Business Card Design: 7 Essentials to Consider

(Guest writer: Simon Goble)

Within the first 10 seconds, your potential client is building up a lasting opinion about you. It sounds harsh but it’s a fact that people often do judge a book by its cover, and you only get one shot to make a great first impression.

Fortunately, there are a few tricks you can pull off, such as diverting their attention from the fact that you forgot to iron your shirt by pushing a unique and beautifully designed business card under their nose.

It’s always a great idea to carry some self-promotional material in your pocket, whether you’re attending a conference where networking is key, or for instance when you bump into an old friend who is now a possible business partner.

Having said that, your business card should also be designed well enough to leave a good impression. Below is a list of essential tips to keep in mind when designing the perfect business card.

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1. The issue of Size and Colour

Decide on a business card printer before you begin the design process. You can find out the size of their cards (and whether it is what you are looking for) and their supported file types.

The most common card size is 84 mm x 55 mm, so the best document size to work on is 1039 x 697 pixels; remember that you need to take Bleed (more on this after the break) into account. Ensure any images you use are at least 300dpi for a high-quality result.

It’s a good idea to work in CMYK color mode as opposed to RGB. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (Black is known as Key), and is used in colour printing.

CMYK is a subtractive color model, which works by masking colors on a light or white background, reducing the amount and color of the light that is reflected by the paper.

business card tips

The display you are using to read this article adopts an RGB or additive color model, mixing Red, Green, and Blue to create the majority of the visible spectrum, and combining all three to create white.

While some designers prefer to design in RGB, be sure to preview it in CMYK as some of your chosen colors may appear fine on screen, but ‘muddy’ when printed.

2. Prepare the Bleed Area

card bleed area

Unless your background color is white you need to prepare the Bleed area for your card design. This prevents any ugly border strips from turning up on the edge of the cards.

Preparing the Bleed involves highlighting an area surrounding the document, usually 3 mm thick (this may vary depending on the printing company) with the same color as the background color of your card design.

business card bleed

3. Avoid using borders

In fact, it’s best to try to avoid using borders on your business card designs at all. They may look good, but when the cards are cut, you will most likely have some ‘lop-sided edges.

All printers have a margin of error for cutting your cards, which can be as much as a few millimeters, so expect some variance in the area where the blade falls.

What you see on screen:

business card border

What you may receive:

business card bad cut

Notice how the borders disappear when the blades do not cut at the right places? A few millimeters can make all the difference to your card design.

4. Use Complementary Colours

Choose colours that are aesthetically pleasing. A mish-mash of bright and bold colors may make your card stand out in a stack of 50, but it could be for the wrong reasons.

It’s also worthwhile to think beyond your business cards: try to keep your color scheme consistent throughout your media (website, Twitter, email signature) to develop a professional image of yourself.

business card complimentary

There are plenty of tools available on the Web to help you create the perfect scheme. COLOURlovers is a community-driven website where people can create colour palettes and allow others to vote and comment on them. It’s a great source of inspiration, with some impressive tools to boot.

5. Ensure your text is readable

This is a pretty vital (and sometimes overlooked) element in business card design. You wouldn’t want your clients to have to strain their eyes to read your website address or email.

Make sure your text is at least 8 pt, in a clear readable font and in bold color. Anything smaller than 8 pt may look fine on your monitor but may be printed as a fuzzy, smudged-out line.

You could also try to accentuate your name or important contact information by making it slightly bigger or bolder than the rest of your information.

6. Include Important Information

Make sure you include all the information on the back of your card that you think the client would find useful. We’ve provided a quick checklist, but you may have other things you want to throw in as well.

  • Your name – Put the name your contacts know you by.
  • What you do – Remember to include what you do or what defines your job scope. Include the organization you are currently attached to if you wish.
  • Contact information – Phone number, e-mail, work address, social media profiles etc.
  • QR Code – QR codes are a great way to visually present web addresses, phone numbers or vCards. There are plenty of free QR code generators on the Web to help you with this.

7. Saving your design

This is also an important part of the process, as you want to make sure all your hard work shows in the final product.

  • Make sure all text is embedded or outlined
  • Don’t forget to remove any guidelines or colour scheme blocks
  • For best results, save your design as a vector based PDF, to ensure crisp lines and high print quality
  • Saving them in JPEG or PNG may result in fuzziness around edges and text
card high res

And there you have it, tips to help you design your first business card. What other tips do you have for designing the perfect business card?

(This guest post is written by Simon Goble for Hongkiat.com.)

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