business Cards

The days of being locked into the typical 3.5” x 2” horizontal business card are pretty much over. Sure, there’s still a bunch of them out there, but graphic designers have learned to spread their wings and take a few risks when it comes to card design. Vertical designs, die-cuts and embossing are often used to separate a company, independent professional or freelancer from the rest of the pack. Others opt for unique materials, CD business cards and other techniques. An apparel store might use a hang tag for its business card. An accountant might go for a design that mimics an adding machine tape. A carpenter might try a card screen printed on wood veneer. The list goes on and on.

Beyond that, rounded corners and other die-cuts can add interest and make a card memorable. QR codes are making a big appearance. Frankly, I don’t really get the whole QR code thing. By the time you open the camera and QR app on your phone, you might have well have typed in the URL. But, that’s probably just me.

The trick is to get out of typical thinking and treating a business card like some sort of second-rate design project. Here’s a link to 60 great designs, courtesy of Toronto-based designer, Nick La, over at WebDesignerWall.

Illustration

Infographics were all the rage in 2012 and will likely continue to captivate our attention. Infographics have been around for a long time, though. I remember doing one about a kidnapped child, who was held in an underground cell, for a newspaper article back in the 70s or early 80s. Yet, they are a timeless technique due to their ability to visually dissect a story, article or process into its core elements. They do, at least, when they’re well-executed.

The rise of Pinterest and the continuing proliferation of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other social media has given these hybrids of graphic design and illustration a wide-reaching platform. As a species, we love our infographics. They fit right in with our fast-paced, service-in-a-second lifestyle. They’re easily digestible with nuggets of information conveyed through artful elements, typography and color. Below are a few random infographics found on Pinterest.

An infographic by Mutant Nutrition on what kinds of supplements to take after a workout and how fast you need to take them.
Source: Pinterest
CardPrinting.us presents an infographic weighing the pros and cons of using both RGB versus CMYK color codes in the printing process.
Source: Pinterest
Captivating facts & figures about the greatest investors of all time by RPlans.
Source: Pinterest

Illustrators will always tap into conventional styles and techniques such as acrylics, oils and pastels. But, when it comes to the Web, vector illustration tops the list. It makes sense. The Web is digital and vectors are digital. They sort of go hand-in-hand. But, not all vectors need to be slick, obvious computer generated creations. Illustrators are continuing to explore various tools and techniques including textures of chalk, pen and ink, paint, loose, sketchy art, organic styles and various brushstrokes on backgrounds of all sorts. For a peek at what’s being done today with vectors, swing over to iStock for some inspiration.

If you’re just starting out in illustration or are looking for some new ideas, the folks over at Smashing Magazine have a sweet tutorial for you titled, Mixing Up Illustration: Combining Analog And Digital Techniques, by David Mottram.

Typography

Ah, typography. It’s the designer’s passion. Fine typography and letterforms go way beyond communicating ideas in the form of words, sentences and paragraphs. They communicate emotions and paint pictures in our minds. Savvy designers know this full well and often spend hours searching for that “just right” font to communicate a client’s message and brand. Designers are control freaks by profession and typically invest hours in getting a headline’s kerning just right. “Hmmm. A little to the left. No, right. That dang “e” needs to come over just a bit more.” Just a few tweaks here and there can easily turn into hours. It’s our passion and sometimes our curse.

But, what’s new, inspiring and have Gutenburg clawing at his coffin to get out and try things? A return to the classics is new, in an old way. Type designers are reinterpreting classic letterforms in news ways. An example is Garçon Grotesque. From the Garçon Grotesque site, “Garçon Grotesque improves on a classic for today’s designer. Designed in a multitude of weights, extended Latin character set, small capitals and a working lowercase, Garçon is built for any situation that calls for sophistication, elegance and culture.”

Source: Garçon Grotesque Website

Object fonts are another trend we’ll likely see more of in 2013 and beyond. These fonts are usually designed for a specific purpose or to communicate a particular idea or concept. HandmadeFont has some excellent examples. The Estonia-based design company was founded in 2008 by Vladimir Loginov and Maksim Loginov.

Source: Handmade Fonts Website

Hand drawn fonts are a type of object letterform that have been used by graphic designers for a long time. Yet, they’ve seen resurgence lately as evidenced by Debbie Millman’s site and book cover for Brand Thinking. (Image: DebbieMillman.com)

Fat slabs are so last year. For the uninformed, a slab serif is a type of serif font that evolved from the Modern style. The serifs are square, larger and bolder than serifs of previous typestyles.

Often called Egyptian fonts (reflected in such font names as Egyptian 505 and Egyptienne) or Western fonts (such as Wanted or Westside and Old Town), many slab serif fonts are more suitable for use as headline or display fonts although there are several slab serifs that can work at smaller sizes. The classic text faces Candida, Century, New Century Schoolbook, Joanna, and Nimrod come to mind.

This year, it’s all about lighter slabs. These fonts are lighter than their fat cousins. An example is Dada Slab Pro, available from youworkforthem. It’s simple in form, but an elegant font with huge language support and open-type features like ligatures, stylistic alternates, fractions, four variations of numerals and many more. It is suitable for large headlines in applications like magazines or newspapers.

Where typography will go in the coming years is anybody’s guess. New technologies and techniques will continue to develop giving graphic designers many more typographic choices for their designs. That said, why is it that most of the designers I know, myself included, have a font library of 1000 fonts and often many more, yet we tend to only use two or three? I’m a Caslon 540 and Futura kinda guy. I used them for many of my projects. I’ll use various decorative fonts when a project calls for them, but, for the most part, I guess I’m just predictable. C’est la vie.