Business cards – they’re everywhere. They’re the most common physical form of sharing business information and branding. In a world that’s littered with other business cards, and even more attempts to snatch your prospect’s attention, how do you compete?
How can you make your business card stand out in a good way?
It’s important to figure out what business card works best for you. Are you the traditional business card type, or are odd-shaped cards more of your flavor? Your business card design is an essential part of your branding and should act as a visual extension of your brand design.
Well, prepare to get your creative juices flowing, because in this guide, we’ll run through everything you need to know about business card design so you can tell your designer exactly what you want. More so than anything else, your business card is a representation of you.
So, it’s important to pick the business card that represents both you and your business the best, so that someone who has your card doesn’t just know your business name, they know your business.
Before You Begin
Whether you’re an individual freelancer, founder of a young startup, or part of an established enterprise, there are two crucial design components you need finalized before you even begin thinking of business cards: your finished logo and the color scheme of your brand.
Two of the most important visual choices for branding are the logo and the color scheme of your company, because not only will these elements play a big part in creating your business card, they’ll also help influence other areas like layout and identity.
If you don’t have a logo or color design, then you’d better get right into developing them and Branditt is happy to help!
Your logo is the single most important graphic design element that your branding has, and you want it.
Color design is also extremely important in establishing who you are.
Think of a professional sports team. What makes it instantly identifiable to the casual observer? The team logo and uniform are probably the first things that comes to mind. What makes the uniform a good way to know who is on which team? The uniforms have differentiating color schemes and crests or logos that make them instantly recognizable.
There’s one other preliminary activity that makes the rest of the business card design process run more smoothly. You need to know what you want to communicate.
What kind of brand are you, as an individual or business? What do you want your business card to say, not just with words, but with the design? What is the personality of your business? Are you playful, formal, a little of both?
This is also a topic worthy of its own discussion, so if you want to dive deeper, here’s a short list of questions to ask yourself for determining your personal brand identity:
What’s your why? What is your company’s mission?
What is your brand personality? Imagine that your brand is a person: What character traits define it?
What separates you from the competition?
What are your company values?
What are a few words that your customers could use to describe you?
Taking a few minutes of reflect about your personal brand will help with some business card design questions down the line, particularly when it comes to displaying your personality. It’ll likely provide you with the business card design inspiration that you need.
Once you have your logo, brand color scheme, and a good idea of what you want your card to say about you, you’re ready to start. Just follow the steps below to determine which business card design would work best for you.
Choose A Shape & Orientation
This is where you can really have fun with creative business card ideas. If you’ve already decided on a traditional rectangular business card, you can skip ahead to the next step. If, however, you want to learn about all your options, even outside-the-box strategies, keep reading.
As printing techniques grow more advanced and affordable, professionals have more room to explore alternative shapes. The printing technique of die-cutting allows you to get creative and cut out any shape you want with the ability to still print in bulk.
Sometimes, you don’t have to have a wildly different card shape for it to be memorable. On the conservative end of the spectrum, you could simply round the corners for a friendlier business card.
But if you really want to be playful or stand-out, you can use virtually any shape: animal mascots, outlines of products your sell, or a shape that’s wholly original.
You can even build your entire business card theme around clever cutting. Some business cards design uses shape to really highlight the employee picture, giving them a more personable and therefore approachable feel.
Whether or not to use creative shapes depends on the image you want to convey. Special shapes make you seem more fun and help you make an impression, but can have an adverse effect in more formal industries. You’ll also want to keep in mind logistics, such as how the card fits in a wallet.
Orientation is simply the direction in which someone can read the card. You can choose from a horizontal or vertical orientation. Most business cards use a horizontal orientation, but it’s up to you.
Choose A Size & Sides
Your next decision is the size of the card. This mostly depends on the standard of the country, so that’s a good place to start. Size is somewhere that you can still be creative, but it’s important to also keep in mind that it’s harder for a customer or prospective customer to store a card that’s too wild with the size. Even if you plan to stand out, you have to know what everyone else is doing to go against it.
