A violin maker's business card

Andrea A's picture

Long time lurker, I finally have a request to post here: I would very much appreciate a critique of a business card I’m designing for a violin maker.
The typography is loosely inspired by the stamps used to make violin labels in late 17th, early 18th century Italy. Janson, Kis and the like didn't feel quite right so I treated myself to Lexicon, so far this is the only irrevocable decision.

The frontside of the business cards would be letterpress’d from polymere plates (the tryouts I made look fairly good). Everything inked except the f-hole which would only be embossed. The backside printed with varnish on a paper similar to Royal Print containing wood so it gets colored by daylight rather quickly.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

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typerror's picture

Is "aging" spelled with an e?

I like it, could the "f-hole" be larger?


kentlew's picture

“Aging” does not contain an e.

It’s too bad you can’t have a die made and punch the f-hole out of the card altogether.

dstdenis's picture

Is "aging" spelled with an e?

UK-English spelling.

kentlew's picture

Ah, okay. Fair enough.

JamesM's picture

Kentlew's suggestion of die cutting the f-hole is a nice idea. (I might make it bigger than you have it, though.)

But if you emboss it, you may want to print the f-hole in a very faint tint (like a tinted varnish) before embossing. A small embossing like that can just disappear under some lighting conditions.

Is "Luthier" in a smaller point size? It looks smaller to me.

Andrea A's picture

Thank you for the suggestions. A die cut for the f-hole would unfortunately be too pricey at this stage but adding a faint tint to the emboss sounds very good.
The word “Luthier” is set in the same point size (and as I remember x-height) as the rest, this seems to be the italic's design, but maybe in this case I could adjust it?

I was mostly afraid the composition looked dull and not very tight somehow.

russellm's picture

What about laser cutting the f-hole? I doubt it's cheap, but perhaps not as pricy as getting a die made.

The italic is tighter - More condensed which seems to make it look a little smaller. Perhaps some more space would off-set that a bit.

UK-English spelling.
Awesome. For me, a Canadian, the more ways the are to spell words the bettre.


JamesM's picture

> adding a faint tint to the emboss sounds very good.

beastpieces.com (a letterpress printer) sometimes posts examples that use that technique. This example is debossing, which would probably be more appropriate than embossing.

hrant's picture

BTW, I think you guys mean debossing.


JamesM's picture

Yes, debossing.

5star's picture

Punch two f holes in the card ... stop playing games with your trivial tokens.


Birdseeding's picture

Do make sure that the f-hole actually looks like an f-hole (and not, say, an integral sign) as well.

Andrea A's picture

Point taken. The violin maker insists on the f-hole and wood image because he says it's unclear to some what "luthier" means. I'd rather make something that only relies on the ageing of varnish (some abstract riddle-ish pattern) and let the typography be the only token but it's difficult to convince him that this could be clear enough.

I agree, the one the violin maker sent me is from an Amati cello, it looks great at display size but if using one I should look for a text cut, from a 1/2 violin or something.

JamesM's picture

Your photo gave me an idea for a different approach:

hrant's picture

Or: have a black background and make only the f-hole a wood texture!

BTW, that particular f-hole design has an interesting abrupt angle at the ends of the inside curves (I'm guessing to reduce the risk of breakage). More suitable than Lexicon might be a font that exhibits that characteristic. Maybe something by Menhart, or Dwiggins.

If an f-hole glyph needs to be made, the integral sign is a great place to start (assuming it's not merely a generic math dump-in, like many type designers do). And the Florin might be an alternative, depending.

Oh, and anybody who doesn't know what luthier means is quite unlikely to need one anyway.


Andrea A's picture

Figural would be lovely but I swore myself to stop using Menhart's types unless I had to set something in Czech!

James & Hrant,
Thank you for the suggestions but in this case I would like to focus on making a piece of nice paper with letters pressed on one size and varnish on the other. I think Neil Caldwell's "trivial tokens" comment was right on point, every graphic translation of a violin's top plate into printed matter will somehow look ridiculous next to an instrument, where the cards will be exchanged most of the time.

I tried something without the f-hole, clearer lines of text and a less literal translation of the wood's texture but it could maybe still be simpler.

Andrea A's picture

> Oh, and anybody who doesn't know what luthier means is quite unlikely to need one anyway.

True enough!

hrant's picture

- Especially now that I see the tagline in the French, I think "improving with age" would be better (and would avoid the US/UK spelling conflict).

- It strikes me that that wood grain looks like curtains... as in: musical performance. Don't know what you could do with that though - maybe some kind of red velvet tint, or transition?

- Those long phone number strings look uncomfortable, messy; I think their "wordspace" is too loose compared to the letterspace. Try tightening each pair of numbers. And the parentheses are too high.


Andrea A's picture

- Thank you for the suggestion. Thing is, I started from the US/UK expression which I found nicely fitting and tried to find a french equivalent. My favourite is "prendre de la bouteille" but it might not be the most fitting, and not too appropriate for a business card.
- I agree, this is a quick photoshop tryout but it doesn't bring the right association. I will keep trying out for this one. Watercolor maybe..
- I tried tightening "wordspace" between the pairs of numbers, it does look a lot better, could it be still closer together?

riccard0's picture

To me, in the latest sample, “ageing gracefully” looks like it refers to the person.
And anyway I prefer the ƒ-hole version.

Andrea A's picture

It does, too ;)

I forgot the image:

5star's picture

So, where the inference of Tradition and Master Craftsmanship in this...


vilbel's picture

I think you should try something else to separate the phone (/fax?) numbers from the rest of the line. Especially on the last line (with periods in the e-mail address) it is confusing.

On a side note, the slightly slanted parentheses are quite interesting. I recently read a book that had calligraphy-style (rotational symmetric) parentheses.

edit: I agree with riccard0, and while it is funny this way, have you considered Antoine Etienne, Luthier ___ ageing gracefully?

HVB's picture

re: The separation of the phone/fax numbers from the subsequent text. It is VERY confusing. Our new TV remotes [incidental homage to their inventor, Eugene Polley, who died last Sunday) have a decimal point key - sometimes a hyphen, so we can select channel 4.1, for example. Looking at that business card, I'd try to dial 33(0)146589305.45

ncaleffi's picture

Nice concept and layout. Here's my two cents:

- The last two bottom lines with phone numbers and contact info should be set in a smaller size, say 2 points less than the luthier's name line of text.
- I would increase a little, in general, the word spacing (around +10%)
- by my point of view, the motto ("bonifie avec l'age") should stand on its own, either on top or on the recto of the card.

If you find a printer able to letterpress it - using a cliché - , it will look very nice.

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