Courtesy Cards Spell Out The Bad News

  • Fonts in Use
Fonts in Use, Oops! | Yves Peters | July 7, 2009

Now this is what I call sarcasm at its best. Gramkin Paper Studio – previously BigBooDesigns – are purveyors of “custom and personalised stationery, note cards, invitations, announcements, hang tags, business & calling cards as well as all your other paper goods needs”. Their assortment on Etsy includes lovely sugar sweet Courtesy Cards that are almost entirely typographic: sets of 10 flat 2" x 3.5" cards printed on luxury textured card stock. Well, I wrote “lovely” and “sugar sweet”, but appearances can be deceiving. Once you get past their candy coloured cuteness and actually read what they say you realise they go way beyond “brutally honest”. The messages range from “I’m sorry, it’s not worth getting to know you any further” over “Attention, your loud ill-mannered children are not cute … get it under control” to the deliciously offensive “I know you want to get in my pants, but there is already an asshole in there”. The concept is brilliant in its simplicity and puts a mischievous twist on cordial civility. As the blurb says:

What a small price to pay for peace of mind! And remember when you can’t say it to someone’s face … say it with a card!


Courtesy Card | I know you want to get in my pants, but there is already an asshole in there.
The slightly clunky wood type Egyptian capitals are the ubiquitous Rosewood Fill. The unevenness is due to the fact that these are not the actual character shapes but the fill areas.


Courtesy card | I’m sorry, it’s not worth getting to know you any further.
Rosewood again, and this time the fill is missing, so still not used as it is supposed to be.


Courtesy card | Really great meeting you, but I’m currently not in the market to make new friends.
The antique looking handwritten script used here is American Scribe, a script based on the hand writing in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, which is also available in feature-rich OpenType Pro format as P22 Declaration Pro.


Courtesy card | Apparently I have to spell it out for you … No.
The ornate capitals look very much like Romantique No 5. Linotype offers a similar design called Madame. And Helvetica of course.

I have to say sarcasm is not really my favourite type of humour – too much negativity – but I’ll gladly make an exception for these hilarious cards. Granted, handing one of those out is a bit immature and not very edifying, but it sure as hell will scratch that evil inner itch you’ll never admit you have. And just try to imagine the look on the face of any cocky pick-up artist receiving one of those. Sometimes those overly confident pursuers simply don’t get the message, so it must be very satisfying for a person being harassed to be able to tell said unwanted suitor off by simply giving one of these cards.


Glib Greetings | It must suck being you.

Glib Greetings | No one finds you amusing.
For those times when you don’t care enough to send the very best …

On a side note – Gramkin Paper Studio also offer a related product called Glib Greetings, which roughly follows the same formula. Yet personally I feel their intended use is quite different. Courtesy Cards are supposed to be handed to complete strangers who annoy you, while I have the impression Glib Greetings are meant for people you already know. Although acquaintances with confidence to spare and a strong sense of humour may appreciate them, I think a couple of designs are just a touch too mean-spirited for their own good.


Courtesy card | I can’t waste my da y time minutes on you.
Helvetica, fair enough, but WTF is up with the spacing/kerning of those heavy dotted caps?


Courtesy card | If I wanted to hear your conversation I would be talking to you. Please lower your voice.
Popular as they may be with the freeware and shareware community, many of Ray Larabie’s free fonts are not very well drawn, as in this instance Euphorigenic.


Courtesy card | Attention, your loud ill-mannered children are not cute … get it under control.
Again serious spacing and kerning problems in the Art Deco caps which remind me of Jim Parkinson‘s FF Moderne Gothics, and the design of the font is not without ails neither. The multilinear disco caps are ITC Aki Lines, which has not been officially digitised yet (this probably is one of the pirate versions). Rian Hughes beautifully emulated this style with his aptly named Dazzle.

Unfortunately it’s not all good. Appearances can be deceiving in more than one way. Because once you get past the funny text you notice how poorly set some of the cards are, which is in sharp contrast with the quality printing. The simple explanation is that most of the typefaces used are freeware or shareware fonts, and it shows. Some of the designs are quite amateurish, and the spacing is all over the place, not to mention there’s lack of proper kerning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not saying all free type is poor, but the vast majority you’ll find on the popular sites just don’t cut it, and you often have to wade through tons of crap before finding something good and useful. If you really want to use free fonts you have to be extra careful and put a lot of effort into finding wares that are decently designed and set well. And sadly, Gramkin Paper Studio apparently didn’t. It’s a shame and a little ironic that an almost purely typographic project is marred by the typography.

So I figured, why not return Gramkin Paper Studio the favour and design my own courtesy card? I can assure you it was all done in good humour, and I hope they take it as well as they dish it out.

