Category: Print


What I love about design is that every new project is a learning experience. Recently, I had a client request metal business cards. As with every project, the medium helps determine the design. Metal business cards are no different. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned for those interested in designing their own metal cards:

Say No to Sharp Edges

This is obvious, but also easily overlooked.  While normal paper business cards can have sharp corners, on metal business cards, these corners become dangerous. All sharp edges on the card need to be rounded slightly to accommodate for this.

Eliminate Overlays and Clipping Masks

Use the Pathfinder tool in Illustrator to eliminate all overlays, and to remove all clipping masks. Be aware that this can be a lengthy process if you haven’t built the design to accommodate it – so my best advice is to plan for it as you design.

When Etching, Avoid the Edge

Some card providers may allow etching to the edge of the card, but the provider I chose required a border. It is worth inquiring with the provider early to find out if the border is required so that you can design with that in mind.

Design in 2 Tone, Along with Solid Black or Color

I spoke with two different providers, and their file setups were basically the same. For a silver card – use dark grey as your solid, light grey as your etching and white as your die-cut area. Solid black or any other solid color should be used for solid fill areas that will be etched, then filled with color (i.e. red areas should be red, blue should be blue and so on).  This file setup is fairly intuitive, and will make it easy for you, as well as the client, to visualize the final product.

Take Advantage of Textures

One of the things I would recommend is to take advantage of etching or die-cutting textures into the card for an interesting tactile effect. This is one thing that sets metal business cards apart from a flat printed card.

A metal card design file with etching (and no die-cut) might look something like this:



design tips-3

Last Fall, in addition to running this business, I taught Intro to Graphic Design at the University of District of Columbia. Creating lessons gave me a chance to revisit what I love about design, as well as to remember some of the finer points that we often let slip by in our hurry to create the next big thing.

Graphic design is about ideas and problem solving, first and foremost, but to create GOOD design, you also need to pay attention to the details. Here are a few of the finer, but often forgotten, points of typesetting long documents:

Avoiding Widows

A widow is a single word on the last line of a paragraph.  Widows create extra white space between paragraphs and distract the eye. Widows call for manual adjusting of the paragraphs to eliminate the space.

Avoiding Orphans

An orphan is a single word or very short line ending a paragraph at the top of the next column or page. Orphans look out of place, and distract the eye of the reader. Again, manual adjusting of the paragraphs may be necessary to create an additional line, or to condense so the line ends the previous page or column.

Avoiding Rivers

Rivers are created in justified columns when spaces accidentally align to form a path through the type. Letter spacing can be manually modified to reduce the alignment issue.

Paying Attention to Rag

When setting text flush-left, rag-right, a good rag should flow in and out with small differences from line to line. It should not create a pattern or shape that distracts the reader and creates odd white space. This can be modified by letter spacing or soft returns in the paragraphs to create more even line lengths.

Good Kerning

Good kerning means that the letters have equal VISUAL space between them – so that no letter or group of letters is separated out. This is especially important in titles and headlines. While this may seem trivial, making something hard to read can completely distort the message. If you want to try your hand at kerning, check out this type game about proper letter spacing.

What other key points in Graphic Design do you feel get overlooked?


Sometimes, as a designer, we spend too much time on the computer. There. I said it.  To all my design professors out there – you were right.

But, occasionally an opportunity comes along to do something different. That’s why I love District Bliss.

A month or so ago I got an email from Sara and Sarah asking if I’d do the paper products and giveaways for their DIY event in April – Makeup with Ariel Lewis.  And of course, I jumped at the chance. Working with District Bliss is awesome, because I can stretch my creativity, and do something – anything I want to – hands on.

For the DIY event, I did Mason Jar takeaways with burlap ribbon, name tags and Hershey’s Kisses. I also did hand sewn notebooks for all the participants to write in while taking the class.  Images of the final products below.


One of the best parts of going to the event was seeing participants actually using the name tags and notebooks.


Thanks, District Bliss, for another fun event!  I hope to collaborate again (and again).


You know the drill. It never fails. You’ll find a great client, design a beautiful flyer or brochure, and things will be going great, when the dreaded question arises.  The question that strikes fear in the heart of designs everywhere.

“This looks great,” they say. “Can I get this in WORD?”

Now the above is meant to be comical, but seriously, why don’t designers design in Word? Let’s talk about this.

When you go to a designer looking for a page layout, they will likely be working for you in InDesign or Illustrator. This is not to keep you from being able to edit the files yourself. This is not to make sure you come back every time you need an update. This is simply to give you the best, professional looking design possible.

Side note:  If you hire someone and they say they design everything exclusively in Word, I would run – and run fast…

InDesign and Illustrator are created for desktop publishing and graphic design. They have the ultimate amount of flexibility when it comes to layout and placement. You can have photos, text boxes with two (or three or four) columns and text boxes with one column, all on one page AND be assured that the placement never changes.

When a document is created in these programs, the designer saves a working file to make changes, but unless you are a designer or have a designer on staff, they likely provide you with a pdf.  Delivery in a pdf means:

You don’t have to worry about whether or not you have the font.

You don’t have to worry about hitting a button and accidentally changing the layout.

You don’t have to worry about what version of Word you have versus what the designer has (versus what the viewer has).

