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Those neat instant photo business cards

I’m Vitorio, and I'm a user experience designer in Austin, TX.

During SXSW 2010, I took business card-sized instant film photos with people I met, and these had my business card on the back. Ironically, these were my backup cards, since I couldn’t find an appropriate ink to print my “real” cards with; I think they went over better than my original cards would have. I’ve been asked how it all worked, so here’s an overview.

Polaroids may be dead, but Fujifilm isn't.

Fujifilm makes an instant film camera that uses business card-sized film called the Instax Mini 7s, costing about $70. (Polaroid makes a digital camera with built-in printer that prints on business card-sized sheets, but it costs nearly $200 and takes a full minute to print, which is neither “instant” nor ideal for networking.) The 7s looks a bit like a toy camera; it’s bulbous and unusual in this age of camera phones, and I started several conversations just by letting it hang off my wrist by the tether.

Film is pretty pricey. It comes in packs of two cartridges of 10 shots each, and costs about $1 a shot, even when you buy in bulk. Because it’s instant film, the back of the picture is a slick black plastic, and I couldn't find a white pen that would write on it well (I tried gel, pigment, paint and correction fluid). This means you’ll need to apply a sticker with your contact information on it after you’ve taken the photo. Turned on their side, each piece of film is also about 1⁄8" taller than a business card and 1⁄8" narrower than a business card, in case you’re against incorrectly-dimensioned business cards. (I felt the novelty outweighed the imprecision.)

I bought simple cards, cut them down and made them into stickers.

I ordered a box of 250 cards from Vistaprint. Four lines of black text (my name, role, phone number and my dedicated, SXSW 2010 short URL) set in Futura on 100lb. recycled matte paper, for $10.48. I had them cut down to 1 3⁄8" wide at my local FedEx Office (née Kinko's) for around $3.

I fed them by hand, one at a time, into a Xyron 1.5" create-a-sticker, which costs around $10, and is really something you might have seen a scrapbooker use. The opening on the Xyron wasn't quite 1.5" hence the slightly narrower cut of the card. It works a bit like double-faced tape: the card sticks to an adhesive-covered backing and a plastic film is pressed over it. Peeling the film off removes the extra adhesive, leaving just your new sticker on the backing.

That’s it! I carried around a stack of card stickers in my shirt pocket, and let the camera hang off my wrist. I also carried regular, full-size cards for situations like dinners, where taking photos with everyone would be impractical, but I had bought enough film for a hundred shots, so I took photos with as many people as were interested.

Usage notes

Interested in more?

I am currently employed, but looking for interesting weekend work and full-time employment (contract or hire) to start mid-June or end of July. If you like what I did here, take a look at my SXSW 2010 summary page for more links and my contact info, or attend one of my UX workshops here in Austin, TX. I hope you’ll be in touch.