Design a Better Business Card

Business cards have been commerce icons for four centuries. In the West they’re traded casually, folded, bent, and stuffed into pockets without much thought. In the East they’re revered, handed out with two hands from elaborate cases, and studied scrupulously as avatars of the business woman herself. Either way, they’re more than mini advertisements with your phone number and email address. After an initial meeting, they represent your business—and you personally—long after your first introduction.

With so many online printers offering free templates to work from, it’s easy to design a custom business card for any situation. It’s probably this easy personalization that gets people into trouble. In an effort to stand out, some poor business card design decisions are made.

Get Creative in Your Business Card Design

“Business cards are your opportunity to make your bold statement, to jog your potential client’s memory about what makes you special. Think of it as your tagline come to life,” said Seattle-based graphic designer Kim Nguyen Love, whose company Left Brain Media specializes in custom website designs and more.

Business Card Design

It’s a bit like designing a billboard: You wouldn’t use ornate, swirling script, or put yellow text on a white background. Your fonts and color choices should be memorable, but legible. Sometimes that means being simple. But being simple doesn’t mean being boring.

“Bold, solid colors are trending, as are full-color photo backgrounds,” Love said. Below are some tips to help you design a better business card:

  • If it complements your brand colors, use strong red or orange backgrounds with white text.
  • Avoid using white text over light colors such as yellow or tan.
  • Try making your logo white and setting it on a bold background color.
  • Stay away from using busy background images, unless your text is very clear.

Also, remember you have created your branding for a reason. If your company colors are red and blue, don’t make green and yellow business cards. Use your branding color scheme, font, and logo, but don’t feel penned in by it. Get creative.

Inexpensive online printing options also make it easy to leave a memorable mark with your business card, she said. You also don’t have to use rectangular pieces of paper. Double-sided business cards and non-standard shapes for cards are more accessible and easy on the wallet than ever.

“If you can swing it, non-traditional materials like plastic or metal, or conversely, hyper-traditional methods like a deep-impression letterpress on a double-thick paper stock, can really help you stand out from the black-text-on-white-cardstock crowd,” Love said.

We’ve seen pet food companies with dog treat-shaped cards, eco-tour companies with leaf-shaped cards, and architects with triangular cards.

Don’t Overdo It

In terms of what you want to put on your business card, keep it simple but memorable, Love said: “Your logo is a must, but feel free to experiment with how to use it. Crop it, tilt it, bring it to life.

One common misstep is putting everything you do on your card. This includes unrelated images, distracting elements, and too much text.

“Avoid the temptation to overload your card with the myriad ways you can be reached. No need to iterate your mission statement here. A good business card design will convey the feeling of your company. Stick to the basics: your name, your title, and the best way to reach you. In most cases your website URL will do the job (especially if your site already prominently displays how you can be reached), but include one phone number or email on your card if you must.”

Another common mistake is to create a square border around your card. This will look neat, in theory, but in practice will only highlight an uneven printing. It’s inevitable that whoever makes your cards will cut them slightly further to one direction or the other; don’t highlight this with a border line.

Here are some more basic tips:

  • Keep all your text at least 5 mm from the edge.
  • Make your images at 300dpi (dots-per-inch) for best reproduction.
  • Remember to make all your text big enough to be read.
  • Double-check your artwork and text, triple-check your artwork and text, then check it again!

Putting your best foot forward takes practice and sometimes getting out of your comfort zone. IAW can help you meet with and learn from other professional women on this same road, as well as experts on paths you haven’t yet ventured down.

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