Tips for a Functional Business Card

If you’re a business owner like me, chances are you’ve come across a lot of business cards. You may have a short stack on your desk or a box full of cards of all shapes, colors, and sizes that you’ve collected from conferences and networking events over the years. On the other hand, you might not hang onto them at all, opting instead to key the information into your phone and transfer the card to File 13.


What makes a “good” business card? Are they really necessary these days? You may feel like a business card is an old corporate tool that modern technology has rendered obsolete. On the contrary, this little piece of paper still holds value. So, since you have to have one, you might as well make it useful. Here are some tips for creating a functional business card that leaves a lasting impression:


Quality Matters
I’ve heard from countless individuals who consistently order the cheapest card they can get from the cheapest vendor they can find because “it’s just going to end up in the trash anyway.” Allow me to dispel this myth! Your business card is the first impression you present to a stranger, so put your best foot forward. Consider this: would you want to give a potential client the impression that you’re cheap and cheesy? Of course you wouldn’t! Spending a few extra dollars for a premium stock and quality printing will give your business card higher impact and longer shelf life. Trust me, people notice.


While having a quality business card is essential for any business owner, it is critical for those in the creative industry. For a designer or a marketing professional, a business card is the first sample of work a person will see. If you can’t present a top-notch image of yourself, why should anyone hire you to create and manage his/her image? Remember, first impressions are everything.


Don’t be a Riddler
Villains like The Joker and The Riddler were famous for leaving their calling cards behind with a subtle clue to bait the authorities, who spent hours trying to decipher the mysterious clue and track the villain to his next location. This might be entertaining in the comics, but not in the business world.


Don’t make finding your contact information a game. For example, people shouldn’t be forced to scan a QR code or visit a website just to find your email address. Put your key contact information (name, company, phone number, email) front and center. Make it easy for the recipient to get in touch with you.


Leave Some White Space
Avoid the temptation to cover the entire surface with text and images. Clutter makes finding and interpreting information more difficult, and more “stuff” does not make a better design. Leave a little space where people can make notes on your card. When I attend events (especially large ones), I need to be able to jot down quick notes during a conversation regarding the topic, required follow up, and key dates. Without these notes, I just end up with a big stack of paper with no meaningful associations—missed opportunities!


This doesn’t mean you have to kill your creativity or leave one side of your card blank. There are plenty of ways to make a creative card with a little breathing room. Remember—design is about functional beauty.


Use a Writeable Surface
Considering my previous point on note-taking, glossy is not always your friend. Aqueous coating is not ink-friendly. Embracing matte or uncoated paper will not make you look thrifty. In fact, it has the opposite effect. The tactile quality of a “toothy” paper creates a special experience for the recipient.


A Real Example
Following these simple tips and putting a little thought and effort into your business card will pay off. Take a look at this one we created for Donna at Furry Bliss. Donna’s card received rave reviews because of imagery that resonated with her prospects and the beauty and simplicity of the design.


Does your business card need a makeover? We can help! Get in touch and let us take yours to the next level.


Image credit: celik.nimani

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Robyn Short

Robyn is a Creative Problem Solver who lives at the intersection of design and business. Her company, All Things Creative, provides branding, design, and marketing assistance to businesses who are serious about growing to the next level. Follow Robyn on Twitter.

  • Catherine Marshall

    August 29, 2014 at 11:14 AM Reply

    That’s a great tip I haven’t really heard in a while, to use a writable surface because you can write a personalized message. Thanks for sharing!

    • Robyn Short

      August 29, 2014 at 6:38 PM Reply

      Yes Catherine! It drives me absolutely NUTS when somebody gives me a card that I can’t make notes on! If I come back from a huge event with 100 business cards dumped onto my desk, there is no way I’m going to remember who asked me for a website analysis, who needed a brand consultation, who wanted me to come in for a meeting on Monday at 10am, or that helpful resource I need to share with a specific person. In addition, like you said, consider the flip side of that scenario. I will often write my own note on a card before handing it to someone just to make sure they remember to send me a piece of information, or the date and time of our appointment. It just makes life so much easier.

      I think people often dismiss the significance of a business card. It’s not something “just to have” because you’re supposed to have it. It’s a link in your chain of connections. It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty if someone picks it up 2 weeks later and thinks, “…who?”

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