The Postcard Design

detail of Free Your Mind postcard I made two postcards just for fun. Sometimes, when I have spare time, I create stuff, because I simply enjoy it, even though I’m much more comfortable with the paper and pencil.

Anyway, inspired by the examples of famous Mr. Moll and encouraged by a few people who already saw those postcards, I’ll explain how I created them. You don’t have to read the whole article just to see the final products – here are red and blue variants. Still interested?


My goal was to create a positive message reusing the well known phrase “Free Your Mind”. I was thinking about something energizing and powerful, yet subtle and airy. I associated it with an outdoor sport activities, such as diving into the water or the high jump. What intrigues me in these activities is the moment at the peak of the jump when the athlete’s body goes up and eventually slows down to stop for a millisecond or two, just before it starts falling down again. That moment is usually crucial for the overall performance and as such, I used it as my primary metaphor.

Jumpin’ athlete

detail of Free Your Mind postcard By nature, human body releases huge amounts of mood elevating hormone called endorphin (also known as the hormone of happiness) into the bloodstream during the exercise or any other intense physical activity. Similar effect of lower intensity is also experienced when we watch various athletes perform their routines to perfection. When watching sports, people can see the energy and power in the most material way – the athlete’s performance. I wanted to communicate the power and energy of the human body in a perfect moment.

The sunburst

Imagine an athlete who jumped high above the ground. She had to be somewhere in the air. Up there in the sky, there’s always the sun. By the instinct when we look up, we expect to see the sunlight. From our perspective, if we see something in the sky nearly in the same height or higher than the sun, we know it’s up there in the air. Subconsciously, we determine that the jumping guy or girl covering the sun must have been jumping pretty high. And that was my secondary metaphor.

Additionally, the sunburst effect draws more focus to the athletes.

Making a sunburst effect

To make a sunburst, download easy to use Fireworks sunburst script or follow the sunburst tutorial in Illustrator (via Moll’s Stupmed article) or Jason Beaird’s Taper-In Star article.

Basically, there are two vector objects – one is punch-out of the circle and a star which is filled with solid color. Behind it, there is a second object, another circle with the radial gradient. The edge color of the gradient is equal to that of the top object. Central color of the bottom object is of the same hue and saturation, but with a slightly increased luminosity (increment it by 10-20 units, until you’re satisfied). At the end, lower the opacity of the top object to around 30% and you’re done.

About the models

The models of the athletes are so simple, because it doesn’t really matter who they are or what they look like. Remember, what’s important here is to catch the exact moment of athlete’s routine.

Speaking of which, I haven’t draw those models myself, they are actually from 4 Yeo Sport dingbat collection. Text-size was set to around 200pts with smooth anti-aliasing.


Since I knew from the start the exact caption, I needed a simple and open sans-serif type. The simpler, the better. At that point I also decided to set the caption in all caps. When I was looking for appropriate typeface, I was particularly interested in the ‘E’, ‘R’, ‘M’ and ‘D’, because it seemed to me that those were crucial in that particular phrase (“Free Your Mind”).

Why those? Simply because double ‘E’ in “free” we recognize as ‘free’ even without actually reading the whole word. Further more, the ‘M’ and ‘N’ are very similar, so if I’m satisfied with ‘M’, chances are that I’ll like ‘N’ too. ‘R’ and ‘D’ were important for the same scanability reasons.

I wanted the height of the ‘E’ to be approximately equal to its’ width. ‘M’ had to have barrel straight and not slanted stems (stem is vertical stroke of the letter; good example of the slanted stem is ‘M’ in Trebuchet). I was also looking for ‘R’ and ‘D’ with bowl (belly-like stroke) vertically symmetrical and broad counter (counter is the enclosed area of a type character surrounded by the strokes). See more about character anatomy.

I don’t mind using free type, especially if I need just a few particular characters, so I went to DaFONT where I found Media Gothic, which suited just fine. (The main trouble with a free home made typefaces is usually poor kerning, so be warned.)

The text itself was justified to make some more room (air) between the letters.

Drop shadows

Subtle drop shadows were added later to gain more focus on the central object and push ‘the sun’ behind. Shadows also provide that nice separation of the object’s fill and its’ surrounding, which could not be achieved with the strokes only.


It’s a modern convention that the pink is for girls and the blue is for boys. I went with the red in the girl version and the light blue in the guy version. I needed to keep that male/female contrast, but I also wanted to balance each of the two sexes.

The girl had to be stronger and more powerful than girls usually are and the guy had to be easier, more refreshing and more calming than the average male. With the chosen colors, each of them became more balanced.

The summary

The final metaphor set:

  • the moment which suggests perfection
  • an athlete and a jump suggesting power and energy
  • the sunlight which suggests positivity and something ‘high above’
  • free and balanced individuals

brings us to something like:

– “Free and balanced individuals are capable of great achievements.”

I’d like to know – did you get that message when you first saw those postcards or did I missed? Tell me what you think. Was the overall entry helpful, interesting, dull? Any tips of yours?

Marko Dugonjić is a designer specialized in user experience design, web typography and web standards. He runs a nanoscale user interface studio Creative Nights and organizes FFWD.PRO, a micro-conference and workshops for web professionals.

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