My New Business Cards

permalink         categories: general         originally posted: 2006-01-27 08:18:35

There are two main ways I organize my to-do lists: for large projects with lots to do, I'll use a text file or HTML file. For everything else, I generally use plain white 3x5 index cards. I go through 3x5 cards like a paper shredder; on a busy day I'll burn through ten or twenty.

Organizing yourself with index cards is nothing new; in fact, there's a whole category at 43 Folders on organizing with index cards. (I know, I know, that's nothing special, there's a web site for anything and everything these days.) That's the site where I learned about using coin envelopes to organize my cards by topic—what a good idea.

Over there at 43 Folders they espouse what they've termed the Hipster PDA, which is basically a stack of index cards you lash together somehow and carry around with you wherever you go. These days I'm trying to cut down on the amount of crap I carry around in my pockets; I used to carry lots and lots of crap with me, wherever I go, and I found I rarely used most of if. These days it's down to the basics: money & credit cards, ID, keys, a mini LED flashlight on my keychain, and a pen. On occasion I'll carry a "pocket briefcase", but that's just too bulky to be an every-day item.

One of the postings I saw about organization-with-index-cards mentioned someone who used business cards instead of index cards. They're big enough for one or two thoughts, and if you're like me you always have unused business cards lying around from previous jobs. That's particularly true for me; as a programmer, I rarely have personal business contacts at other companies. So I've never really had cause to carry business cards every day. Meanwhile, every normal job I've had has given me a box or two, and I've even printed them up for my own consulting company twice. Yet I've probably handed out no more than two dozen over the past fifteen years. Anyway, I considered switching to this, but writing on the backs of old business cards... I dunno, it somehow lacked panache.

I'd already been toying with the idea of printing up my own custom index cards. I generally prefer plain white index cards, but occasionally it's nice to have one with a grid on it. Levenger has some like that, but they want what I feel is an exorbitant amount for their cards, and I just couldn't bring myself to pay it. Getting them printed up myself would, I suspect, actually be cheaper, particularly if I got enough at one go.

And suddenly all the ideas came together in a flash: I should design my own dual-purpose business cards. The front would have just enough information so you could find me, and the rest would be devoted to a grid. The back would be left blank for free-form drawing. I realized that, since I have a permanent personal email address and web site, I could afford to print up a whole bunch without worrying about them becoming outdated, thus reducing the price-per-card to something reasonable. They'd be small enough to add to my "every-day" inventory, and as such would kill two birds with one stone: I'd always have memo paper on me, and I would finally have business cards for those rare occasions when they'd be useful.

On the left you can see my design. I designed the cards myself in hand-hammered Postscript. (You can download the Postscript program here, though be warned: it's hacked-up, crappy Postscript). It has everything you need in order to find me—namely, my email address and a link to one of my web sites. I plan to use as a "disambiguation" page; not useful in and of itself, just a directory of my projects. That way, if someone is interested in one of my projects, I can just give them my card—from that one site, they should be only a link or two away from whatever it is they wanted.

The font is a SWFTE Typecase font called "Gibraltar"; I know it's a knockoff of a famous font, but I don't know what the original font is called. Whatever it is, it's the font they use for the London Undergound, as well as for many other British government publications.

The grid is a quarter-inch grid; it's actually a half-inch grid in the original, but I designed it to be photoreduced by 50%. If you look closely, there are tiny little tic-marks half-way through each line on the grid. That's to help you in case you want finer precision than a quarter-inch. But they are so small as to be virtually unnoticable unless you are looking for them.

I had the cards printed up at The Robots, Inc. I do all my printing with The Robots; pity that's only about once every decade. They came out great. Jim, the proprietor, matted the text separately from the grid, and screened the grid so the lines are very light. It's heavy enough to guide you when you're using it, but still light enough that you can easily ignore it. There were one or two surprises with my order; I thought we were using business-card stock, but this is more like index-card stock, so they don't feel like real business cards. However, I think Jim said business card stock generally was no good for writing, and these will be used primarily as one-shot to-do lists.

I think Jim enjoyed the job; I was asking about getting small runs of other colors, and he poked around his shop saying "Wait, I think I have some of that color over here..." All told, I got about eight different colors. The two colors I wanted in large quantities were white (for everyday use) and some kind of bright green (for "pay attention to me" cards). I wound up also getting small amounts of purple, aqua, gray, fuschia, gold, and orchid, from scraps left over from other print jobs.

Now to get busy and start using 'em!

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