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The Do's and Don'ts of Business Card Design

06 June 2017

The Do's and Don'ts of Business Card Design

Business cards are still staple items for professionals. How else are we supposed to take advantage of those random meets in the pub where someone is looking for the exact service you offer? However, business cards are also a little tricky to design. Clients will often go to graphic designers to help them make the perfect business card. They want something effective, of quality and something that is bound to make anyone who receives the card go “Wow!” We’ve scoured the internet to find examples of some of the more creative business card designs out there to inspire you, as well as some advice on what to avoid.

Do Adhere to Basic Design Principles

Business cards may be small but that doesn’t mean you should treat them differently to any other design work. Keep the design clean by aligning your elements with each other and leaving some negative space. Give extra weight to the more important aspects of the design and ensure there is sufficient contrast between the colours in the background and the text colour. Below we have included an example of a business card design that clearly wasn’t thinking about the rule of contrast. While the name is legible, the contact information is not. If the font used thicker strokes, it might have been possible to read the contact information, however the combination of thin lettering and a dark colour makes it very hard to read.


Don’t use Borders

Straight lines around the edges of business cards are generally advised against due to the unfortunate fact that printing is not 100% accurate. Miniscule movements within the mechanics can sometimes mean that printing becomes lopsided. Anything other than perfectly straight lines can probably get around this issue without anyone noticing but straight lines are harder to hide.

Do Check Your Printer’s Requirements

In order to prevent frustration, sit down and research what the requirements of your printer are before you go ahead and design a client’s business cards. Generally, printers recommend leaving a 3mm bleed around your designs but some ask for more. You wouldn’t want to spend ages perfecting your design just to find that it cannot be done by the printer you’ve chosen.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Just One Design

A business card with a really sophisticated, elegant design can be impressive. What can be even more impressive, is having several varieties on one design theme. Even something as simple as mixing up the colours a bit adds a little extra interest. Take this example of a painter’s business card set. Having just one colour wouldn’t really work as the whole design premise is based on colour swatches where you have several colours to choose between. If your clients are looking to have several cards with different contact information on for the various people in their office, why not suggest a different design for each staff member too?


Do Consider Using Special Finishes

These days, business cards can be so much more than simply a flat, glossy piece of 85x55mm card. Using special finishes can give your clients’ cards some interesting textural detail, not to mention some added wow-factor! Spot UV and foiling can both enhance certain elements of your design; foiling by giving a metallic sheen and spot UV by adding vibrancy to the colours beneath. You could also use letterpress printing, like in the example above, to emboss parts of your design. This guitar tutor uses spot UV to highlight their design very effectively.


Don’t Use Special Finishes Unnecessarily

Special finishing techniques can make business cards stand out but they don’t always work. You need to think about how the effects of these finishes would interact with the rest of your design. For example, this business card for Bluebird Design uses letter press printing to emphasise their logo and to emphasise the detail in the background. On the front, the embossing works well but on the back it interferes with the text making it hard to read the company name.


Do Use Vector Based Design Programs

In general, programs like Photoshop should be avoided for text as it will always export as ‘Bitmap’ which means that the file becomes pixel based. This is particularly true when it comes to small text, which business cards are full of. Stick to Indesign or Illustrator as they will provide you with sharp, clear text that can be easily scaled up or down without distorting.

Don’t Be Boring

This is possibly the hardest piece of advice to adhere to because it is such a subjective concept. One person’s boring is another person’s sophisticated so how do you find the balance? What we really mean here is don’t be generic. As a designer, you’re capable of producing more than a simple abstract flick as a business card design. Try to link back to your client’s occupation in your imagery. Here we have an example of an architect’s business card which is very, very simple but still isn’t boring or generic.


Think Outside the Box

There are some really creative business cards out there that have taken it upon themselves to break the constraints surrounding business cards. These people have decided that 85x55mm of card doesn’t work for them so they have cut sections out, used unusual materials and created 3D shapes out of their business cards to ensure they are never forgotten. Here’s a favourite of ours…


Don’t Forget to Listen

As a designer, you could come up with a number of design ideas that you’re eager to produce. However, at the end of the day, your client is the one who is going to be using these business cards. They need to feel confident with what they’re handing out to advertise their business. So, if a client doesn’t like what you’ve come up with, don’t be offended, just take the time to really listen and figure out what it is that they do want.

Looking for more design tips and tricks for things other than business cards? Download our FREE eBook, 50 Must Read Tips from Designers, to Designers with insights from big names in the industry like Brent Galloway and Jacob Cass!


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