Are you designing your first business card and don’t know where to start? Despite the common misconception, business card design is a skill that can be learned, and it isn’t even that hard. You just need to follow some basic design principles.
Worry not, I’ve got you covered. Once we’re done, you’ll know exactly how to design your own business card. Here’s a compiled list straight from our design pros about the top things to keep in mind when designing a business card.
Once you’re ready to start designing, head over to Gimmio’s Business Card Maker and choose from one of the many free templates to get started.
1. Business Card Size Matters
The standard sizes
Choosing the card size that fits your design is critical. You would not want to have your design squished just because you used the wrong card size. Likewise, having too much unused space is not a good either. Here are the 3 standard business card sizes used around the world:
North American Standard Size: 3.5 × 2 inches (88.9 × 50.8 mm)
European Standard Size: 3.346 × 2.165 inches (85 × 55 mm)
Oceania Standard Size: 3.54 × 2.165 inches (90 × 55 mm)
The non-standard sizes
Of course, there are other sizes available but you should always aim for the size that suits your design the best. Be wary of using card sizes that don’t fit into the usual places where business cards are kept, like wallet card slots. This can easily turn them from your important calling card to paper nuisances for your prospects.
If you choose an unconventional card size, just make sure it doesn’t hinder the main point of making business cards small: convenience. This is why many often prefer standard card sizes since they have been proven to fit in places where cards are usually kept.
2. Importance of Card Material and Weight
The first thing your prospects will do when you hand them your card is hold it. This means they get to feel your card’s material possibly before they even get a chance to read what’s on it. Use this to your advantage by creating a memorable sensation when they get a hold of your card. This can lead them to look at your card longer than normal. They might even let their friends feel the card material which can lead to more exposure for you and your company.
Remember, first impressions are of utmost importance.
The most common business card material is obviously paper/card stock. Some of the other less common ones are cotton, bamboo, plastic, and even metal. However, using regular card stock is fine, because its all about which finish or coating you use on your card that makes them feel really nice.
Your card weight does a lot for you which may not be so obvious from the get go. Choosing the correct Grams per Square Meter or GSM for your design is just as important as other factors you need to consider. Each GSM will offer different levels of flexibility and durability which can also affect the perception of your prospects, not just about your business card but also of you and your company.
Here are the most common paper weights for business cards:
Regular Card Stock: 300-350GSM
Premium Card Stock: 400-450GSM
You should also take into consideration what your budget will allow so you can get the highest GSM in your price range. If your budget isn’t an issue then you might want to look into your desired quality a little more. You could also go for a coated finish over an uncoated one which also adds a bit more thickness to your card.
3. Plan a Good Layout
The layout basics
Having a good layout helps in presenting all the relevant information on your business card to your potential customers. Making it easy for your potential customers to see the information on your card is, obviously, really important.
This is why it’s important to use a good tool for the job, such as Gimmio, which has heaps of pre-made templates available, so you don’t have to plan your own layout.
Your layout should take into consideration various elements of your design (like images, backgrounds, etc.). You would not want elements of your business card obscuring one another, would you? Finding that one layout that allows all elements of your design to shine will allow your business card to draw attention and may even turn prospects into paying customers.
Appropriate sizes of elements
Once you’ve chosen a layout, the next step is to determine how big (or small) each element of your card should be. Obviously, all information on your card must not only be legible but must also be amazing to look at. This is fairly easy for the text-based elements of your card; just pick an acceptable font size and a nice font style (maybe your corporate font). Sizing images and logos, on the other hand, will be a bit more challenging.
Images and logos should be sized in such a way that they are the first thing that will be noticed, while also maintaining enough space between itself and the other elements. This also includes leaving enough space for each element to fit in your card design.
It’s common to see written information grouped together while images, logos and background design occupy the other open spaces of your card. The reason for this is simple: Order. It is always good to look at things when they are placed in order and business cards are no different.
