10 Tips For Designing Effective Business Cards That Won’t Embarrass You

They say first impressions last, and it’s true. Everything from your body language, handshake and the first words you utter, can directly impact how people perceive you from that point onwards. My favourite is, “You don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression.”

That’s enough of a challenge in your personal life, but there’s even more pressure when it comes to setting the right tone for your business when interacting with potential clients.

Badly designed business cards are the quickest way to undo all the hard work you did in building a relationship with them.

You don’t believe us?

What was your internal reaction the last time somebody handed you a business card they’d obviously designed and printed themselves.

Were you impressed or horrified?

We’d guess it was the latter.

So, let’s take a look at the key mistakes you absolutely must avoid with your business cards.

1. Clutter

Less is most definitely more when designing business cards. Some entrepreneurs look like they’re trying to fit their entire resumé onto it. So you get their business name, their own name, email address, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc, etc.

Remember, the goal of your business card is to serve as a reminder of who you are, what you do and how to contact you. Outside that you’re literally wasting your time trying to cram anything else onto that tiny surface area.

What information should be on a business card? Your business name, your name, what you do, and a way to contact you. That’s it. End of.

cluttered business card
Image source: https://www.creativebloq.com

2. Clipart

There was a time when using free clipart on business cards might have looked okay, but that was back in 1992. There’s no excuse for using clipart when designing a business card, well not unless you’re running a business that actually sells clipart.

High-quality stock photographs and images are readily available online from a number of sources. And with images costing as little as €1 each there’s no reason for you not to use them.

We understand that clipart is used at times to make the design of a card appear more whimsical or humorous, but that’s rarely a good idea.

3. DIY Design

Graphic design is part art, part science and a whole lot of knowing what does and doesn’t work in the real world. Yes, you could invest in Adobe Photoshop or InDesign, and design your card yourself, but you’ll have invested a lot of time and money, and probably still not get the results you wanted.

Or, worse again, you spend several days designing your own business card only to find that it’s not suitable for printing. This could include problems like document format, pixelated images, or other layout issues, including the lack of bleed and crop marks.

So you end up having to get the printer to design it for you, and you’ve wasted dozens of hours of time that should have been spent developing your business or finding new customers.

awful business card design
Image source: https://www.creativebloq.com

4. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes

This goes without saying, but a speeling mistake sets the wrong toen for any piece of content, and when it’s in a condensed business card format then the problems are magnified.

Yes, the two typos we included in the first line of this paragraph were deliberate. Did you notice how they gave you reason to pause and think, “Well…how am I expected to take them seriously if they don’t even proofread their own content?

Your printing company may or may not catch your spelling mistakes or grammatical gaffs before your cards are sent to the printing press. If they don’t then you face the unenviable situation of a client pointing out the mistake to you. *Cringe*.

5. Photo Portraits

There are a limited number of situations where putting a picture of yourself on a business card is acceptable. It makes sense for models, or when a person’s “product” is their appearance, like a real estate agent, for example.

If you absolutely insist on having your visage included in the design of your card then please, please use a professional photographer. Selfies don’t work, no matter how good the camera on your phone is. Also, don’t try to be quirky, cool or unique – like dressing in a costume, or something equally silly.

Should you put your picture on a business card or not? If you have to ask yourself that question, then you already know the answer.

photo portrait business card
Image source: http://terriblebusinesscards.tumblr.com/

6. Terrible Typography

There are thousands of different typefaces to choose from, so picking the perfect font for your business card isn’t easy.

Each of these typefaces has its own “perfect” environment, but for some bizarre reason many entrepreneurs think that a cursive font belongs on their business card. They do this even when there are dozens of better typefaces staring them in the face.

It’s meant to give the card a sense of elegance or style, but what a cursive font says about you is that you don’t understand the basics of good design. A cursive font will also clash with any other typeface used in the design of your card, and that’s never a good thing.

Another typography sin to avoid is using a tiny font size to cram more information onto the card. If a customer has to fetch their glasses to read your card then you’ve already lost their confidence.

7. Oversized Business Cards

The vast majority of business cards are 3.5″ x 2″ (85mm x 55mm) in size. This also just happens to be the perfect size to fit inside the average wallet as it’s credit card size too. Yes, you can have a business card printed to whatever dimensions you want, but the truth is that if your business card does not fit comfortably inside a wallet it will be tossed into the trash.

We know you probably have several oversized or novelty cards in your possession, but we’re also going to hazard a guess that they’re in a drawer somewhere and not in your wallet.

What’s the point in coming up with a clever idea for your business card if it winds up stuck in a drawer?

terrible business card
Image source: http://terriblebusinesscards.tumblr.com/

8. Colour Clashes

One of the most important tips for effective business card design is to choose a colour scheme that won’t give your customers a headache. There’s a reason why really successful people hand out business cards that you probably consider “boring”. In fact, they almost always look the same.

This is done because muted colour schemes work best. They don’t offend or distract the eye, they stay “on-brand”, and they won’t make you the butt of jokes.

There’s a whole psychology behind the use of specific colours on printed materials, and your printer can offer you sound advice on which ones will work best for your business or brand.

9. Putting Quotes on Business Cards

This might seem like a good way to demonstrate your personal values, or to inspire others. It will also clutter your business card so much as to make it illegible.

You have a limited amount of space on your business card to achieve what you need, so don’t litter it with a quote that is basically meaningless to everyone but you.

Including your business motto is fine, because at least it’s related to what you do. But, as for quotes…put them aside for posting on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

home made business card
Image source: http://terriblebusinesscards.tumblr.com/

10. Avoid Borders

This is a mistake made by pretty much every DIY graphic designer we’ve done business with. Adding a border to your business card might work for framing your concept and focusing reader attention, but it can also have a negative impact.

The small area around the edge of your business card will need to be aligned, printed and trimmed perfectly every single time or your border will be out of alignment.

While this is a rare occurrence when using a professional printing company, it increases the possibility that your business card simply won’t be as visually appealing as you expected.
Business card designs featuring borders are best kept for school or college projects, or for a pet project where your business reputation isn’t at risk.

So, there you have it – our golden rules of business card design, including a selection of truly awful designs to illustrate exactly what we’re talking about.

Hopefully we’ve given you food for thought, but if you’re still struggling then feel free to contact the team at DVF for advice on your commercial printing projects.

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