In a world of Facebook and LinkedIn, exchanging business cards may seem antiquated. But business cards have persisted, and it’s surprisingly important to making a great first impression during quick interactions. Business cards are miniature advertisements. They remind the contact of you, your company, and why they want to do business with you.
However, business cards are also easily disposal. They often get tossed in the trash or buried under clutter in an office drawer. How can you make your business card stand out, reinforce your brand image, and stay out of the trash can? Follow the tips below for effective business card design.
Make it Simple
A business card is small for a reason. It’s not supposed to be an exhaustive list of every feature of your business. Your card should highlight your brand and entice the recipient to seek out more information. A cluttered business card with lots of text and complex imagery will look confusing and disorganized. Although many elements of design for business materials can be flexible, this is not one of them.
Obviously, you should include your name and title on your business card. But your logo should be the most prominent element. Ideally some aspect of your logo should appear on both the back and front of the card. Make your logo stand out with lots of negative space around it.
Include your company’s tagline as well. If you don’t have a tagline (and your logo and company name aren’t self-explanatory), add a simple description of what you do. Don’t forget what I mentioned above—it should be short and simple. For instance, if you are a hair stylist and makeup artist, and you do business under your name, “Sarah Smith,” the recipient of your card may not remember what you do. In this case it may be appropriate to include “Hair and Makeup” underneath your logo.
Lastly, be sure to include your contact info. The essentials are your phone number, email, and the company’s web page. A physical address is not always necessary, especially if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar space.
Make it Branded
Your business card should represent your brand and cater to your industry and target audience. People make snap judgements based on visual data, and the cues from your business card will be the first impression the recipient has of your company. Make sure the style of the card is tailored to the style and values you want to represent.
If you are working in a more conservative industry (law or accounting, for example), your card should reflect that with simple colors and typography. If you are working in a more creative industry you can experiment with bolder choices. Pay attention to other cards you receive from people within your industry to get a sense of the accepted style.
Make sure the card reflects your branding and established brand guidelines. Using your brands colors and typography consistently throughout all mediums builds trust and recognition.
Make it Memorable
Don’t confuse eye-catching with clutter. Sometimes the most striking business cards are the least complex. Here are some simple ways to create a stunning design without detracting from the key information.
Stylized images that are consistent with your branding are a good way to add visual interest. Visual content is processed by the brain in a quicker and more intuitive way than text information. Imagery associated with your company can be used effectively to convey your values, but should be done with caution. See the images below for examples of good image use.
Pops of color are another way to add visual intrigue without cluttering up the design. If you have a bold color in your branding, use it! Strong use of color can increase your brand recognition by up to 80%, so it is a great way to build brand awareness. But remember that in the small format of a business card, too much color can be visually distracting—so stick to just one bold color.
The Next Level: Play with Shape and Paper Type
Another way to make your business card stand out is to use a unique shape. This can be simply rounding the corners, or using a custom die cut to represent your business (like a card in the shape of a car for an auto mechanic). A word of caution: if you choose to use a custom shape, make sure that it will still fit into a wallet or card holder. If it’s inconvenient for your recipient, it doesn’t matter how cool your card looks—it will probably end up in the trash.
There are three different types of paper used to print business cards. Uncoated paper is typically the least expensive option. It’s very porous, so images and bold colors don’t pop as much. This paper is good for simpler cards.
Matte stock is less porous, allowing both text and imagery to stand out. This is my personal favorite as it enhances eye-catching designs, while also having the added benefit of being easy to write on. Sometimes when I receive a business card I will jot a note on it, such as “Follow up next Tuesday,” or “This person had questions about x.”
Glossy finishes are very shiny and will really make images and bold colors pop. These cards can be very nice to look at but are nearly impossible to write notes on.
Paper thickness can be important for business cards too. Just as a flimsy handshake leaves you with a bad impression, so does a flimsy card. Opt for a high-quality, thick stock for a card that exemplifies professionalism.
There are tons of options online for designing and printing business cards, but my personal favorite is MOO. They provide high-quality prints and a range of paper types and styles. If you are currently using a designer for your branding, they can create a custom design for you that is ready to upload for print. Otherwise, MOO has many options for designing your own business card.
Remember, your business card is a great opportunity for a great first impression. Using the tips above, you can create a business card that doesn’t just exemplify your brand, but amplifies it.