Mar 21

IBBT Business Cards design process

Posted by Benedikte Vanderwee├źn on 21/03/2010

For the IBBT new house style, a business card had to be designed. In my previous post, I wrote about the design process for the new IBBT logo, today I write about the process of making a business card template. I made the template in Adobe Indesign CS4 as it had to fit multiple purposes.

The brief

I was asked to design a business card that could be used for the different divisions that IBBT is made of. Because IBBT is a organization that collaborates with different universities and different workgroups, the business card template would consist of multiple variable areas to be filled. Over 21 different designs had to be made for the different constellations. To be more detailed: every template had to contain 2 different logo's and the fixed IBBT logo and the person's details.

Detailed template

The proposed solution we gave, was to make 1 overall design for the business card that could be used for the different templates. And every template could then be filled with a data file that contained all the person's details like name and telephone, ... I made a list of all necessary variables I had to collect before I started the design.

  • 1 fixed IBBT logo
  • 2 variable logo's from the university and workgroup
  • Name and surname
  • Function
  • Specialty
  • E-mail
  • Mobile phone number
  • Phone number
  • Fax number
  • Twitter account (optiona)
  • URL
  • Address

Different designs

This was a lot of information to start with. I started with a few templates, these are some proposals, the last one was finally choosen as it was the most simple and most readable design. The dotted lines in the corners are markers to indicate rounded corners.

Business Card Proposal 1

Business Card Proposal 1

Business Card Proposal 2

Business Card Proposal 2

Preparing the Indesign template with variables

Variables with style

Once the design was approved, I started the template in Indesign. Because the front of the business card is fixed (no variables), I placed that part on a single layer and locked it. The back of the business card, is a collection of variables, so I started to make styles for all the different elements.

defining styles

defining styles

The styles were mostly a few different font sizes and colors adjustments, but it had to be set for every different variable element. When a data merge is done, every single element gets the "right" style that is associated with the according "variable field". The big difficulty is that you don't know how long a name will be or a title or the url, so at some level this is guessing work. But most of the data, the elements will surely fit the style. Every single business card will be checked before they are handled to the print supplier, so possible mistakes will be adjusted before printing.

defining styles

Data merge

Indesign offers the "Data Merge" function (the same concept as in Mail-merge in Office Word). You make a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file, an Excel file or a text file that you keep updated (extracted from a database) to merge with your design. The big advantage of this approach is that there is no limit to the amount of users and updated files (if the records are updated frequently). But before you can do this operation in Adobe Indesign CS4, you have to make a Data Merge field and assign this field to the variable element in your design.

Merging the documents

Before you merge the document with the data file, you can preview the business card with the actual data by simply clicking the option box "Preview" in the "Data Merge" panel. You have to select your data source, before you will actually see the contents display. In the "Data Merge" panel, click the right arrow (the Options menu will appear), and then choose "select data source". Make sure that the titles in your data source match the names of the variable fields in your document.

data merge

data merge

Multiple Record Layout: if you set your document to contain more than one document on 1 page, you can decide how your layout will look like, if for example, you decide you have multiple business cards on a A4 page, you can decide how many rows and columns you want.

data merge

In my case, i decided not to take images in the data source (the logos), but you can decide to include images in your data source file. You can set the options for the images in the Options tab: (be sure to include an @ sign before the title "images" in your data source file and the path to the image file in each field)

data merge

Exporting the cards to pdf for print

When the data merge has finished, you will see an expanded view of all the business cards made, so if you have an extended list this can take a while before all the business cards are made. Once made, you can now export your document as a pdf ready to be printed.

Useful Indesign Links

Over time, i listed some very good websites that deal with Indesign topics:

If you know of any other interesting Adobe Indesign CS4 places, I would appreciate your link suggestions.


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