An 8 Step Guide to Designing the Ultimate Business Card

12 August 2019

An 8 Step Guide to Designing the Ultimate Business Card

Creating A Business Card That Makes A Statement: 8 Key Questions

Inspired by a scene from the dark yet humorous all time classic movie American Psycho, this blog highlights the importance of one of your most important marketing tools - your business card!. The infamous scene absurdly focus on a boardroom of upper class New York society (Wall Street executives) comparing the minute details of each others business cards and evaluate one another. Before reading on, watch author Bret Easton Ellise's American Psycho - Business Card Scene to set the tone.

Internet or no internet, much of business continues the way it always has. When salespeople meet leads, they still start with a business card. When executives meet each other, they still exchange business cards and first impressions. The card is proof of the brand, image, reputation, and who you are and what you do. It’s one sign of what your company thinks of you, a first and lasting impression.

Designing a business card that makes a difference -

Big business or sole proprietor, you’ll want to network, leave a card with a receptionist, or enter another’s card into your customer relationship management system. If you represent a big corporation, they will insist on their design. But if you are a freelancer, entrepreneur, or small business owner, you’ll want a business guard that singles you out.

But you also should ask what message you want to communicate. You might want to put your personality forward. Or, it might be more important to push your product or service. It takes some time and thought to decide what doors you want to open and the best way to do that.

One way to get there is to visualize the pitch you want to make, a short commercial promoting who you are and what you do. For example, you might want to share the business’ vales, or you might clarify the unique sales proposition that separates your message from the crowd. These are the two core questions:

  1. How do you see yourself?
  2. What three words best brand your business?

The whole idea is to frame a personal statement that opens doors. Once you have a logo, a color scheme for the brand, and a clear idea of the message, you’re ready to start the work of designing a business card that makes a difference.

1. What shape are you in?

Chances are you’ll pick the traditional rectangular business card. But many businesses are opting to think further outside of the box. They are inventing new models and using shape to make an impression.

Designers and printers are more aligned than ever. Technologies have made more imaginative work possible in printing. Technology has helped them deliver printed products that capture the designer’s vision.

Advanced die-cutting has improved the ability to cut out increasing novel shapes and still produce them in large numbers.
For some, it just means rounding a rectangle’s corners or turning a card into a circle. For others, the challenge creates novel forms like flowers, triangles, trees, animals, symbols, and more. You don’t want to be too playful with a serious brand, but if the brand permits, you can push the envelope.

Die cut cards like these add visual and tactile dimension to the logo and message:

An open discussion with your designer helps you explore the possibilities enabled by new printing technologies. Clever design can make you things fun or dramatic, so keep your mind open. Die-cutting adds to your cost, and any design must fit a wallet, but setting aside these issues, you could find something right for your business.

2. How big do you want to be?

There are “gold standard” card sizes although they differ slightly in different parts of the world. The standard in North America is 88.9X50.8 mm or 3.5X2 in. In Europe, most cards are 85X55 mm or 3.346X2.165 in. And, throughout Oceania, you’ll find cards at 90X55 mm or 3.540X2.165 in.

You also must work out some printer guidelines with the designer’s input. For instance, a card has a Bleed Area where the outermost edge is likely to be removed during printing. A Trim Line forms the cutting target 3 mm or 0.125 inches from the edge. And, a Safety Line marks the area beyond which cutting mistakes may occur 3 mm or 0.125 inches from the Trim Line. Any logo, picture, or copy must fall within this total of 6 mm or 0.250 from the edge of the Bleed Area to the inside of the Safety Line. 

3. What do you picture?

The best logo is one you’re not afraid to show off. The logo dominates the most effective visuals. However, the means you should reduce or eliminate other flourishes or squiggles, letting the logo do its job.

You may want to use the open space around your logo, and you can add graphics where they suit the message. But your card has two sides allowing you to add text and images to the back.

Your main color choices belong to color palettes allowing the use of various hues, shades, and related colors. Designers can multiply the effects of dark rich colors to deliver varied dramatic messages. Others will optimize pale or pastel palettes for a light-hearted or humorous impression.

Yet another option engages interest with a minimalist approach. The front of the card may have a logo with no text pressing the reader to turn the card over for the copy and contact information. 

4. What are you going to say?

It’s more a question of how much you want to say. Depending on your mission, the card may not need a snail mail address. Social media links may be important to some more than others. And, you should only list a cell phone if callers can reach you directly. But every business card needs:

Business Name: Few people are recognized by their name alone. If doing business as yourself, your full name may be enough. For everyone else, it pays to have a business name, something as engaging in the text as the logo is in shape and color. And, in most of these cases, the business name should be larger in type and style than your personal name.

Personal Name: You’ll want to use the name you want people to use. Some cards use a nickname, but you really want to think over using names like Shorty, Buddy, or Tiger. More people are likely to stress their initials while most use their full name.

