Identity – Research (Technical and Aesthetic)

To begin the research for this project I decided to look into the identity documents as this should achieve my research goals below:

  • Strengthen my knowledge on identity documents.
  • Find inspiring designs in terms of aesthetics.

I should add I may touch upon type setting here, but I will create a specific post to talk about it in greater detail.

Technical Requirements:

  • Business card: 85x55mm for UK use. It was interesting to discover that business cards were different sizes in different countries. My research was gained from here.
  • Letterhead: To be placed onto an A4 sheet of paper. (297x210mm)
  • Size of compliment slip: 1/3 of A4 paper size. (99x210mm)

What should go on a business card, letterhead and compliment slip?

  • Name/Company Name
  • Phone Number
  • E-mail address.
  • Website/Blog
  • Facebook/Twitter (if relevant)
  • House/Company address? This one is interesting, the brief specifically asks for one to be included (if fictional), so I must oblige, but I feel it is not always relevant for a freelance designer depending on how they conduct their designing. For a company though with a location, it is an important factor I think as this reveals more about themselves.

Why use identity documents? It is important for a graphic designer to have a set of identity documents, as it reveals a snapshot of the thoughts of that designer to potential or existing clients or employers. It makes a crucial first impression to them and is a chance to ‘sell’ your services to them. The idea is that if they can see a interesting, innovative and well thought through design, then the hope is that they will in turn think that the designer is a professional who they want to work with.

Inspiration: I decided to start my research by looking into the aesthetics of identity documents by searching things such as ‘inspiring business card design’ for example. There is no doubt that there is enormous amounts of inspiration and research sitting out there, so because of this and my limited timeframe, what I will do is pick out the few that really caught my eye and analyse them and see what I can learn from them, positive or negative. This also provides an ominous message to me that my identity documents need to stand out and attract people if it is to be picked up and read. I will provide credits and links where I can.

Elliott Stephens Stationery: More about the designer and the project can be read here.

  • Uniformity. The harmony between the different documents allows for a cohesive identity that shows a unified company front, a sign of professionalism. It also builds up over time connotation in the client’s mind with that particular design scheme.
  • Colour scheme/texture. The three colour scheme works very well, with the dark blue backing providing a very high quality feel, one with depth, which I think is perfectly suited to the solicitors as the connotations from this is that the company has nothing to hide, they are not shallow.
  • ‘Noise’: This design gives off a good design ‘noise’ as it is what one expects of a solicitor’s, tasteful, classy and professional.
  • Finish: This design appears to have a finish on part of the pattern that catches the light, meaning it lustrous, and contrasts it to the matt base.

Juni Claire: More can be seen about this design here.

  • Contrast: The black, white and red colour scheme that has been used here creates a visual contrast that allows every part of the design to be distinctive.
  • Pattern: The pattern on the back of the letter, and carried through to the business card has become part of the identity, and again carries a visual depth that makes it look more like a wallpaper.
  • Letterhead: The only thing I am not keen on with this design is how the letterhead requires the letter to be turned sideways to be read, personally I feel it is much better for the client in terms of time and understanding to read it straightaway.

The above designs I found on Gavin Elliott’s website. 

Freestyle Print: A link to the design group and more info on their identity can be found here.

  • Simplicity: With minimal design frills as can be seem on this letterhead, it is possible to find the information very quickly, which is helped by the use of the Helvetica and Courier typefaces. Some may find this design  a bit clinical and cold, but this is combined with a dynamic logo which you can see from the link above, which helps to add a ‘face’ to the identity, stopping it from being no more than a collation of words.

The above design I found via Best Design Options.

Gary Corr: More can be read about this design here.

  • Digital Media: The use of a QR code is a very instant form of communication that the designer has an awareness of digital media and is aware many client’s will have a smartphone app and be able to providing not just a written link, but an actual means to get to the link via various smartphone apps.
  • Colour scheme: Fit for purpose, as the black and white works very well with the
  • Typography: The sans-serif thick stroked typeface is ideal for working with the blocky monochromatic structures of the QR code, and what is important to show I am aware of here is how the type is an integral part of the design as that is how the audience gain the information they need/want about you.

Chevrolet Corvette: More can be seen about the design and designer here.

  • Use the logo. Here I can see that the black and red colour scheme draws heavily on the Corvette logo.
  • Typography: By using a mixture of typography, it does feel to me that the front and back do not feel as unified as they could be but I have no doubt the typography individually does work very well as it promotes the clean modern aesthetic this company is trying to promote.
  • Carbon: Being a ‘Carbon Limited Edition’, and after the research above where I have seen how patterns and textures are important, I wonder if the designer could have experimented with a carbon-fibre pattern, as this would lend more credibility to the product it is trying to sell in my opinion.

