The Anatomy Of a Business Card

written by aext on September 21, 2010 in Graphic Design with 22 comments

Nowadays the means of obtaining a good publicity campaign are numerous and someone who needs this is kindly advised to ask for the services of an expert. The birth of the Internet simply increased in an exponential manner all what depends on marketing and publicity. I can’t imagine someone who wants to promote, but didn’t use Internet for that.

An item that is very important in establishing a good visual identity is the business card. Most people consider it being only a small piece of paper, but in fact a business card could give you more pieces of information than only the possibility of contacting the owner. A good first impression is given by a well designed business card; in some regions of the world the importance of it considerable: in China it is a severe mistake to write on a business card or to put it in a wallet! It is true that we are living in a digital era, but it is wrong to totally neglect the power of paper or of the “conventional” modalities of promoting (conventional means here all besides the Internet).

Ctrl+Alt+Del business card


A designer could improve the overall design of a business card focusing on five elements:

  1. the palette of colors used;
  2. the fonts;
  3. the way of displaying your contact information;
  4. the shape and size;
  5. the material used;

1. The palette of colors

The colors are very important both in marketing and design. A color scheme could give you inside into important aspects as the field of the activity of the owner is concerned or if he/she is a reliable person or not.

A good prove to sustain this idea is to imagine two different business cards: one owned by an entertainer and one by a business man. While the one of the entertainer should be very colorful, eye catching, having a drolly message obtained with the aim of a proper color palette, the business card of a person related to the domain of affairs should impress by sobriety, gravity , reliance. These feelings are derived from a clean design based on a good color combination. It is surely an error for a real estate investor to have a very colorful business card. In our daily life colors have different meanings (it depends on geographic regions or even continents), but some are universally:

  • Red: anger, love, danger;
  • Black: elegance, power, death;
  • Yellow: concentration, hope;
  • Grey: conservative, formality;
  • White (you will not see this text if it’s in white color): cleaness, purity;

It is a good piece of advice to keep in mind the meaning of the most important/used colors when you select or create a business card.

Comic business card


Black and white business card


2. The fonts


Due to the small number of words written in a business card, not even designers tend to pay attention to the fonts, and this is a bad habit. The way of how a letter looks is quite important; it is true that a letter is a minuscule part of the entire business card, but always small details make a huge difference. The creators of business cards should be careful with the serifs or any termination of a letter because in print design problems can sometimes arise. In this case it is highly recommended to use the services of a professional printer.

Another problem related to fonts is associated to the usage of common or uncommon fonts. A common font is surely the easy way in resolving this problem, but it is dangerous because all people are bored with TNR or Arial. On the other hand, to employ a less used font could be a solution. This helps you in obtaining a good grade at originality, but nobody knows the reaction of the public, they could enjoy the fonts used or simply find your business card as being outdated.

The most important problem is the suitability of the fonts with the domain of the activity of the owner. Once again, we take the previously presented example of the entertainer and the businessman: the first one could use a sans serif font or a comic sans font (even if I don’t like comic fonts) while the second one really need a professional and elegant font (a serif font is better).

3. The ways of displaying your contact information


If the previous two steps were as an enclosure for the originality of the creators, even for the simple fact that the number of colors and fonts is still limited (it is true there are billions of colors, but a few color combinations are amazing). When it comes to the possibility of displaying your contact information the single obstacle is only your imagination. It is a sign of professionalism to put on business card only relevant dates, not all your phone numbers or all the emails owned, but there is no golden rule…all what really should be respected is to have the overall message appropriate to the field of activity. (This fact so much emphasized that some people working in textile industry made a business card from cloth).

A great attention should be paid to the borders, putting text near them isn’t recommended for two major reasons:

  1. It is very difficult to obtain a good flow in the final aspect if you are placing many pieces of information near the borders;
  2. It is not recommended in print to try this (it is the risk of having some essentials dates trimmed of) and because of this the creators of business cards created the bleed area (as a safety measure).

4. The shape and size


If someone imagines a business card being only a small rectangular paper, he commits a grave mistake: the age of this kind of business card is almost finished: we have today various shapes from clouds to horses, from tables to Smartphone shapes. To realize a useful business card it is required to have a specific size, depending on the regions and/or continents. The difference isn’t very important; it could vary from 85×55 (mm) in Ireland, Italy, United Kingdom to 90×55 (mm) in Australia, Denmark, Romania, Mexico or 91 × 55 (mm) in Japan and 88.9 × 50.8 (mm) in Canada or United State of America. It is not wrong to let the initial design (rectangle piece of paper), but everyday creative people post new awesome concepts of business cards and let us know that the future implicates original shapes.

See the example bellow and you will be convinced:

Example of laser cut business cards



Blade business card


5. The material used

Nowadays the old paper is still one of the most used materials but new types of materials are coming into the scene. A material with huge potential is plastic. It presents many varieties and I could bet that it will be the future of business cards. Another interesting material seems to be metal, there are some cool designs made from metal; of course with the expansion of the possibilities in print design the materials used for business card will become more numerous and the concepts more fascinating.

Some people go faster than others and they proposed other materials: fabric or wood. This is obvious why: they are working in the domains related to these raw materials. The idea behind is that a strong dependence between the business card and the field of activity puts the owner in a better light, and it does seem more professional.

Working with unused materials can be a challenging fact, but the evolution of these ideas are interconnected with the possibilities of printing and unfortunately there are some differences between the file on your hard drive and the final product of a printer.

A nice effect for a business card could be obtained by using some of these most-used methods:

  • -embossing: this is a nice 3D effect on a business card realized by rising a letter, symbol or word;
  • foil stamping: is realized by adding up a new layer or a small design on the surface of the card;
  • die cutting: it is a cool process that consists in having a hole in the material of the business card;

Anyway, I believe that business cards will live till the end of world and everyday new cool designs will appear. It will be a great pleasure to know your opinion about business cards!