The 4 Elements Of The Perfect Business Card
Five star businesses make an unforgettable positive first impression.
When that first meeting happens in person, a business card is exchanged. This small piece of paper speaks volumes about your business, and can either intrigue or bore the person on the other end.
Whenever I hand out my business card, I get an immediate reaction. The receiver usually gasps in surprise and says “Oh my gosh! This is such a nice card.” They then proceed to analyze and obsess over it while trying to maintain composure. If you think I’m being dramatic, you probably haven’t had the luxury of handing out a premium business card.
These are the four elements of the perfect card that can garner you those wide-eyed stares of admiration.
This can be a logo and text, just the logo or just the text depending on your business. My card has my logo and tagline. What’s not necessary is endless repetition of your business name or logo, unless that is an intentional part of the design. If your business name is different than your name, you need to clarify your name. Your logo should be readable and self-explanatory. If it requires additional explanation then it's either insanely original or needs to be re-designed.
What You Do
Here is where most people go wrong. They list everything and anything they can do in a tiny space. If you do web design, marketing, SEO, graphic design and more then you need to downsize your business and niche. My tagline is “Where 5 star businesses are built” because it sums up what I do in a few words. I craft upscale online service businesses for the jet setter. Less is more, but don’t leave your network hanging. I’ve been handed a card only to see their business name (which isn’t specific at all and could have been a number of industries) and their name. No title, no explanation. No kidding.
I kind of sigh a loud exasperated sigh when I see someone’s business card with the url of every single social network they’re on typed out. And their symbols. It’s truly overkill, and doesn’t let your new cardholder focus on the one thing they should- you. Instead, it feels like they’re being choked with your demand to follow follow follow. It doesn’t incite interest in you at all. It has the opposite effect. If someone is enamored with your business, they will follow all your social accounts without being prompted. It’s second nature, so there’s no need to remind them. And the people who don’t love what you do? They’re just not a good fit, which is more than okay. You only want to engage with likeminded tycoons.
Make sure your website is there, and definitely an email or phone number depending on how you communicate. But everything else is optional. Icons for every social site you are on are unnecessary because if your website is done right you should have links to your social accounts in an easy to find place. My card has my name, email and website in just two lines with the least possible text. There’s no need to write my domain twice when white space is so precious.
Visual and Tactile Design
Here’s where people get too fancy. Especially when using Moo’s printfinity option, where you can have a different design on the backs of your cards. Your logo/business name should always be on your card, with any accompanying graphics that COMPLEMENT and not detract from your brand.
For Ilene B. Miller's business cards, I created a rainbow of options that corresponded with her bright and colorful website. This included the saying on the back of every card “Every child is a..” with a graphic of a sun, star, music note and more. It captures her belief that all children are special and should be celebrated.
For a musician, I used a sheet of music as the inspiration for his logo and subsequently his cards. Without being overtly literal, the polished black and white takes on a new formality.
The card stock you choose says a lot about your business as well. There’s no “thicker is more luxe” rule here. It truly depends on the feeling you’re trying to convey. You can have a heavy, thick luxe card stock- but if that business card contains crowded contact information, a gmail email address and a zillion social icons then your luxe just went out of the window. All of the elements have to work together in perfect harmony for a "WOW!" moment.
My business cards are a soft smooth matte. Glossy or spot gloss works for colorful graphics you want to highlight. Cotton makes sense for the fashion industry. Gold foil adds a touch of pop, if not overdone.
Here are some five star business cards I found online that are great examples to follow.
This hairstylist hit every nail on the head- pun intended. Her card is simple and easy to read with a touch of glamour from well-placed gold foil. There's no excess information- just everything you need and nothing more.
Again, everything you need and nothing more. The backs showcase her art and aesthetic, which is muted and soothing.
There is something to be said about white space. While this minimalist card is the extreme, it remove all distractions through oversized text and sparse contact information. He doesn't overwhelm you with the myriad ways to contact him. Clearly, he doesn't mind phone calls if his number is on his card. If you primarily communicate via email, you wouldn't advertise your phone number.
While most of these entrepreneurs seem to rely on Instagram and not a website as their home base, they still hit it out of the park with their business cards.
When You Know It’s Perfect
I typically do several iterations of a business card until I’m thrilled with the result. Most of the time I like the first one I’ve designed, but it’s necessary to see all of my options before making that decision. Like most creatives, I don’t have a set process or formula. I go with my gut. This intuitive taste is why professionals are called upon. If design isn’t your strong suit, it’s better to admit that and give a pro the reigns than struggle by yourself.
Business cards should be left to the end of your business being built. Too many times, I see entrepreneurs get ahead of themselves and order business cards without a custom domain, email address or fully formed brand. The feeling of having a business card is so exciting and “official” that it’s easy to overlook all the important steps. When you do this though, you set yourself up for failure because it’s only a matter of time before all the chaotic design decisions start conflicting with each other.
I design my clients’ business cards after their website is built, the copy is written, their services are packaged and e-commerce set up. Why? Because by this point, I’ve spent so much time in the brand that only then do I feel confident in visually representing it on a business card. After all, a card is just an extension of the business. If you’re lacking a foundation, then your card's impact will crumble.
Your website should match your cards which should match your social graphics which should match your letterhead. Matching your outfit is optional.