Interview with Graham Keegan – Part Two: A Love of Printing Makes for Unique Business Cards

I spoke with Graham Keegan, a Los Angeles-based printmaker and creative entrepeneur, about his business card design and printing project. Part one of our conversation appears in this previous blog post. Here’s part two of the interview, where Graham speaks to the design and printing processes of his unique tetrahedron-shaped business cards!

PS: Do you think its important for people’s business cards to really say something about them professionally?
GK: Absolutely. The business card is a reminder of an introduction. I believe that it has the power to convey worlds of information beyond just how to get in touch with someone. I am self-employed, I like my business card to tell as much of a story about me as possible because I am constantly meeting new people and trying to let them believe that though they had not yet met me, I am someone worth knowing.

PS: Did you do any of the graphic design yourself?
GK: All of it. I took inspiration for the color palate from a couple places. I read a lot of Daniel Pinkwater books as a child. One of them is titled Lizard Music. I don’t remember anything from the book except that the main character passes by a shop window at some point and looks inside to see some old faded photographs, or record covers or something. The idea that over time, the sun fades and makes images dusty, dissolving everything but the blue was very powerful to me.

The hand logo stands for hand-made.

I saw this happen with a box of Parrot Safety Matches, it is a brand of Swedish matches that I’ve only seen for sale in Panama. The color palate on them is process yellow, fire engine red and process cyan. I came across an old pack of them where the red had faded to a pale peach and the yellow to soft butter, but the blue was just as strong as ever. I designed the card with that weathered color palate in mind. The font and graphic style are totally inspired by those Beedie packages. I literally scanned one of the Beedie packages to get the beaten old font. Once I turned it into a vector set of letters, I hand set the type. There were a few missing letters from the package so I had to make up some of them: the Q,V,T etc.

PS: Where did you print the business cards?
GK: These cards are letterpress printed on a Vandercook Universal 1, an American-made press from the middle of the last century. I designed the individual plates, four of them, in Adobe Illustrator and had films output at Tamburello, an image printing company in Santa Monica. Then I had my actual plates made from the films at The Bieler Press in Marina Del Rey, and, finally, took the plates to Lala Press, a great studio near Atwater Village. I worked with Mable Lee, the owner of the studio, which is full of great vintage printing equipment. I rented time on one of her presses to pull the actual prints and she was a great help with explaining the specifics of the machine and helping me with setup.

PS: Were environmental concerns a part of your business card paper or printing choices?
GK: Many of my choices for products and services were based on working with local business. The paper itself is produced using hydro-electric power in the U.S. The ink is plastic based. I am not that knowledgeable about letter press ink options, but I would like to be as environmentally kind as possible.

PS: Do you think printing these cards was a good investment?
GK: Absolutely! Going through the process itself put me in touch with so many great talented, creative people, which has led to introductions into a wonderful and supportive community that I cannot imagine having found without these cards. I find that my overtures are taken more seriously by those who see the cards. The cards send the message that I am able to envision and follow through on a creative project.

PS: Does the business card design tie into any other business design elements you have, like your website or letterhead?
GK: Not yet! I am in the process of establishing my sense of identity on my website. Letterhead … hmmm … now that you mention it!

PS: What tips would you pass along to other freelancers and small business owners who are about to custom-print their own business cards?
GK: Get to know your printer, they can be a wealth of knowledge and assistance in creating an interesting design, and fill you in on things you didn’t even know were possible! As a print maker, I have an understanding of the constraints and potentials of the medium that I would not have as just a designer. I love working with clients who are willing to explore the interesting fringes of printmaking and its possibilities to convey a unique message.

Project Information
Business Name: Tick Tick
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Website: www.grahamkeegan.com
Description: Printmaking with a focus on serigraphy and on-garment prints and some letterpress printing
Project: Business cards
Print Run: 600
Print Specs: 4-up; four plates: yellow, pink, blue and a blind impression for the folds
Paper Specs: French Speckletone True White 100-pound Cover Weight

VIDEO: Check out this video of Graham printing business cards.