How to Design Business Cards: 12 Time-tested Tips

Knowing how to design business cards that make a positive impact can be a godsend for a professional in any industry. Here are twelve tips designers and print experts have shared  that will help anyone create better business cards:

1.) Use good quality stock.

This perhaps is the most important tip there is. The feel and heft of your business cards can translate into a positive impression for your brand. If your business cards feels good, chances are your future customer will feel good about you too.

2.) Use the right finishes and coatings.

The choice of finish on your business cards can make or break your design. Coated business cards tend to be popular because they are protected a bit better from moisture which makes the colors a bit more lifelike and vibrant. Uncoated business cards on the other hand, have classic look and feel that is often associated with luxury brands.

Neither of these choices are necessarily better or worse than the other. In some cases you may want a different coating on each side of your business card. Whatever choice you make, it’s best to ensure that the finishes you choose matches your brand and your intended application.

3.) Try custom die-cuts.

If you really want to get noticed, try making a custom-shaped business card. Everyone has business cards, but not everyone puts in the effort to make them stand out.  But even with a pleasing design, it’s tough to be remembered if you have the same size and shape of rectangular cardstock everyone else has. Die-cut business cards allow you to break the mold and create designs free from the restrictions of the standard business card shape.

4.) Experiment with content.

Business cards might be small, but there is actually enough space on them to create all types of compelling content. You can include bits of trivia, testimonials, poetry, links, QR codes, or whatever works to create something compelling for your customer. You can even include an exclusive coupon code to not only encourage more sales, but to make the recipient keep your card longer.

5.) Stick with time-tested design principles.

Print and general design concepts such as visual hierarchy, ideal print resolution, use of color, negative space, and typography will apply directly to business cards. It can take designers years of experience to truly internalize what makes a good design work given a specific context. But even novice business card designers can create something that works. The key is to stick to the basics and keep things simple.

6.) Look at common design mistakes.

If you want to learn how to design business cards, perhaps the fastest way is to see firsthand how not to do it. The most egregious crimes against print design are all in the link below.

18 Alarmingly Bad Print Ads

5 Forbidden Color Combinations

5 Fonts You Should Never Use

7.) Set and save your files correctly.

This is pretty basic, but it bears repeating, Always start your files in CMYK, rather than converting them at the end, to avoid jarring differences in your colors. Be sure to use vectors for text and graphics whenever possible to avoid a potential loss in quality. Lastly, be sure to save your files in the formats recommended by your printer. We recommend PDF, but EPS or a high-quality JPG are also accepted.

8.) Make useful business cards.

Plain old business cards are often seen to be just a waste of space. Add some utility to your cards and people will think twice before throwing them in the trash. We already mentioned that you could add a coupon code to your cards, but you could also add a small map, calendar, an access pass, or other genuinely useful bits of content related to your industry. Check out these examples of useful business cards.

9.) Use non-traditional materials.

If you’re adventurous, try using materials other than paper or cardstock. Nonstandard cards such as DIY cards from recycled materials or food products like beef jerky and biscuits can work for some businesses. If you only need a few cards and want to make a huge impact, these unconventional business cards may be right for you. Printed business cards however, are still the best choice for most businesses

10.) Pay attention to the text.

You can have a great layout, and top-notch images on your card, but it will all be in vain if your text is indecipherable. At the very least, make sure your font can be read. Your choice of typeface should also complement your brand. Far too often business cards fail to meet their potential because the font choice was inappropriate or picked arbitrarily. Be sure to check the legibility of your text and avoid size and font combinations that don’t complement each other, as this can quickly lead to bad business card design.

11.) Sketch it on paper first.

It’s amazing how such a basic yet useful idea can often be overlooked, even by veteran designers. By creating drafts on paper, you can better get a feel for how you want to approach your design when you finally create it on your computer. If you can’t use a design app, sketching a rough draft on cardstock or paper is also a good way to help your designer understand what it is you want. If necessary, you can color your mock business cards and cut them out of the paper if you have to. Get a stock sample kit so you could better choose which stock would ultimately be a better match for your sketched design.

12.) Reduce your design.

When you’re done with your business card design, don’t send it in for printing just yet. Test your design by progressively removing one element at a time to see if it still works. There’s always something that could be left out that won’t adversely impact the effectiveness of your cards. Chances are you in fact strengthening your designs by removing otherwise pointless clutter.

For more ideas on how to design business cards, check out the PrintPlace Blog. It contains a wealth of information on business card and print design as well as marketing and small business tips.

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