North American Standard: 3.5 × 2 in. (88.9 × 50.8 mm)
European Standard: 3.346 × 2.165 in. (85 × 55 mm)
Oceania Standard: 3.54 × 2.165 in. (90 × 55 mm)
No matter the size, you always want to consider three factors when designing:
the bleed area (the outermost part of the card likely to be removed),
the trim line (the target line for cutting cards),
the safety line (anything outside this line is subject to cutting mistakes. Don’t let essential elements like text or logos fall outside this line).
Your business card is valuable real estate, so don’t be afraid to design for both sides. Two-sided business cards are slightly more expensive to print, but give you a lot more space. Some businesses, such as medical and legal providers, opt to use the backside for appointment details.
But, you can also use the second side to deliver a compelling first-time buyer offer, so a picture of two of your finished work or even create a secret code space that people use to trigger a special offer if they mention the code.
A single location restaurant might double the value of the card by using the backside as a punch card for customer loyalty, ensuring that the card (and their brand) will stay in purses and wallets.
Once you know what you want to say, you can choose how it looks.
While typography is always important, it’s especially pertinent to business cards because you have to make text completely legible and have only a small space to work with. You can still get really creative with your typography, and often it’s the perfect blend of creative and conservative that have the best results.
Let’s break up typography into three main categories:
Color: Here’s where a preexisting brand color scheme comes in handy. Staying on-brand, choose text colors that go well with the background color of your card, which should also be a brand color. Similar colors may look nice together but can be hard to read, so experiment with contrasts for legibility.
One note: as you are establishing the colors your business will use, understand that the color codes for digital colors and for printing are different. Digital color codes, such as those you’ll use for your website, are known as Hex codes. Print codes are known as PMS codes.
The colors you see on a computer screen or smartphone may look slightly different when they are printed, so try to develop a list of HEX and PMS codes for the colors you want to use.
Font: We’ve already spoken at length about fonts and how they influence your brand identity, so feel free to look at a wide variety of fonts and how to use them for a more in-depth treatment. Just remember to choose a font that represents the personality you’re going for. A clean and modern sans-serif, an individualistic and elegant script or a classic and timeless serif font? Below are some examples of what different font styles bring to the table.
Size: To maintain readability, you want all your text to be at least 8 pts. However, you want your most important elements (like your name) to stand out, so feel free to vary the text sizes. Also consider empty space—you don’t want to clutter your card, so leave your text small enough that there’s plenty of breathing room around each element.
The golden rule for typography is to prioritize legibility over all else. It doesn’t matter how artistic and memorable your font is if no one can read what it says.
Logo And Graphics
Now we begin plotting the more creative visual elements of your business card design, first and foremost the logo. Your logo should take center stage on your business card, although other creative flourishes and secondary graphics can sometimes be useful as well. Make sure that your graphics are tasteful as well as memorable!
Again, It’s important not to forget that you have two sides at your disposal – so feel free to get creative. One strategy is to dedicate one side of the business card exclusively to the logo, while the other side showcases the contact information of the person. However, it’s also good to have the logo on both sides, so often you’ll see a smaller, out-of-the-way logo on the side with contact information, as with some companies’ designs.
There are many strategies, however, so feel free to experiment with graphic design and logo placement until you find one for your tastes.
While minimalism is a popular choice for business cards, if that empty space doesn’t suit you, you can fill it with additional graphics. Graphic design can be tons of fun and even if your logo is simple or text only, any related imagery serves the same ends.
Additional graphics work well for showing off your brand identity. Without explicitly saying it, you can communicate your or your brand’s personality through visuals, including colors. For example, if you want to seem casual or approachable, a cute cartoon and some bright colors would do the trick.
Another increasingly popular trend is to instill interest and curiosity by leaving a little mystery. Typically, brands place a wordless visual with a URL on one side, and then all the necessary explanation (including brand name and employee’s name) on the other.
Include Important Text
Having the essentials and how they’re presented is what separates a good business card from a bad one. What your business card actually says depends on you.
