A long time ago, business cards were simply pieces of paper with handwriting on them that were used to advertise one’s skills. However, to get noticed in today’s modern and fast-paced world, you really need to stand out. A great way to do that is by using unconventional business card materials.
Although the written content on business cards is still the top priority, the presentation has become a very close second. In fact, fonts, colors, and even card materials have become major factors when designing business cards to be an effective marketing tool.
Business Card Materials
There are quite a few choices of business card materials available today, beyond the usual paper, plastic, and metal cards. However, choosing a card material can sometimes be difficult. Some of the more unusual materials will require specialized suppliers (which can be hard to find).
Going for the usual materials is obviously a good idea, but this can sometimes lead to missed opportunities. In any case, here are some materials that you might want to consider before getting some business cards.
1. Paper – Ye Old Reliable
Starting off with the most common and widely-used material: paper. This should come as no surprise as paper has been the number one choice for most when it comes to their business cards. And there is very good reason for this.
First, paper is the cheapest material and is readily available which are two amazing qualities to have especially for business cards that normally come in bulk. This allows mass production of business cards for only a fraction of the cost while also being easy to acquire (buy some online here).
Second, it is extremely versatile design-wise despite its “common” status. It can be made to adopt a wide array of colors, shapes, and even styles allowing for very creative designs that are unmatched by other materials.
Last, but certainly not least, it is a good choice no matter what business it is used for. Be it a large company or a small business, one can never go wrong with paper business cards.
- Common – making it easy to find
- Very cost-effective
- Easily mass-produced
- Design possibilities are very broad
- Suitable for almost any business
- Low Durability (in most cases)
- Limited uniqueness; Commonly used material
- More options can lead to bad design choices
2. Plastic – The Next Step
If paper isn’t for you but you still want something that is comparable, then look no further than plastic. Plastic may not be on the same level as paper when it comes to design possibilities, however, it does offer one key feature that makes it generally better for attempting more “unique” shapes and designs: enhanced durability.
A plastic business card’s durability allows it to be quite sturdy regardless of its thickness (within acceptable parameters). Going for thick plastic business cards results in a tough but elegant-looking card. On the other hand, they can also be made rather thin without compromising their natural durability. Doing so would result in a very flexible yet (relatively) resilient card.
In addition to their enhanced durability, plastic business cards have smoother surfaces and can also be made to have smooth edges making them perfect for style points. They are also highly resistant to most liquids and stains allowing you to simply wipe them off. They can even be made transparent which other business card materials cannot do. So, if you fancy something that is both good to look at and is undoubtedly reliable, plastic is the way to go.
- Durable regardless of thickness
- Highly resistant to liquids and stains
- Can achieve unique yet practical designs
- Lightweight even if made thick
- Lasts longer than most materials
- Relatively costly to mass-produce
- Requires specialized tools for unique designs
- Environmental concerns are a major factor
3. Metal – Tougher Than Most
Speaking of durability, metal is hands down the best in this category, bar none. It can shrug off most (physical) problems that other business cards cannot. This makes it the best choice for those who need heavy-duty business cards.
Of course, metal business cards can also be quite stylish if done right. Although they don’t have the same level of customization that paper and plastic have, there are certain designs that only metal cards can pull off. As an example, cutout or punch holes can be added to almost any material, but metal can have it applied multiple times across its entire surface without breaking. This is thanks to the innate strength of metal enabling it to hold its form despite having these holes. Pair this with its (finished) sleek look, and one can have a very unique and eye-catching business card.
Another important thing to note is that metal business cards, even when plain, have a very special appeal that is somewhat hard to explain. This may have something to do with metal being seen as generally valuable. Nonetheless, standing out (with metal business cards) is always a good thing in business and marketing.
- Extremely durable
- Best choice for certain designs (like cutout holes)
- Strangely appealing even when plainly designed
- Pairs extremely well with metal-related businesses
- Availability (requires specialized tools to produce)
- Limited production
- Not practical for general use (requires more careful and reserved handling due to cost)
4. Wood – All Natural
For those who want a “greener” option, wooden business cards have you covered. Wood is a material that is in-between plastic and metal but has its own unique characteristics allowing it to stand out from other business card materials.