Job title: Titles are more important in some business cultures than others. It should clearly communicate where you stand in the corporation’s hierarchy, who you are, and what you do. In some business worlds, your place in the hierarchy says everything about you and identifies you as a performer or decision maker.

Contact Points: People want to contact you directly, so you might include the physical address, cell phone, P.O. Box, suite number, FAX number, email, URL, and other means to communicate. Too much information is clutter, so manage what’s necessary for your business.

Website URL: Contemporary businesses have dynamic websites. Some prospects can complete their business process or purchase on the site. But you should not use the URL until your business site is first-rate and demonstrates your business capabilities, special sales proposition, and personal credibility.

Business Slogan: Some companies optimize the quality of their slogan. But contemporary designs rely more on effective logos to deliver iconic meaning and experience. If the slogan has become everyday parlance, the business will include it on the business card as part of its marketing campaign. Without those restrictions, you should let your logo do your talking.

It helps to design an image of the business you want others to pocket, save, and work into their memories and shopping behaviors. 

5. How do you want it to read?

Given the small space on standard business cards, your choice of typography can make a real difference to message and readability.

You have three decisions to make:

Type Font: The sheer number of type fonts can confuse you. Serif styles (like Times New Roman or Bodoni MT) have little feet at the bottom for generally classic images. Sans Serif (like Arial or Tahoma) fonts do not have those little feet and usually deliver more modern messages. Serif fonts are traditional and elegant; Sans Serif fonts are clean and sleek.

Type Size: The surface area of the business card limits your choices in type size. The size is measured in points, and the standard for most legal documents is 10 points. Anything less than 8 points is difficult to read so you might make that your benchmark. Of course, you want the key elements to stick out, but you’ll need a designer’s advice on finding the right balance in font style and font size.

Effective Colors: Most business cards favor white paper stock in different grades and finishes. But your card can take a different direction. Paper comes in many colors providing unique backgrounds for business themes and branding. You can’t let colors interfere with readability, and you can’t forget color printing costs more than black on white. But effective use of color and type can increase your return on investment.

Every decision must deliver a message and an image to create and retain connections.

6. How special do you want to make it?

Printers can make or break your plans. They know their business, and that means recommending the materials and processes to turn your ideas into impressive business cards. They have many paper stocks in different finishes, and they may have the expertise to add special features, too.

Foil Stamping adds shine, glimmer, and reflection to logos, texts, or sections of the card. It’s a special process taking time and skill.

Embossing is another nice touch that adds dimension, texture, and tactile experience for the cardholder. It takes the printer’s skill to make certain elements pop out, but it takes the designer’s skill to determine where and how the embossing works best.

Letter Pressing reverses the embossing by pressing the paper down while coloring it. This creates the look and feel of an engraving or bas relief.

UV Coating adds gloss and smooth finish to key elements. You might want the logo, text, or graphics to stand out this way. 

7. Why bother using a designer?

Unless you are a designer yourself, you need the training, know-how, and inspiration to share your imagination and deliver the perfect card for you. People use designers from among their families or friends—at their own risk.

You need a designer with the right style, experience and with a portfolio of business card work you can review. So, simply post a business card project outlining what you need designed then set your own budget and deadline. Following this you get to enjoy watching global ideas swarm in to compete for your project on Hexi Design's platform.

Once you’ve found the right designer, the one doing work suited for your brand and purpose, you start a conversation by clearly communicating 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.

8. What’s left?

Once you have all the elements in order including a strong idea of the color scheme and unique features, you have the chance to confirm everything works for you.

  • Study how your eye moves across the card when you look at it. Consider that you see first and last. You’re looking for a nice visual flow, eye movement from the logo to your name to everything else. You must divide if the preview is the best use of the space.
  • Be brave and willing to eliminate clutter. There shouldn’t be anything without an impact. If it doesn’t have a strategic purpose, it should be trashed. Some people even use different cards for different purposes.
  • Triple-check every detail, especially the text. Proofread repeatedly and check colors for bleeding. And, confirm everything is with the trim and safety lines.

    When you are satisfied, you can ask the Hexi designer as a vector-based PDF which assures sizing and legibility for your final approval.

Make your first try final!

If this is your first business card, you may want to start with something simple and efficient. If you want to spend more and take a bigger risk, you can try for something fun and innovative.

  • Create a card that opens.
  • Use a heavier stock.
  • Pick an experimental material like metal or plastic.
  • Design a transparent card.
  • Add dimension, texture, or scent.

Choose colors that make yours stand out, but each color requires additional cost. If you let your designers know, they can use colors that create illusions using multiple shades of the same color.

Final question, “Does it know people’s socks off?”

A business card helps your first impression. It’s your personal trademark, a leave behind signature statement. It carries your contact information, your quality standard, and your unique sales message.

It must be durable, unique, and engaging. This is no place to cut expenses – Hexi Design's platform can help you design and deliver a business card that will make a statement.