When you meet someone at a networking event, giving the person a business card allows you to leave them with a tangible reminder of your encounter.
But what makes a great business card? Unlike what we may have learned in American Psycho, slight differences in the typeface or background are not what will set you apart from the crowd. You should, however, consider all of the possibilities in information, design, and printing processes when designing a new business card.
To begin, consider the information that you want to include on a business card. Don’t turn it into a mini resume — it won’t work. Instead, keep it simple. A successful card typically includes name and contact information. Also, because photography is such a visual business, your website URL and Instagram handle are necessary. You want the card to be the map to your portfolio: make it easy for people to find you, but don’t give them your life story. Scott McClelland, the owner of Paper Meets Press, a local print shop outside of Philadelphia, mentioned this when we talked to him.
The most common mistake we see when people design their own business cards is the amount of information in the design. Less is more — only include the information you need.
Now is the fun part (for a designer, anyway): the style or design layout of the card. How do you display the information so that it is sophisticated, compelling, and attention-grabbing? Ultimately, the card should be an extension of your brand, which means it should hold all of the same design elements as your website and marketing materials. So, before you order 500 copies of your card, take a step back and make sure you have your graphic identity finalized. For advice on how to develop your brand, take a look at our Expert Advice article on Visual Identity.
Your brand’s font should already be clean and legible, but you want to make sure people can read it. Font size is important — the golden range is between 8 and 12 points. This will ensure that the average person can read it, but it’s not overcrowding the card. The way you format the text may also add to the design while creating a hierarchy of information and adding variety to the card. For example, the name of your company should be on the larger side, while the website, phone number, and email should probably appear smaller.
To keep things from becoming too crowded, remember a business card has two sides. Do you want to include a logo, a little bit about you or the company, contact information, and a picture? Spread it out. Add a clean logo or illustration on one side — maybe include a joke or a detail about yourself or the business. Leave the other side for your contact information, and you already have a pretty standard and successful card. Others may argue that a one-sided card is a way to go. This way, future clients and collaborators can jot down a few notes about you on the other side. Some also prefer a single-sided card for aesthetic reasons, thinking the simpler, the better.
The typical orientation is a horizontal 2”x3” card. A vertical approach could allow for a unique look while holding the same professional standard. With the inescapable connection between photography and Instagram, it may make sense for a photographer to make a square card – mimicking the popular platform. You can even be more playful with a die-cut, allowing your card to be any shape or form.
How does one stand out? At networking events, people walk out with pockets full of business cards. Think of a clever way to make your card unique. Some cards use bright colors and vibrant images to draw attention. Cards can include bleeds and folds to add elements that you wouldn’t expect from such a small, informative piece of stock. Interactive cards may also be the way to go. Include a joke, add a mad-lib, or give instructions on how to make your card a cootie-catcher.
There are endless ways to make a unique business card. We recommend going with something that aligns with your brand. If you are a hip company that’s full of quirks and caters to youth-culture, it makes sense to be playful with your business card since it will most likely reflect your brand well. If you are a reportage photographer, it’s better to keep it simple.
“A well-printed card on a thicker stock feels different and is typically something you want to keep,” Scott advises. Along with physical quality, the quality of the design is a major factor in determining the impact of a business card and does the most to help someone stand out. In a creative industry especially, having an appealing business card is one of the best ways to compel potential clients to look further into your work.
As far as print processes go, there are a few options to consider. Digital printing is, of course, the most obvious, as that happens with industrial printers like the ones with which we’re all familiar. Offset printing, while similar, has a few extra steps and is considered higher quality than digital. Beyond that, there are a pair of processes that can add to your card’s uniqueness just by themselves. Letterpress, which has seen a recent rise in popularity, is one of the oldest techniques in town. It offers textured lettering and a layered feel since this method prints each color individually. Silkscreening, or screen printing, creates vibrant colors, and allows flexibility of material, meaning that a card could be made of cloth or wood instead of paper stock.
After printing, there are further design elements that can be added to a business card to give it an extra pop of pizzaz. Foil stamping and varnish both work to add a splash of shine to your card and make it quite literally eye-catching. Other viable techniques include the aforementioned die-cutting, which allows for cutting paper into a specified shape or cutting a shape into the paper, as well as duplex and edge painting. Duplex involves gluing two pieces of material together, creating the option of having a different color paper on each side of your card. It also prevents letterpressed information from coming through both sides of the card, which appeals to some folks. Edge painting is exactly as it sounds: a business card with painted edges. This accent of color adds contrast and depth but requires a thicker stock to come through effectively.
We recommend MOO for digital printing, as they print our office cards and are one of the best printers in the industry. As well, they have fantastic customer service. MOO offers four printing sizes: standard, MOO size, mini, and square. The quality is outstanding, and the prices aren’t too shabby, either.
For specialty printing, we use local print shops. Supporting small businesses helps bolster your local economy. We use Main Line Print Shop and Paper Meets Press, both of which are located in Wayne, PA.
There is a multitude of other printing companies out there, as well. Here are a few that we’ve heard good things about:
· Letterpress Commons: offers a comprehensive search of known local printers all across the world, especially in Europe and the United States.
· 4Over4: an up-and-coming online printing company, boasting a variety of quality products, as well as a different discount every day.
· LatitutePrints: an online printing company with a purpose — 50% of their profits go towards providing food, clean water, and education to women and children living in poverty.
· Vistaprint: a printing company with helpful customer service, as well as printing for clothing, bags, and other unique promotional materials.
· Modern Postcard: in addition to postcards and other print promos, Modern prints business cards in a variety of styles.