Kris Vladimirov: If I had to pick just one business card from my research as a favourite, I think this would have to be it. More can be read about the design and designer here.

  • Make a statement: “I shoot stuff…” is a very intriguing statement to me, what could he do? Is he a marksmen? Or in the gun industry somehow? Or perhaps a photographer? Although it has no information about the person, I know I would want to turn that business card over and find out more about them, which shows how the design works.
  • Minimal: With the white background, and geometric sans-serif typeface working together with the fluid lines that resemble part of a camera, this creates a minimal design where the client can understand what they see and easily find the information they need.

The above set of designs I found on the Business Boom Bolton WordPress blog.

Ancillary Magnet: More can be read about the design and design group behind it here.

  • Clarity: The simple vector logo of an elephant was instantly recognisable, with the pink used standing out against the black background. Shows how I could a logo without it totally dominating, much like a signature I guess.
  • Discreet: Not something I would have instantly associated with business cards where you are trying to be noticed, but this design certainly takes the ‘less is more’ approach, and by doing less, it can stand out amongst a sea of complex, cluttered business card designs.

Black Umbrella: More can be read about this design and the designers responsible here.

Pattern: Whilst other designs have featured patterns, this one takes it a step further and uses shapes that work together with the logo, as can be seen most clearly for the business card, a very clever and discreet design feature.

Pao & Lee Design Office: More can be seen about this design and design office here.

Texture: Firstly the stock used has a matt finish and a texture to it that contrasts the  raised typography, that is very thinly and delicately constructed, catching the light and allowing the black on black design to work very well indeed.

Double identity: This design office uses the two sides well, one to promote the design office and the other to promote the employee of the design office. This is contrasted by using white as the base for the flip side of the card.

The above set of designs I found via Ultralinx.

Frederic Tourrou: A very interesting design, more info available from here.

  • Smartphones: Well I am not surprised to see someone has done this design, as it cleverly builds on the dominance of smartphones as the design mimics a contact in the iOS software that accompanies iPhones. As long as it is kept up to date if Apple update their Contacts so you don’t look out of date, I think this is a great way of showing people information in a format they will more than likely be very familiar with, aiding interaction. The only frustration with this design is that it looks realistic enough to make you want to use it like a phone, swiping and pressing buttons!

Artur Kinast: This design can be viewed here.

  • Symbols: This business card is surprisingly the first I have seen during this project to use symbols instead of type to explain what contact detail it is. This works very efficiently I think and has given me ideas as to how I could incorporate this into my ideas which will be in a future blog post. There is also an opportunity to show how you work with imagery as well as typesetting to anyone who looks at your business card.

Studio Grafik: Image courtesy of this link here.

  • Embossing: Here is a great example of a business card that uses embossing to make the type stand out, and it made me think that an appropriate typeface for embossing should be sans-serif with a thicker weight as finer details will not be embossed as well and make less of an impact on the business card.

US: This design can be viewed here.

  • Readability: While I really think the black and white scheme goes well together, and the ‘us’ logo suits the calligraphic nature of the typeface, I did have a concern over its readability as I thought it was ‘ws’ instead of ‘us’, because of the joined up nature of the characters. Now this might be purely down to me, but I thought I would raise the point, as if identity documents are not easily identifiable, then that lowers the chance of them being a success.

Estudio Invisible: This design can be viewed here.

  • No printing: Apparently this design was not printed, but was laser cut, a truly different way of creating a business card that works remarkably well with the minimal type, where only the parts of the characters in ‘Invisible’ need to be kept to be recognisable. It also makes this business changeable, as placing it on a surface will determine the visibility of the type meaning it is never the same.

Jan Sabach: This design can be viewed here.

  • More than a business card: I really love this business card, as in addition to the usual contact details on, it goes into measurements for type in points, and can be used as a measurement device for any graphic designer to see how large something would look when printed. This extra capability means it is less likely to be forgotten about, more likely to be used, and therefore thought about more, which can only be a good thing for the designer.

What have I learnt from this research?

  • Visual depth. As embossing is not possible for my final design in the timeframe I have, I need to work on other ways of creating visual depth, which my research has shown me can be done via patterns and graphics.
  • Connection with the designer. Those business cards or letterheads that had a tangible link to the designer I felt created a stronger identity than those that did not. This I think is important for a designer who is freelance, and therefore not attached to any company, so does not have a company identity to work under.
  • Originality. Something I have seen during my research is that if you think of something, more than likely another designer has thought of something very similar. The difference is how to turn this into an original design that can stick in the memory of anyone who reads it, in a good way.
  • Strong, uniform identity: There is no good in having a set of identity documents that do not work together. That is not to say they all have to be identical, as I think it would be possible to use colours (one example of many) to make a difference, as can be seen via this link.

My next blog post will look into typesetting in particular.