At my current company, we-- the in-house design team-- oversee the creation and ordering of each employee's business card. This involves:

  • Duplicating a page in the master Indesign Document that houses all of the business cards
  • Placing the employee's information into the relevant fields on the new page
  • Exporting a JPG of that page for proofing (must rename file to correct format first)
  • Emailing that proof to the employee
  • Make any revisions if needed
  • If not needed, export a PDF of that page (must rename file to correct format first)
  • Send PDF to the printer

This process is tedious, and when multiplied out over the 4 - 10 card requests we may get at one time, time consuming as well. I know the real solution is to outsource this process to a printer-managed service that will allow the employees to setup, proof, and order their cards themselves, but the challenge we've run into there is that those services don't allow you to use custom typography, nor do they have a means by which proofs may be sent to us, the design team, for approval before the employee is allowed to place the order.

I've looked into automating the process in some fashion, but InDesign's limitations (namely its lack of an "export current page" feature and an ability to name files based on a certain fields) have made this prospect unlikely. So, those of you in or who have been in a similar situation, what would you recommend as a more efficient workflow for cranking these cards out?

Edit: to clarify, this document was initially created with data merge, but for new cards it's more practical to enter them manually. Each card in the indd document is based on a master page with paragraph/character styles.

  • 3
    I think the best solution is to get an intern.
    – DA01
    Mar 19, 2015 at 16:23
  • You can script the placement and export process pretty easily
    – joojaa
    Mar 19, 2015 at 16:35
  • @joojaa How so? I know I can do data merge for the employee info-- that's how the initial file was created-- but doing that for new records would require copying/pasting the info from emails into a CSV, running the data merge on a new document, then merging those pages into the original doc-- by which point entering them manually would be faster. I don't know any scripting languages, so I'm not sure how to accomplish anything beyond Adobe's inbuilt functionality without plugins. Mar 19, 2015 at 17:17
  • 1
    Yes but the entire process for collecting the data from a email is easily automated. Dumping records to csv is pretty trivial. To ensure the data allways has right format make sure you use a web form or something. This makes reading the data even easier. Most of the time, when somebody gives your answer to automation questions its because they really dont want to do better. Its quite clear to me that less than a weeks investment on your part could easily eliminate 99% of the work. If your not up to it consult somebody that is.
    – joojaa
    Mar 19, 2015 at 17:44
  • 1
    @e100 Several online print companies have business options that will essentially give you your own WYSWIG editor (managed by them) that allow you to load your template and overlay text fields on it so that your company's employees can go in and fill out the fields, see the proof, then order the card. The problem we've run into is that these WYSWIG editors don't allow you to use your own typefaces, which is something we'd need to be able to do. Mar 19, 2015 at 18:37

3 Answers 3


I once worked at a quick printer. I changed, set up, and sent for proofing an average of 80-150 cards a day. Yes a day. These were all for different companies - 5 cards for A, 10 for B, 3 for C, etc. (back before Indesign, with QuarkXpress 4, Illustrator 8 [or maybe it was 6 or 7], and Photoshop 4/5)

There's no real shortcut. Your processes is a good one overall. It is just time consuming. But anything else will be just as time consuming.

If you outsource this to a print provider, guess what they would do? Yup. You're same process. They don't have any more business card kung fu than you do. (and they'll care less about errors to be honest).

Data merging and automator and all that sounds great. And it is, if you've got 50-100 card to do now. But if the requests come in at 4 or 5 a day, then automation and data merging won't really be that beneficial.

The one way I think you could speed the process is sending PDF proofs rather than jpg proofs. It should be no big deal for an employee to view a PDF instead of a jpg (phones and tablets support that as well). For a business card I'd just export one PDF/X-1a file and let the employee proof that. This would eliminate one stage of exporting and the PDFx file shouldn't be that large (kb) for a business card (but yes, larger than a jpg). If there are no changes, you just need to forward the PDF to the printer.

  • Yeah I really don't think Automator or Powershell is necessary but I do think it would be faster to name the file in Finder. _BC_Date_1 can be copied and pasted then just go back and append the firstname_lastname to the front of each. That's how I renamed batches of Ad Proofs before.
    – Ryan
    Mar 19, 2015 at 18:55
  • After reading all of the suggestions here, I do think I'll switch over to PDF proofs. It will definitely save time, as outputting/renaming files twice was a huge PITA. Thank you! Mar 19, 2015 at 18:58
  • I don't knwo what OS you use but if you're on a Mac, you may look into A Better Finder Rename. It will allow you to create a droplet for file renaming. You can set up parameters like add date, etc. at the end of the file name, before the suffix, then just drag/drop a file on the droplet to rename it. It's what I would use for renaming.
    – Scott
    Mar 19, 2015 at 19:06

First off, you should be using the Data Merge even for the additional. There's no way it's, "more practical to enter them manually."

Now save yourself some time and send people PDF proofs, and do it through Right Clicking on the Page in the Page Template and doing "Print Page." Don't worry about renaming. Do all 4 or 5 or whatever.

For renaming:

Alternatively as it's only a few files it might be faster to do it in Finder just using Copy and Paste on the file name and adjusting them. Still faster than doing it in the application prompt.

Depending on what the business card looks like, specifically if there are raster graphics on it, then you'll still need to do a proper page export once approved. If it's just text and vectors though your PDF from the Print Dialog is already set for printing. (Note: This is for business cards so assuming its just a digital printer, if someone else reads this thinking its okay for a book/magazine it's not. This hasn't gone through any sort of compliance / distiller)

  • So the format for our filenames is LastName_Firstname_BC_Date_Version. I see that automator can extract text from a PDF, which seems like the only way it would know what the Lastname_FirstName portion should be, but I'm not sure how to convert the extracted content into something Automator can use. I'll see if someone in a similar scenario has come up with an automator workflow or applescript for this in the past. RE: output, we do need a proper export at the end because we've got spot colors; the cards run on a press. Thank you for the suggestion so far! Mar 19, 2015 at 18:21

Create a real template.

Standardize the text format for the information

Use Nested styles for the template --- you can use these to apply character styles

Import the character styles onto the page using Text Variables running heads feature

Save the .indd file using a naming convention which includes the person's name

One can then export a suitably named .pdf or JPEG trivially.

  • We already have character/paragraph styles set up in the existing template. You're suggesting we break each card out into its own template versus having them all in one document? Mar 19, 2015 at 17:24
  • This is what I would do also. The "all stored in a single document as pages" paradigm is not the best solution. If your document gets corrupted, its all or nothing. I once had a friend who had all his invoices in a single running word processing document. He ran out of pages.
    – Yorik
    Mar 19, 2015 at 19:02
  • Yes. 1 business card, 1 file. If you want to e-mail me a single sample business card I'll tweak the paragraph styles and set up the Text variables &c. --- [email protected]
    – WillAdams
    Mar 19, 2015 at 19:33

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