Optimally placing all elements of your card in the correct areas is also extremely important. Images and logos are normally placed in areas where they are highlighted: Upper right, upper left, opposite side etc. Text is usually placed where your image/logo isn’t. This allows each of them to be the focus of attention in their respective areas of placement.
For QR codes, they are normally placed near the lower corners of business cards. Despite being an image, it serves more as a source of information which is why you should normally group it with your contact information.
What about the back side
The back side of your business card is just as important as the front side.
A normal practice for most is to have their logos printed on the back side of their card, albeit larger. Some utilize a different (yet complimenting) color scheme for this side, such as a different background color. Others even use a completely different design for this side while still maintaining coherency in the overall design.
However, there are times when leaving the back side of your card blank is better. This holds true for designs that are very simple and don’t have that many elements, such as appointment cards. One of the best things to do in these cases is to just match the background color of your card’s front side.
4. Watch the Bleed, Cut Line, and Safety Line
An important part of business card design is knowing what the bleed, cut line, and safety lines are. Basically, imagine you want to place a background image on your card that goes all the way to the edge of the card. Now, since printers aren’t perfect, they may cut the card half a millimeter outside of the background image, exposing white card. This is a bad look.
So, this is why you extend the background image into the bleed zone, so even if the card is cut slightly away from the cut line, you wont be left with blank white space.
5. Images and Logos
Every successful business sports an image or logo that they use to represent themselves, making them easily recognizable. Your image or logo is the centerpiece of your business card. All other elements will revolve around your image or logo in order to create a well balanced business card.
The centerpiece of your card
Images and logos should be distinct and recognizable. That is why special care is needed when placing them in your design. They need to be big enough to be noticed while also being placed in a location where it can be easily seen.
You also need to make sure to use the best resolution image to ensure that it comes out looking great once printed out. You don’t want a grainy and pixelated looking image on your business card – it screams amateur!
This leads me to the next point…
Quality of your images
Using high-resolution images is always recommended. Make sure any image you use is at least 300 DPI (dots per inch). Of course, if you can go higher than that, even better. I’ve seen many business card designs, and the worst ones are often the ones where a low resolution image is used for the logo and it comes out looking like it’s from the 1930’s. Not cool.
6. Flaunt That Font
Fonts are the backbone of any business card since they are used to present all relevant information to your prospects. Something as simple as choosing the wrong font style and size could break your otherwise awesome business card design.
When looking at a business card, the font can set the mood (subconsciously) of the reader. For example, a lawyers business cards would normally use a serif font, as serif fonts are perceived to be more formal and corporate. Whereas, a psychologists business card may use a sans-serif font, which has the opposite effect.
The 3 things to remember
First, your font must be easy to read, which goes without saying. Your goal is to allow your prospects to easily read your information, not the other way around. Use a font color which contrasts the background color, making it easy to read.
Second, use appropriate font sizes. Avoid using excessively large or small fonts relative to your business card size. Font sizes should be enough to be readable without taking up unnecessary space on your layout.
Lastly, your font should match your brand and the product/service you offer. Need something formal and striking? Try Gotham Black. What about a touch of elegance and style? Century725 might be it. Why settle for just any font when the right one could be waiting out there? Experiment and see what fits the best.
You can get fonts from fonts.google.com to get you started.
Consider the length of names / positions
Imagine you’ve created a new business card design for your business and printed it for all the staff to use. Next month, someone called “Vidjalakshmi Sureshkumarmatish” joins your team. You go to create her business card and you notice one problem…
The font size you chose when you designed your business cards means her name runs off the end of the business card because it’s too long.
Don’t ever put yourself in this conundrum. It means you have to either change the font size just for that one card, or put the surname on the next line, which could impact your design completely.
A bit of forward planning in this regard saves hours of headaches later.
7. What Color Are You
Colors play an important role in any design and can help give your business card the “oomph” it needs to really get prospects interested in what you and your brand are offering. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should splash the rainbow on your business card and call it a day. This is where color psychology comes into play.
