It always takes me a while to settle on the exact specifics of a business card design, and with good reason; it’s this 3×2 inch contact sheet that often introduces the world to your brand. It’s part of your first impression, and as such an invaluable opportunity to shape perception of whatever it is that you are selling. There are subtle tells in every inch: too thin and you’re cheap, lazy, and out of touch with the message that you should be sending… too thick and you are trying too hard, and covering up for a lack of everything else. For purposes of this post, I will not go into too much detail on fonts, as this is a whole other topic on its own (I do recommend Steven Heller and Louise Fili’s, Scripts (Thames & Hudson, 2011)), but agonizing over font can be both a frustrating and rewarding exercise. We know the perfect one is out there or can be created by the right designer, but there are so many that seem like an almost fit, and others that seem right at a certain time of the day, but are upon closer reflection so wrong that you wonder how you ever thought it might be a fit. We agonize over these things because we know that a lot is said in the card, to just in the copy, but (mostly actually) in the presentation. Professionals have it easy. Their cards should be clean, sharp, informative, but not necessarily ultra high end. They don’t display flair because their business isn’t flashy or sexy. Their job is to appear reliable and they need a card that reflects that. In the creative fields, our custom presentation is more important. It doesn’t need to be busy, but it should be memorable and always relate back to your brand.
The business card has come under fire the past few years as being a ‘douchey’ and superficial thing to focus on. I’m reminded of that scene in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) pulls out his card to impress his colleagues in the boardroom. All of the cards are almost exactly the same, yet Paul Allen’s stood out most to Bateman. “Look at that subtle off-white coloring, the tasteful thickness. Oh my god. It even has a watermark.” The irony in the film was that all the cards were nearly identical and the only thing that was really different was Bateman’s envy. The film is poking fun at that type of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality that a lot of us bring to the workplace, but actually, your card does mean something. It’s a microcosm of your brand, and should be a good indicator of what people will get when they decide to do business with you.
My advice is to choose wisely, and reflect on what your card is actually saying. It’s OK to agonize over script, verbiage, thickness, paper stock, because this is a tool, and it means you give a shit about your brand, and if you give a shit about your brand, you probably give a shit about your clients’ brands as well.
I’ll leave you with an image of my new card. I’m really happy with them and have to give a shout out to one of the best designers out there, Ms. Melanie Abramov, and to Moo.com who were able to make Mel’s designs pop with appropriate color and girth. Thank you!