Everything you need to know about getting your next business card designed
Getting a business card designed, as with so many things in life, is about finding the middle path
You might be tempted to get something super flashy and busy that encompasses your whole personality on a tiny rectangle. Or you might want to be this guy, and give clients a hulking behemoth that won’t fit in their wallet. But showy cards tend to be either muddled in their messaging or annoying in their extravagance.
On the other hand, you might want to play it safe and be completely minimal. But, while minimal isn’t necessarily a bad thing, being totally free of individual touches is silly. You’re neglecting an opportunity to distinguish yourself from your colleagues and competitors.
Beyond that simple principle, there’s a lot to consider when you’re hiring a designer to create the perfect card. Here are some things you should think about on your way to the perfect card.
What information should you include on your business card?
When it comes to text, less is usually more. A business card with fewer words, unless the font is truly stupid, will be more readable at a glance than a business card with a novella written on it. Additionally, having fewer characters on your card can allow you (and/or your designer) to make bolder typographic choices, if that’s what you’re into.
Also, having too much information can create “analysis paralysis.” If you include six ways to contact you, someone might be dissuaded from doing so simply because it’s unclear which method you prefer.
So, think hard about what information is necessary. Your phone number is probably necessary, as is your email and the name of your organization. With everything else, you should ask what function it serves.
For example, should you include your website? If your website is entirely composed of information that’s relevant to your clients, sure. If it’s your personal blog with a whole bunch of irrelevant stuff on it, consider leaving it off, unless your personality is integral to what you do. The same goes for social accounts. If you’re a social media manager, you’re going to want to put your Instagram feed out there. If not, they don’t need to see your vacation photos.
Think about your audience
There’s no such thing as a business card for everyone. It’s true that there’s such a thing as a business card that won’t offend anyone, but that’s not what you want. You want a card that will make an impression on potential clients and colleagues.
Usually, that involves making bold design choices. That doesn’t mean going wild for the sake of it, it just means firmly asserting your personality.
A good way to tell whether you’ve done this is to notice whether you’re excluding audiences. If you work for a Swiss wealth management firm, you’re going to want to shoot for an austere, authoritative design that wouldn’t work for a yoga studio. If you specialize in working with disabled children, you shouldn’t be aiming to appeal to someone who’s shopping for a monster truck.
It’s not always easy to gauge this yourself. If you have a trusted client, or a friend who understands the impression you’re trying to make, you can always ask them if a design you’re working with seems like it gets the message across.
Be consistent with your brand
If you’ve had to put anything on the Internet before, ever, you have some kind of visual identity, even if it’s just a function of whatever Squarespace template you went for. It’s usually best to stay with that on your card. If your card is turquoise and has fancy serif fonts, and it leads your clients to a website with red accents and Helvetica, that’s not a fatal mistake, but it will seem weird.
Also, if your company has a logo, it should go on there, perhaps even on both the front and back. With a business card, you’re not just permitting people to contact you—you’re building your brand. Ideally, you want your logo to be identifiable at a glance, and you want people to glance at it frequently.
If you don't have a logo, you're going to want to get one done before you get your business card designed. The best way to do that is to post a contest on Freelancer.com, explain a bit about your business and what you're looking for in a logo, and then pick a winner from the entries. You can read more about contests here.
What are the standard business card sizes?
Standard business card sizes vary by country. Here are the classic measurements:
- North America: 3.5 × 2 in. (88.9 × 50.8 mm)
- Europe: 3.346 × 2.165 in. (85 × 55 mm)
- Oceania: 3.54 × 2.165 in. (90 × 55 mm)
It’s not mandatory to adhere to these dimensions, obviously. But if you want a business card that’s guaranteed to fit in your clients’ wallet and conform to their expectations, it’s best to stick to these sizes or smaller.
Should you choose a creative shape for your business card?
This is something to consider. A well-selected shape can be a memorable touch, if it reinforces your image. On the other hand, custom shapes scream “look at me,” they make a card easier to crumple and damage, and they increase the cost of your cards significantly. For most people, it’s worth having a brief flight of fancy about wacky shapes, and then forgetting that altogether in favor of a classic rectangle. Remember: rectangles never go out of style.
Consider touch and texture
A flat business card with a single texture is fine for most purposes, and the choice between matte and glossy isn’t worth losing sleep over—both are acceptable and it simply comes down to personal preference. However, if you really want an element of your card to stand out, like your logo, you might want to give it a lift with a textured finish.
There are a couple of standard ways to texturally accent a business card:
- Spot varnish: Makes one area of your business card shiny, giving it an eye-catching quality.
- Embossing and letterpress: Embossing is a method of raising a selected area, as in braille, and letterpress can be thought of its opposite—it’s a method of printing that leaves a depressed area. These methods can add a pleasing tactile dimension to your design.
- Foil stamping: A luxury treatment, foil stamping imprints your card with a shiny metallic component, whether that’s a small accent, like an underline or filigree, or the card’s entire design.
Use both sides of the business card effectively
There’s no guarantee that your business card will land right-side-up. So, ideally, you want both sides of your card to be recognizable. However, you don’t want to make someone flip your card over to get all the information they need. If in doubt, simply put all of your contact stuff on one side with some sort of visual insignia, and add a larger logo on the other side.
Use quality material for your business card
There are two standard business card paper stocks—14pt and 16pt. While the difference between those two numbers is small, the difference in quality is immense. 16pt stock cards feel sturdy, and won’t deform if someone grips them firmly. 14pt stock cards are much cheaper, but they also feel cheaper, and crumple at the slightest touch. So, unless you absolutely need a card, and absolutely can’t shell out a few more bucks for quality material, go for 16pt stock.
More options exist. There are 32pt cards, which, as you’d expect, are twice as thick as 16pt. They feel gratifyingly solid, almost like a credit card. Beyond that, a few printers offer 48pt stock cards, which are about as thick as a penny. If you’re serious about making a truly sturdy card, it’s worth getting your hands on some samples to feel the difference.
There are also metal cards. And wood cards. And leather cards. And see-through cards. But don’t be too tempted by gimmicky materials. Unless you have a really unique concept that justifies the use of alternate materials, like, say, this business card for a security firm that’s made of lock-picks, just stick with paper. Your wallet will thank you, and your clients won’t get the impression that you’re needlessly showing off.
The most important thing to remember is the difference between 14pt and 16pt. And it’s enormous.
Consider multiple designs for multiple clients
Often, you’ll give your business card to two different categories of people—the extremely desirable contacts, and the reasonably desirable contacts. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to have the same kind of business card for both. Instead, you might want to have two dramatically different cards. For example, you might want to have a beautiful, multi-textured masterpiece to impress your high-value prospects, and a less expensive card to hand out by the dozen at conferences.
Find a great graphic designer for your business card
Hiring any old designer is easy. There are tons of capable people on Freelancer.com. However, it’s really important that you pick someone whose tastes match yours.
So, how do you find the best designer for your business card? Well, remember we mentioned contests earlier? Posting a contest is the best way to get a great business card design. Just write a description of what you want your card to include, be sure to include any digital assets like your company's logo, and then wait to see the entries start rolling in.
Ultimately, however much you’re paying a designer for your card, ensuring the success of the project is up to you. Be as clear as you possibly can about all the factors discussed in this article, from your company’s vision and message down to your preferred materials. If you don’t tell your designer exactly what you want to convey, you might get a competent business card out of it, but the message won’t be yours.