The psychology of color
Color psychology is simply defined as the study of colors in relation to human behavior. But how does this help you? Each color has a corresponding characteristic that is associated to it which allows you to better advertise your brand to your prospects.
- Red – energy and passion
- Orange – fun and creativity
- Yellow – sunshine and happiness
- Pink – femininity and playfulness
- Green – growth and nature
- Blue – peace and stability
- Purple – luxury and power
- White – cleanliness and innocence
- Black – elegance and sophistication
- Grey – balance and neutrality
- Brown – earthy and natural
Is your business tied to environmental awareness? Green is all about nature. Are you in line with finance? Go for stable blue. What about event planning? Feel the fun with orange. Just find the one that fits you and your brand the best.
Mix it up
So, you’ve chosen blue as your color. Don’t just splash blue in every nook and cranny and send your card to the printer. Mix the colors up a little bit, but again don’t just pick a random color. All colors have a set of complimentary colors. To find a complimentary color for your chosen color, use the Adobe color wheel.
Using complimentary colors throughout your business card harmoniously connects all the elements together.
8. Spice It Up with a Card Finish
Card finishes take your business card design to a whole new level. Even the simplest card designs “pop” when using any one of the card finishes available out there.
There are a few card finishing options out there to help spice up your design. You only need to figure out which suits your design the best.
- Matte – most common; silky smooth and clean
- Spot UV / Varnish – raised, textured and shiny
- Embossed / Debossed / Letterpressed – textured feel that affects both sides
- Foil Stamped – classy and elegant
- Die Cut – hollowed out; good way to be noticed
- Edge Colors – subtle but effective
- Folded – unique and offers more design space
It’s very rare to actually see a business card these days without any finishing or coating on it. If you’re unsure which finish to go for, use the Matte finish as this will ensure your card is smooth to the touch and clean looking without any frills. If you’re feeling slightly more ambitious, try out the Spot UV finish. Spot UV raises certain elements (which you choose) and makes them shiny compared to the rest of the card.
9. Overall Design Cohesion
After you’ve figured out what your overall design should be, the most critical part is determining if every element that you chose to incorporate adds something (preferably, good) to your business card. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of ideas, and there are times when you just want to cram all of those ideas into one design. However, this won’t work to your favor.
Simplicity is key
Complicated designs may be more rewarding to create, but pulling them off is an entirely different matter. One of the reasons why complicated designs don’t always pan out as expected is that they take more time to make.
A good thing to remember in business card design is “to keep things simple”. Simple designs are often the best; they are clean, uncomplicated, easy to make, and allow a clear image of what you want your prospects to know about your brand. If it does not add to your design then take it out. Less is more.
Something as simple as a font style change on your card can turn it from a boring business card, to something that looks absolutely amazing. The same can be said with image placements.
Points to remember
Of course, there are always things that you should and shouldn’t do in business card design. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Avoid using thin paper.
- Use high resolution images.
- Avoid tiny text.
- Check your spelling and grammar.
- Less is more.
- Printing it yourself is NOT a good idea.
There are plenty more business card mistakes to keep in mind, however these are the important ones.
10. Ask for a Second (Or Fifth) Opinion
When you’re sitting in front of a computer designing business cards for hours on end, you can often enter a dream like state where you start believing that your design actually looks great (and sometimes it does). But more often than not, it doesn’t. At least not right away.
This is where asking for someone else’s opinion can help you snap out of the dream like state. Listening to others’ perspective is a part of design work. Not everyone will appreciate or even notice your creativity, and this is why it’s important to share your business card design with others and gauge their response before printing.
A few good questions to ask them:
- What did you notice first?
- What did you notice last?
- What’s your first impression?
- What message does it give?
Designing an effective business card can be easy if you understand how each element can help enhance the final product. Of course, the key is keeping things simple, which also makes designing and editing your business card a lot easier for you.
To get started on your design, head over to Gimmio’s Business Card Maker and pick from one of the ready-made templates.