You are assured that your final product is of the highest quality, and ready to be printed or emailed, depending on the agreement.

And then, the inevitable.

What about letterhead?

Letterhead is one of the exceptions. With so much correspondence happening via email, it makes sense to provide a client with a letterhead in Word. But this rarely necessitates any sort of extravagant layout. The header and footer of a design, done in InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop, is placed in the header/footer of the word document. In this case, we are using Word as it is meant to be used – as a word processing tool. All other design is happening outside the program.

All that said – I don’t hate Word. I use it for papers, letters, notes…  I think it is a great tool for writing, and its many templates have went a long way to put design in the hands of non-designers.  I just don’t use it to design.

At the end of the day, what I can provide a client in InDesign or Illustrator will far surpass what I can provide a client in Word – and if you are hiring me, you deserve the best I can deliver.


We are excited to share with you some of the official photos from the District Bliss event!  All photos courtesy of Kathy Lynn Photography.

Thank you to Sara and Sarah for organizing!

One of the best parts of District Bliss is hanging out to meet new people.

Our Kendra Scott sign on the counter with two of their fab employees.

Drinks mean a chance to design some rad coasters.

The giveaway we designed for fall – sunflower seeds for planting.

Proud to be linked with these fantastic ladies!


In November we were a featured vendor for District Bliss at the Kendra Scott store in Bethesda. If you haven’t checked out Kendra Scott yet, you definitely should stop by – the jewelry is beautiful, and they have a color bar where you can chose your stones and make a unique piece that is truly your own.

For the event, we created these amazing thank you cards, signs, coasters and giveaways in Kendra Scott yellow. The designs were a big hit, and we are excited to share them with you!

Official pictures coming soon, but until then, enjoy this sneak preview!







Business cards are something that almost everyone has a use for. They are a great way to quickly share contact information with a colleague, contact or potential client. They are also part of your first impression. But are your cards as successful as they could be?

The number one piece of advice I have for clients is: put your name on your cards. I recently went to a networking event where I received a plethora of cards, many of which contained only the name of the business. This made it hard for me to reach out to these individuals to follow up and connect. After a brief meeting, it is natural that someone might miss or forget a name or two. Not having your name on your card discourages people from finding you on LinkedIn or sending you that thank you email. While there are situations where you might give a newbie to your company temporary, blank cards, a card with a name will always be more personal and encouraging.

Also, make sure to include your website. Your website is the modern day brochure for your company. Even if someone is hesitant to reach out after a meeting, there is a chance they will check your website – and if you get them there, you have a better chance of converting them into a customer.

Think about the format of the cards. While it may be trendy to have round cards, or unusual sizes, in the end, the business card goes into someone’s wallet or rolodex. A circle or an oversized card may not fit, and may discourage someone from keeping the card in the long term.

What other business card faux pas have you experienced?

Why I still love it.

While I definitely appreciate web design, and all the possibilities that come with going digital, I will for now and forever more love print. There is something about a tangible design that I feel is rich and lush – a luxurious experience that a design on screen can’t quite emulate.

Take a wedding invitation, for example.  While e-vite sites are vastly improving with the development of sites like Paperless Post, most brides still opt for rich paper and extravagant printing methods like thermography or letterpress.  It feels special.  It feels expensive.  On-screen-only invites just don’t have the same flare.

At conferences, people still love tangible giveaways.  They pick up business cards, postcards, buttons… What they often don’t do is scan QR codes – and if you put your info on a thumb drive, they can’t see it until they get home.  People like stuff – particularly free stuff. It is yet another experience that we have not found an equivalent for in the digital realm.

According to Karlene Lukovitz at The Association of Magazine Media, printed magazines often fail when attempting to make the transition to digital only (Perception vs. Reality).  I think part of this is that we fail to celebrate each medium for what it is.  The virtual experience strives to get closer and closer to the actual physical experience…  This means that the print experience clearly resonates with the audience.  Why does iBooks implement a page flip function?  People still want books to look like books.

While I think both print and digital have their place, and are both amazing mediums, I feel that print is far from dead.  Long live paper.


I have worked with international companies for a number of years now, and very often we end up printing designs in locations other than the US, so I thought I’d give a quick recap on US versus international paper sizes.

In the US, you are probably familiar with our standard sizes – letter, legal and tabloid being the most common.

Letter – 8.5″x11″

Legal – 8.5″x14″

Tabloid – 11″x17″

Also common are 3″x5″ and 5″x7″.

Internationally, it is much more common to use A sizes.  The interesting thing about A sizes are that each size is a sheet folded in half.  So A2 is half A1, A3 is half A2 and so on.  As the number gets larger, the size of the page gets smaller.  Most of the time these sizes are listed in millimeters, but for the US audience, I have put them here in inches for easy comparison.

A1 – 23.4″x33.1″

A2 – 16.5″x23.4″

A3 – 11.7″x16.5″

A4 – 8.3″x11.7″

A5 – 5.8″x8.3″

A4 is the closest to US letter.  It is a little taller and thinner than letter. A2 would be closest to US tabloid.

There are additional A sizes, but I think this should give you a pretty clear picture of how it works.  There is also a B and C series, but I won’t get in to those here.

Have you ever printed internationally?  What is your biggest challenge?