Business cards are a brand’s handshake. And more often than not they’re exchanged during first meetings, which means they play a huge role in the initial impressions professionals form of one another. 

But the thing is, business cards aren’t difficult to make. Which means there are lots of bad ones around. And what’s worse is that many people underestimate their importance, simply assuming they don’t count for much. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality a business card is much more than a rectangle containing your email address and phone number. It’s a miniature window into the nature, style, and values of your entire business. So it really does pay to do it right.

With that said, let’s take a look at how to create the perfect business card.

Understand the purpose of your business card

Knowing why your business card exists is the first step to effective design. Of course, the exchange of contact information is the primary purpose of all business cards. 

But for many people it goes a little further than that. And, ultimately, the way your business card looks and feels should depend on what exactly you want to do with it. 

For visual creatives (ie designers and photographer), a business card serves as a multi-purpose tool. On the one hand it contains all the necessary contact information you’d expect. But on the other hand it acts as a micro portfolio, showcasing, in a very brief a small-scale way, their skill, style, and ability.  

For others, a business card’s sole purpose may be to provide essential details and nothing more. In such cases a minimalistic approach often works best. With simple colours (usually black and white) and no striking imagery other than, perhaps, a company logo. 

In short, it’s always good to first consider what you want your business cards to achieve. What reaction would you like to provoke with them, and what message do you want them to communicate about either yourself or your business? 

Keep it simple

When it comes to business card design, an excellent strategy is to keep things simple

First things first: a very easy way to strip things down is to minimise your colour palette. Generally speaking it’s a good idea to keep the number of colours used in a single design to a minimum. But with business cards it’s even more important. 

Considering how small most business cards are, it’s easy to see how too many colours could become very confusing very quickly. In fact,  misuse of colours is one of the biggest factors in poor business card design. So try opting for no more than two separate colours on your business cards. And, if possible, stick with colours that compliment one another.

Simple, well-placed imagery also plays an important role here. Too many photographs splashed around, or images that clash with your text, can be very confusing and aesthetically displeasing due to the size of the card.

Make sure it’s legible 

Legibility is crucial in effective business card design. If no one can see, or read, what’s on your card, then ultimately it can be of no real value. 

Font type and size are key considerations here. Where possible, try sticking with typography that’s easy to read. Sans serif usually works best: Helvetica, Avenir, Avant Garde, and Futura are all great options.  

In regards to size, 12pt is always a failsafe choice. But of course it’s not a necessity. You can go higher or lower, just try not to go too far either way. Especially towards the lower end of the scale, where readability diminishes very quickly. 

Stick to the one-size-fits-all formula  

Creating a business card that conforms to standard sizing (85 x 55) is more important than you may think. Often it can be tempting to think outside the box with your design in order to make it stand out. You might, for example, decide that you want your cards to be miniature, or triangular, or star-shape. And whilst this works if it fits in with your brand. Most of the time it just presents an inconvenience, as oddly-shaped cards are harder to slot into card holders.

So although it is good to break the rules where possible, the size and shape of your business cards is something that is usually best kept within the norm.

Look at samples and choose the right material

If you decide to create your own business cards, always make sure to get samples from printers before committing to any particular thickness or finish. 

Nothing compares to holding a physical product in your hand to judge whether or not it feels right. The same goes for choosing between an uncoated or glossy finish. Unless you can see it in front of you, you’ll never really know how the end product will come out. 

So inundate yourself with samples and try everything. That way your business cards will be of the highest possible quality.

Also remember that quality is essential. But don’t overdo it. There are lots of luxury print options available for business cards, but choosing too many in one go can come off as tacky and tasteless

Embossing, gold leafing, textured stock. There are many ways to add a special touch to your business cards. The trick is knowing how much is enough. 

It’s also important to factor in the cost of special embellishments too, because it can be costly. So if you’re on a budget, the best advice is always to stick to the basics and keep things minimal.

Best impressions 

The importance of first impressions can never be understated. Oftentimes the way people view your business after the first encounter is how they’ll view it forever. So it’s crucial to make sure that all your brand’s visual touch-points are solid and of the highest quality. 

For more on how to make your first impression count, take a look at our posts on the importance of portrait photography, and how branded clothing can benefit your business