Business Card Design

What is a business card?

The modern business cards originated from earlier visiting cards, which appeared in Europe around 17th century. They were used to introduce oneself to a household or family which a person had a desire to visit. Visiting cards included the bearers name and sometimes the title or coat of arms, but no address or any other contact information. Frankly it’s not that there were any other means for contacting an individual rather than seeing in person in 17th century. It was a usual matter to decorate visiting cards using fancy ornaments matching some gothic style typeface.

As years passed by and smart entrepreneurs discovered the means of marketing, they realised the importance of well spread brand identity. So they started giving out cards with their name on it and called them business cards. The size and shape might not change that much from visiting cards, but the meaning changed a lot. Then the cards included address, occupation and sometimes even a picture of a card holder and it meant the opposite – not a desire to contact a person, but a desire to be contacted.

Modern business cards include information about the company and/or individual bearing the card. It might be company name, logo, motto, person’s name and title, contact information, like phone and fax numbers, email, website and address. Nowadays the purpose of a business card is to remind a receiver about a card bearer and the ways to contact him if a need arise. Another objective, which is no less important, is to introduce oneself in a proper manner. It seems we didn’t go that far from a 17th century on this one.



The language of symbols

The most impressive ceremonies of introducing oneself by presenting a business card are developed by Japanese.  Being masters of ceremonies generally speaking they constructed elaborate rules of how to deliver and how to accept their traditional Meishi business cards. The Meishi holder has to store their business cards in a leather case keeping them perfectly tidy, dry and clean. One cannot touch the surface of a card but rather gently hold it by the edges. And the most important part is that a business card presenter can read the language of symbols of how the receiver treats his or her Meishi as it means that individual or company will be treated in the same way. Gently putting your business card in a leather case means respect, but folding the card in two or shoving it in the back pocket could be treated as an insult. Western people don’t usually take the symbol language that seriously, but we can definitely learn some good things from Japanese – clean, tidy business card in a healthy shape would beat a worn and torn card any day of the week.


Design versus content

Way too often a designer creating a business card or a customer briefing a designer ask themselves the same question – what to display on a card? Obviously everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and have the most striking business card ever created by the human race. Every person familiar with term “Marketing” wishes a card which would be kept, noticed in a pile of other business cards and finally used by the prospective customer to contact the card bearer. On the other hand information on a business card has to be easily accessible and not hidden behind some fancy drawings, shapes or materials. It is the same as finding needed information on your website – it has to be done instantly, otherwise people get stressed and annoyed and you definitely don’t want those negative emotions towards your company.

So frankly there is no single answer what do display on your business card. For some people simply a name is just enough. Some go that far as display the products or services on business cards. For most though the bits to put on a card would include: the company name and a logo, name and title of business card holder, contact information. It mostly depends on what kind of business you are doing, who is your prospective client and how well established your company is so far. For instance a business card of a well known lawyer might include just his name, title (lawyer) and preferred way of contact (email, phone number or website address). And a business card of someone who works in a multinational insurance company should display all the company’s insignia together with person’s name, title, possibly department and all the means of contact, including main office number, direct line number and mobile phone number.

So the bottom line is that we have to admit – business card is a very important and effective marketing tool, but at the same time we have to use it with care and responsibility. Display all the information you think your prospects might consider useful, but also leave some empty space for additional notes.


The shape of a business card

Have you ever considered breaking the standard shape and dimensions of a business card to come up with something more interesting and memorable? Well, the first rule of breaking the rules is to know the rules. The most common size used in United Kingdom and in most of Western Europe is 85 x 55 mm. Another popular format is 90 x 50 mm; it is commonly used in Eastern Europe and in South America, although this size is gaining popularity elsewhere too. North Americans use inch based size – 3.5 x 2 in.

Obviously the most important reason to use the standard sizes is for the purpose of your business card to fit well into a wallet or card holder. Yes, it might be very exciting to receive a card which is, let’s say, round shaped or in a shape of your company’s logo. But if business card doesn’t fit in wherever your client usually keeps the cards it is very likely he will shove it in the back pocket and loose it on first possible occasion. And a lost business card is as good as no business card at all.

Fortunately there is a very reasonably way to make your card slightly more exciting and still keep it in your customers wallet. Consider round cornering. If your company’s corporate identity sports a round shaped logo it might be very well incorporated in the round cornered business card, creating a pleasant sense of consistency. And even more exciting advantage is that rounded corners are much less likely to wear with time, keeping your card in a steady healthy shape.


Selection of material

Then selecting stock for your business cards consider this: firstly it is always best to use the same sort of paper for all your stationery, including business cards. It allows people not only see your consistent corporate identity, but also feel it. Fortunately the most popular paper brands have very different weight options allowing you to choose the same kind of stock for your 350 gsm thick business cards, for your 100 gsm thick letterheads and even for your envelopes.

On the other hand business cards are not designed to write or print on them, as letterheads, compliment slips and envelopes are, so really you could be a bit more flexible in card stock selection. This same reason allows you to go for some highly textured paper with silkscreen print or even foiling and embossing. It might be a bit of a challenge to incorporate these fancy cards to fit the general look of your letterheads and compliment slips, but if you have a good budget it is possible to create a really striking set of stationery, which would stress out the solidity of your company.