Wooden business cards can be made from various tree woods, each providing its own defining look and feel. From the light, soft grain Birch to the warm, distinct Cherry Wood, and even the strong, rugged Walnut, this makes wood comparable to paper in texture and plastic to design variety. What’s more impressive is that unlike most other materials on this list, wood’s natural look and texture adds so much to a business card without much need for refinement.
Though it is not as durable as metal, wood is still naturally tough and can even pull off some metal designs (like a cutout or punch holes) but to a lesser extent. However, it is much cheaper and sustainable than metal (in most cases). It even has its own unique appeal similar to its metal counterpart but is much more soothing and natural. Thus, wooden business cards are not only a noteworthy option but are also environmentally friendly.
- Eco-friendly; biodegradable
- Fairly durable
- Very unique yet natural texture; design versatility
- Relatively cheap for what it offers
- Prone to environmental factors due to being biodegradable
- Can break due to physical force; brittle (thickness dependent)
- Specialized equipment makes it (somewhat) hard to find
5. Cork – Perfect For A Few
Next up is another greener option for those who want something other than wood, and that is cork. Cork comes from woody plants, specifically, their bark, but is not actually wood despite its appearance. This gives it distinct characteristics that make it a worthwhile option to look into.
A defining characteristic that makes cork useful as a business card material is being moisture-resistant. This allows cork business cards to stay dry even in conditions where other materials would start building up moisture. Although it is biodegradable, it is decay resistant thanks to its moisture resistance making it last longer than most. It is also lightweight and (somewhat) flexible which are ideal traits for any business card. To top it all off, cork is sustainable, recyclable, and renewable which makes it environmentally friendly.
Unlike most other materials on this list, cork has a small but well-defined list of businesses where it would fit perfectly. The most obvious being vineyards and wineries which already implore cork in its other forms (like bottle corks). Bar and restaurant businesses can also make use of cork business cards as it really goes well with what they have to offer. There are no missed opportunities there. Cork may not be for every business but it will always hit the mark if used correctly.
- Moisture-resistant (in turn making it decay-resistant)
- Lightweight and flexible
- Environmentally friendly
- Pairable with other card stocks
- Fits perfectly with some food and beverage businesses
- Texture is limited
- Not waterproof (only moisture-resistant)
- Somewhat hard to find
- Not a fit for every business
6. Fabric – More Than Just Clothing
Fabric is mostly associated with clothing, but you will be surprised to know that there are also fabric business cards. They offer unique textures and looks depending on which type of fabric is used allowing businesses a level of customization beyond the usual design-centric approach.
Unlike most other materials on this list, fabric business cards have a few different types to choose from. Each type adds a “little something” to the business cards: leather is durable and flexible, wool is “warm” and light, cotton is soft and comfy, silk is “smooth as silk” and luxurious-looking, and the list goes on. This means you get to choose the fabric that fits your business and reflect it on your card.
Obviously, fabric business cards fit very well with textile businesses and the like. However, this doesn’t mean that these materials are solely for those businesses. Fabrics like silk and wool (textured so technically not actual wool) are normally paired with paper, making them good for general use if one prefers their texture over other materials.
- Selection of fabrics make it quite versatile (if you can find them)
- Fabrics (naturally) add to the design due to their unique textures
- Can be combined with other materials
- “One-of-a-kind” material for business cards
- Certain fabrics are considered inhumane (Animal Rights)
- Not very cost-effective (depending on the fabric)
- Pricey (as compared to other alternatives due to more specialized production)
- As business cards, other materials (like paper) must be added to them for practicality
7. Coin – Penny for your thoughts?
Are you looking for a one-of-a-kind business card that is a definite eye-catcher? Then coin business cards (or business coins?) are for you. Although this can be considered a variation of metal business cards (or other materials you can make coins out of), they are made differently and are also quite unique to warrant having their own spot on this list.
Coin business cards can be considered a “bigger and better” version of metal business cards in terms of durability which also opens up more design possibilities. This durability stems from their thickness by virtue of being made with more metal. Engraving, etching, imprinting, and more can be done on them to a greater extent. Hence, more elaborate designs can be achieved.
