In today’s digital age of networking and communication, you might think the paper business card is a lingering relic of an ancient era. While it’s true that we don’t use them functionally the same way we used to, they still serve as ambassadors for you and your business, and they’re an extension of your professional identity.
We spoke to Dave Weinberger, vice president and engagement director at brand agency CBX in New York City, to learn why business cards are still important and get some tips on how to go about designing a business card that is effective and memorable.
1. Simplicity is key — avoid the tricks and gimmicks.
“You want a business card to be pretty easy to use. Like most design, simple is better — don’t over-design things,” says Weinberger. Keep your card clean and uncluttered by being thoughtful about what information you include, as well as how you include it. “You don’t need to do tricky things with your phone number and address, because that’s obnoxious and people need to access that information,” he says. The same applies to font color; he recommends sticking with simple colors like black or dark/medium gray.
2. Treat your business card like a marketing tool, and use it in a deliberate, purposeful way.
Sure, we all know that the direct purpose of business cards is contact information, like your name, job title, and email address. But nowadays, when it’s super simple and fast to connect with someone on LinkedIn, “the information almost becomes the least important part of a business card,” says Weinberger. “It’s kind of an antiquated aspect.”
So instead, you should treat your business card like a marketing tool and first figure out: What’s the purpose of using this, and how can I achieve these goals?
For example, you might want to use your business card to make a good first impression or act as a conversation starter. To do so, you could use heavier or thicker paper stock, sandwich multiple layers of stock together, or play around with the orientation, colors, and ink on the card. Weinberger says that he’s designed vertical business cards in the past in order to stand out from the crowd: “It allows you to stack information, and if you have a lot of phone numbers and a long address, it’s actually helpful.” Changing up the size of the card is another creative way to make it unique. Rather than stick with the standard 3.5” x 2” size, try designing a larger or smaller one. These all add visual surprise and complexity.
You could also experiment with die-cuts, letterpress, or unconventional materials (like wood or plastic, to name a few) in order to get people to notice you in an unusual, inventive, and memorable way. Avoid printing cards on glossy paper, which can look low-quality. “You generally want to do it on uncoated stock. Gloss and too much varnish can look cheap and gaudy,” says Weinberger.
Alternatively, you might want to use your business card as a meeting tool. Weinberger says what makes his CBX business cards unique is that their first names are the largest things on them, which make them valuable during meetings. “When people put the cards in front of them in a meeting, they quickly glance down and the names are huge so they can see who they’re talking to, which is helpful,” says Weinberger.
3. Use the back of the card as extra real estate.
In order to maximize your business card to its fullest potential, try using the back for supplemental branding or messaging. Weinberger says he’s seen companies put photos, brand statements, and logos on the back, which can help make your card more memorable. “If you have a card that you want to use as part of your first impression, it certainly costs more to print 2-sided, but it could be worth the effort,” he says.
4. Enlist professional help.
This seems like an obvious tip, but don’t overlook the importance of using professional designers, printers, and photography. Because a business card is part of your first impression, you don’t want to present something that’s confusing, poorly designed, or unprofessional. The card should reflect well on your business and also quickly convey who you are and what you value. Graphic designers can easily create creative cards that are innovative yet professional, and printers can provide the proper paper stock and ink that are well worth the money. If you’re looking for beautifully designed, ready-to-customize business cards, you can also check our Business Card Templates lightbox.
5. Avoid putting temporary messaging on the card.
Putting ad slogans, campaign taglines, and coupons on your business card might seem like a good idea because it’s additional brand messaging, but Weinberger cautions against it. “We generally say: You don’t want things that aren’t evergreen on your business card. You want it to be a permanent statement because someone’s going to keep it for a long time,” he says. Stick to evergreen items like basic contact information and logos.
Yes, business cards are a formality. However, a well-designed business card will communicate information clearly, lend credibility to you and your business, and make you memorable with the people you meet. They are more than just a means of conveying contact information; they are marketing tools that can be used in a purposeful way. It’s up to you to explore your purpose, goals, and then design accordingly.