Special points to the first who can identify all the different typefaces used in my card.

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19 Comments:

  1. Saucer of milk for the bald man in the corner, garçon

    Posted by David Earls on Jul. 8, 2009
  2. If I knew
    all the different typefaces
    U have used,
    I would be U.

    *Consider this a compliment* :)

    Posted by k on Jul. 8, 2009
  3. The script at the top looks like Feel Script by Ale Paul, i’m not sure fo the rest… (i’m actually not even sure of the script :-)

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jul. 8, 2009
  4. ok, it’s not Feel Script…

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jul. 8, 2009
  5. You seem so bitter about these cards! Clearly they’re fun and interesting, and you probably brought them great business by featuring their cards. I would guess the average customer on Etsy isn’t scrutinizing the type like you are.

    Posted by Veronica on Jul. 8, 2009
  6. @David

    Is the “saucer of milk” reference a British thing? I’m afraid I don’t get it.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 8, 2009
  7. @Veronica

    Now this is what I call sar­casm at its best.

    The con­cept is bril­liant in its sim­plic­ity and puts a mis­chie­vous twist on cor­dial civil­ity.

    I have to say sar­casm is not really my favourite type of humour – too much neg­a­tiv­ity – but I’ll gladly make an excep­tion for these hilar­i­ous cards.

    That’s not really being bitter, is it? I’m just a little disappointed by the poor typography, that’s all.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 8, 2009
  8. @Simon & k

    I’ll help you along by revealing I went vintage to match the design. There are no recent designs in there; these are the designers/foundries and release dates:

    • Intertype, 1958
    • Albert Boton, 1960
    • Eugen Lenz, 1946
    • Chauncey Griffith, 1925
    • (Paul Renner, 1927) Gerry Powell & John Renshaw, 1939 (Linotype Design Studio, 1951)
    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 8, 2009
  9. also, i agree with you about the poor typography, i don’t think you were bitter, just honest.

    re the type, ok, due to your hint, and a closer look, i’m thinking i can see some futura down the bottom…

    the rest… hmmm…

    ok, a myfonts search revealed that the script is Monterey (found by searching for Intertype.

    a google and fontshop shearch found out that the second type is PL Brazilia VP (from fontshop)

    type three is Decorated 035 (thanks to a fontshop search)

    type 4 is Corona® Std Complete VP according to FontShop and my eyes…

    thanks for the heads up i would never have been able to ‘guess’ these ;-)

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jul. 8, 2009
  10. 3 out of 5 isn’t bad. ;)

    There’s a reason why Paul Renner is between brackets, and it’s not Corona.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 9, 2009
  11. hmmm…. i just got FontBook today, i might have to put it to the test!

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jul. 10, 2009
  12. ok, so using FontBook for this is proving to be beyond me… you can’t search for type by specific designers… grrr…

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Jul. 10, 2009
  13. Re: saucer of milk

    David thought I was being slightly catty with the card design in response (as in slightly bitchy).

    Well, I guess I was. But they started it. :D

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 10, 2009
  14. “Attention Your Loud” should be “Attention You’re Loud” I’d forgive that on a Facebook status, but not on printed cards. So they used cheap fonts, they didn’t get anyone to proof-read them, it’s a bad product though the idea is good.

    Posted by Richard Longley on Jul. 10, 2009
  15. The different colours of the type tricked you. The full message says: “Atten­tion, your loud, ill-​mannered chil­dren are not cute … get it under con­trol.” ;)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 10, 2009
  16. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are still two unidentified typefaces.

    Could they be Geometric 212 Book and Excelsior Italic?

    Posted by Daniel Garzi on Jul. 17, 2009
  17. Yes indeed. Very well done, Simon and Daniel! :)

    So, to recap, from top to bottom:

    • Monterey (a.k.a. the Monotype clone Mahogany Script) which was Intertype’s attempt to cash in on the success of ATF’s Murray Hill
    • PL Brazilia – PL meaning Photo Lettering –, a very nice vintage wide alternative to Helvetica or Univers Extended.
    • Profil, which was digitised by Bitstream as Decorated 035.
    • Excelsior a.k.a. Century 731 is a Clarendon-like newspaper text face.
    • Geometric 212 was a version of Futura with very short ascenders and descenders for use in tiny point sizes, and was later also released as Spartan by Linotype.
    Posted by Yves Peters on Jul. 18, 2009
  18. A thousand blessings on your head, Yves. And a thousand more on your eyes. Real joy; thank you very much.

    Posted by Fanny Morris on Sep. 11, 2009
  19. HAHA very funny, love your response.

    Posted by Jessica Define on Oct. 11, 2010

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