Another feature business coins have is that they are comparatively smaller than regular business cards. Due to their circular shape and more elaborate possibilities, they take up less space allowing them to be easily kept. Pair this with their durability and they can be stored in places where normal business cards can’t. Overall, business coins are a very unique and fresh take on the humble business card.
- Extremely durable
- Can have elaborate designs unique to it
- Comparatively smaller than regular business cards
- Relatively easier to keep/store
- Very unique; eye-catching
- Expensive due to highly specialized equipment needed
- Heavier than most other business card materials
- Unlike normal business cards, less can be stacked
8. Balloon – Blow It Up
Quirky business cards are hard to come by but can truly stand out when found. Fortunately, balloon business cards are available for those who want something vastly different. You cannot get any quirkier than balloon business cards (or business balloons?).
Business balloons are normally made from rubber (or foil) and are exactly what one might imagine them to be. They can be blown up (filled with gas) to have their text on full display and can also be used as a decoration in one’s office. They can also be handed out deflated (and not as bulky) with the full text still displayed if the balloon is big enough. This allows them to be as eye-catching as possible or as convenient as possible depending on the situation.
Unlike most other business card materials on this list, the design options available for business balloons are quite limited due to how they need to be made. However, this limitation does mean that there is less room for error when the business balloons are being made. Like the saying goes “less is more”. But of course, the very nature of balloons does offset the lack of design options as they are already a wonder to look at. Emphasis on the written information is greatly highlighted with this material as well. Why not raise your business with balloons (pun intended)?
- Quirky and truly unique
- Naturally eye-catching when inflated
- Can be used as decorations
- Comes in two variants (inflated and deflated)
- Bulky when inflated
- Very limited design options
- Additional effort in using them (inflating)
9. Food – Mmm Delicious
Onto a very obscure material, at least in terms of business cards: food. Yes, you read that correctly, food. Although this only existed for a brief period in the form of labeled chocolates, it is still a very interesting business card idea.
It’s not unheard of for chocolates to have words written or imprinted on them. In fact, most popular chocolate bars/candies do this in order to establish their brand. As impractical as it sounds to use this very same concept for business cards, it does present a very unique opportunity that is too good to pass up – food samples. Any food business that can implement this effectively will automatically be ahead of its competition by a large margin. Their business cards will also serve as their samples which is very much like “hitting two birds with one stone”. Who wouldn’t want that?
Chocolate is not the only food that can be used (for example cakes, muffins, cupcakes, etc). But if someone was smart enough to add text to chocolate, someone else would eventually be able to figure out a way to implement this with other kinds of food. One thing will lead to another and BAM, food business cards will be widely available…someday. For now, this is just one of those crazy ideas that might work with the right execution but would need a lot of thought and preparation.
There are a couple of problems with food-based business cards though. First, the written information on the food is useless once your recipient has eaten it. Second, the “business card” will need to be thrown out after a while if it’s not eaten, otherwise, it will rot.
- Open-ended idea; tantalizing possibilities
- Two-in-one; Business card as well as a sample product
- Perfectly fits with (some) food businesses
- Being one of the first to implement this would be a game-changer
- Very limited suppliers
- Compatibility with other non-food businesses is uncertain at best
- Strictly one-time use; not cost-effective
- Once eaten – the recipient doesn’t know how to contact you
- Food allergy considerations
With all the different materials that can be used for business cards, it all comes down to which suits your business the best. This allows the business cards to generate more impact than they normally would which will help boost your exposure.
However, going for the “fanciest” material is not always correct as one also has to consider the cost-effectiveness of said material. If the business card needs to be handed out to a considerable amount of people, then there is nothing wrong with going for the most budget-friendly option. The goal is to find a balance between efficiency and effectiveness.
Lastly, always remember that a business card’s main function is to create connections between businesses and their target markets (other businesses or consumers). Thus, your chosen material should reflect the image your business is striving for. This creates a better first impression that would help carry the initial meet and greet into better opportunities moving forward, benefiting both parties in the process.