Work-from-home freelancers may have no need for a postal address, while professions that consult face-to-face require it. Or maybe it’s a strategic choice, such as drawing attention to your impressive social media following. The point is, different people, benefit from different text on their business cards.
So the next step is for you to decide what to put on your business card. Below is a list of some common choices, so you can decide which to include and exclude.
1. Name – A given. Every card needs a name.
2. Company name – Another given, except for personal brands, in which case your personal name is your company name.
3. Job title – For traditional cards, include your job title. This also helps remind the holder of who you are, what you do and even how you met.
4. Email – A business card staple; email is the new norm for non-urgent business communications, partially because it allows sending documents as attachments.
5. Phone number – Even if a phone is not your preferred method of communication, it is to some people.
6. Address – Necessary for drawing customers into your office or store location.
7. Social media – If social media is relevant to your field, or you just want to show a bit of your personality, include social media links.
8. Website URL – Including your site URL is a non-aggressive invitation for visits.
9. Slogan – Completely optional, a slogan helps with brand identity and adds a little personality.
10. QR code – While not as popular as years past, a QR code is still a viable shortcut to transferring whatever data you desire.
Remember that business cards aren’t just about giving information but also retaining it. People may already know your number, address, or URL, but keep your card handy in case they forget it.
Select Your Finish
Now that you’re reaching the final stretch, it’s time to start considering printers—especially in terms of what they can offer. Certain printers offer special finishes that can go a long way in making a lasting impression. See if any of these “special effects” can benefit your business card design strategy.
Embossing: This technique creates three-dimensional reliefs, making certain areas “pop out.” Like spot UV coating, you can use it to draw attention to specific aspects of your card, even words.
Foil stamping: If you want something shiny and reflective like tin foil, you can apply foil stamping to images or even just parts of images. This also works for accenting text, if you’ve chosen a bold typeface.
Spot UV coating: A lot of cards have a sleek varnish to create a sheen and smooth texture. Spot UV coating is the same thing, except only applied to certain areas. That means you can apply a gloss on only your logo, specific graphics, or even a word or phrase. Use it when you want to accent certain areas over others, but be mindful of how it affects the overall composition when only a portion is shiny.
Letterpressing: Rather than raising the paper, letterpress printing pushes the paper down while inking it. The result is something like an engraved item, typically with special ink to draw further attention. Especially useful for letters, giving your words a heightened gravitas.
Review And Finalize
With all the elements in place and an accurate prediction of your final color choices and special finishes, you can reevaluate your design to make sure everything works.
Take a look at all of the design elements. First, examine the visual flow: how does your eye move when looking at the card. What do you notice first? Last? A good visual flow should start with the logo, then the name, and then the secondary information, finishing on any secondary images if they’re there. You can always change and optimize the visual flows by changing an element’s size and location.
You also want to clear out as much clutter as you can. Is all the information necessary? The fewer the remaining elements, the more impact each makes.
Double-check to make sure you didn’t fall into any common pitfalls. Is the text legible? Do the colors clash? Are any elements too close to the edge?
There’s also the option of hiring a professional to design your business cards. Make sure to check out their portfolio to see if they’re a good fit for your brand. Once you’ve found the right person, try to communicate clearly what your business is all about and what style and vibe you are looking for, so your designer can turn your vision into reality.
Don’t forget to have your designer send you the finished product as a vector file and a vector-based PDF. You want to use vector images in case you need to change the size, and PDFs are readable by practically every printer.
Your card is more than just your contact information—it’s a representation of you and your brand. Get creative! Some people are handed cards every day, so you need yours to both standout and paint you in a favorable light.
Don’t cut corners with designing your business card. Spend ample time coming up with the perfect design and then find a skilled designer to turn your creative vision into a reality. Follow all of these tips, and you’ll find that your brand has the perfect business card – and your customers will agree!
And, if you want to develop and print your business cards with a partner in your success, the Branditt team is here to help you. We’ll work with you to develop what you need, from your logo to giant murals, while also helping you to build your brand’s personality and style guide.