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The art of the business card

3 min read

If you are representing an organisation, then your business card is not about you. The look and feel of your card should be sympathetic to that of the company logo. Don’t use a script typeface if the organisation you represent would be better serviced with a more solid, bold look.

Design considerations
It certainly helps to have a strong logo. Your logo is an important visual representation of your organisation, so if you don’t already have one, get one. Usually, with a strong logo on your side and a clean layout, an artful business card is achievable.

Font size
Keep the text elegantly small (but not illegible). The information does not need to be read from a passing car at 80 km per hour. Even 8 pt text can look too ‘beefy’ depending on the typeface.

‘Air’ is good. Even the small format of a business card needs breathing space. Clear space surrounding information improves readability.

Paper stock
When comes to stock (design term for paper) there are unlimited options. If you want to check out the range available, simply call a paper supplier and ask for a complimentary swatch. For most business cards you should go for a heavier paper stock, such as a 250-300 gsm.

When it comes to finish there are also a range of options including:

  • High gloss – leave this for bars and hairdressers. Although discreet use of a high gloss varnish can look great on a smooth matt paper stock.
  • Matt silk – this is good for almost everybody (and it usually doesn’t look like it is trying too hard)
  • Textured card – is often used by organisations who wish to evoke conservative trustworthiness (i.e. lawyers). However, textured card can also be used to promote a look that is handcrafted (i.e. a bespoke tailor or craftsperson).

Stick to the standard business card size (85 – 90 mm x 55 mm) unless you have a really good reason for straying from the norm. It can be incredibly irritating trying to file a card that won’t fit in a wallet or system designed for standard formats. (And smaller formats i.e. 55 mm x 55 mm are much easier to lose)

Limit your colours. You should generally stick to your main corporate colours (those of your logo). Hopefully these aren’t more than two or three. Depending on the printing technique used, limiting your colours will also save on your budget.

Don’t forget to look for the magic. Certainly business cards have their primary function but sometimes the use of wit or a design twist can make you and your business card that extra bit memorable.

A professionally designed card will stand the test of time. If it is really necessary for you to design your own card then repeat the mantra ‘less is more’. Keep things simple, stay consistent with the look/colours/typography of your logo and most importantly – stick to the brief!

Common mistakes
Too much information
It’s your business card, not your resume so keep it simple. A business card should stick to its intended function and aim to answer the brief: this is who I am, this is the company I represent, and these are my contact details

Choosing a non-standard size
Not everybody carries a business card holder and if your card doesn’t fit in recipients’ purse or wallet it is likely that it will be lost.

The worst
I have seen lots of disastrous business cards and often they occur when money is no object. The most terrifying example of this was for a printer in the UK. They had managed to cram in a rainbow of colours, foil blocking, embossing and debossing (the opposite of embossing) and sealed it all with a sticky gloss laminate finish. Sure, it showed me everything they could do on one small business card. Unfortunately, none of it was nice!

Tania Ennor is a senior creative with over twelve years deisgn experience, including five years at the international studio, Pentagram Design, London.

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