Business Card Design Do's and Don'ts
Your business card is an extension of yourself and the brand of your business or yourself. With good design, a recipient will remember enough about your card that they can easily find it when sorting through a hefty stack. Here’s how to take advantage of the lasting impression a business card can help foster, and how to avoid some common business card design pitfalls.
Less Is More
It’s easy to get carried away and want to include every possible contact method or certification on your leave-behind, but a business card cluttered with unnecessary information is unpleasing to the eye and can be confusing. It should include your name and any title, an email address, two phone numbers (if applicable), your logo, and your website. Leaving some information off of the card, like hours, can even help drive website traffic. Once you’ve decided on the information to include, it’s time to think about the design of the card.
Color is one of the easiest ways to catch a reader’s eye. Keep in mind, though, that the use of opposite or fluorescent colors will only become less pleasant to look at over time. Stick with complementary colors, and make sure to include a neutral tone in the palate.
Also make sure that the colors you use are bright enough. If someone squints or finds better light to read your card, consider using a darker shade for the text. Make sure that the ink of the information contrasts with the background to avoid causing a grimace and a headache in anyone trying to read your business card.
Speaking of color, make sure to take advantage of its absence. Leaving empty white space is important for both the aesthetic and function of a business card. Especially in a conference-type setting, you can bet on people receiving several business cards a day. Combined with the use of contrasting and complementary colors, plenty of white space draws the eye to the information you want the recipient to remember, and creates a mental imprint of the design layout. When fanning through a stack of cards, you want them to remember the overall shape of the information on your card.
The function of your business card is also enhanced by its use of white space. You’ll often find a reason to jot a note or additional contact information somewhere on the card before handing it to someone. Having a color in the background often creates a slick surface on the card that makes it difficult to write on. Leaving white space for this purpose, even an entire side of the card, is good planning. With ample white space, you have ample ability to write a note or other info.
A heavy cardstock is pleasant to hold and weathers better than a thinner, less sturdy paper stock. That said, using a medium-weight paper is sometimes the difference between 200 cards and 600 cards. For this reason, it is one of the first things sacrificed. If you are planning to hand out hundreds of business cards, using the standard business card paper stock is one of the best ways to cut costs and get more bang for your buck without sacrificing design elements, but it won’t leave the same impression as a heavier-weight card stock. Consider shelling out the extra money to make a stronger lasting impression. If you are given an option between matte, satin, or glossy finish to the card stock, choose matte. Matte will reduce glare and is easier to write on with a variety of pens.
The standard size of a business card is 3.5in x 2in. For decades, wallets, pockets, and sleeve inserts have been designed to fit this size card. If you vary from this size, it should fit within this size. Using a unique shape can make your business card stand out, but you want it to fit in with the rest of the stack. Even if the shape is square, or circular, or triangular rather than rectangular, make sure it fits within those dimensions.
In addition to a logo, a maximum of two fonts should be used on a business card. Like the use of color, fonts should be complementary and balanced. If you are using a font with a lot of personality, a second font should be plain and of a smaller size. Using a serif and sans serif font combination is often pleasing to the eye, as is the use of one font in all-caps.
Avoid the use of an overly slanted or script font on a business card. The size of a business card limits the use of fonts to the simple and easily legible. Recipients should not be straining to read what looks like amateur graffiti on a small train car. Keep it clean, balanced, and easy to read. When in doubt, it is perfectly acceptable to use only one font.
We live in the age of Etsy. If you are struggling to design a business card that feels right to you, don’t be afraid to reach out to a graphic designer. Most designers do freelance work on the side, designing logos and branding guides for a flat rate that usually includes business card, letterhead, and logo design. Shop around and get quotes from several to find the right fit for you. A good deal can usually be found at your local art college, where students are adding to their portfolio in preparation for entering the workforce after graduation.
You never know when a small detail like a business card could make a big difference. Has giving out a card ever made a difference for you? Tell us the story in the comments below!