You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Your demeanor, smile, and conversation initially ignite it, but an awesome business card is what makes you memorable. However, a cheaply produced or blandly designed card may throw a gloom over their memory of you, even if your first meeting was a smashing success. How can you design a business card that works as both a portable advertisement and a dependable wingman when you go networking?
Design Your Business Card for Maximum Appeal
Being a professional, you want your business card to reflect your professional personality. Low-quality paper, clashing colors, or ugly design will do the exact opposite. Here are some ways to make your business cards both trendy and tasteful:
- Hire a graphic designer who understands digital-to-print design, or brush up on the basics if you’ll be designing your own cards.
- Aim for a balance between boring and garish — get others’ opinions on the tastefulness of your design before you commit to it.
- Stick with three or four colors at most. You don’t want to overwhelm the viewer with a confusing rainbow that inhibits text readability.
- Know the difference between your safe, trim, and bleed areas.
- Make sure any photos you use have at least a 300 pixel-per-inch resolution.
- Choose quality paper (at least 12-point weight). This thickness will not only feel nice, but it will support gilding or embossing if you want to highlight some elements this way.
- Don’t be afraid of die-cut corners, or even totally unique card shapes. Just make them small enough to fit comfortably in a wallet’s credit card sleeve. Oddly shaped or oversized cards are more likely to be thrown away if they can’t be tucked comfortably into a holder.
- Don’t cram in too much text, as this will be hard to read. Create a mockup that you can read at arm’s-length without squinting, with enough contact info that people will be able to find you on or offline.
- Opinions are strongly divided on QR codes. If you want to include one, do some research to make sure that your target demographic is likely to use it. (If you’re in doubt, it is better not to use them).
Once they’re looking nice, spell-checked, and ready for distribution, know when and how to give your cards out. Don’t turn every conversation into a networking opportunity, or you’ll quickly develop a reputation as a slimy salesperson. Learn when to introduce them tastefully, and remember to show just as much interest in others’ business cards as you hope they’ll show in yours. If your cards are due for a facelift, notice the good design elements in every card you receive. You might get some inspiration — and your new look might inspire others.
What to Avoid in Your Design
Don’t be that person whose business card design makes everyone cringe. Creativity can become frivolous and impractical very quickly, which will not help potential connections to remember you for the right reasons. Non-durable materials, confusing allusions, tiny text, unflattering photos, and super-glossy coatings will all make your card hard to work with. Every part of the design should keep the focus where you want it — on your name and on your brand. Any elements that distract from these things have to go.
Design Tips that Will Help Your Future Networking
So how can your cards back you up as you’re convincing people to do business with you?
- If you’re job-hunting, a card can serve as a concise mini-resume. Keep that in mind as you network — every interaction could also be doubling as a preliminary interview, in which potential employers decide if they want to call you back.
- A well-worded, quality card will make you stand out from your competition more than a stunning photo or odd shape will. Plenty of white space also leaves room for people to write notes about you, which instantly makes you more memorable. (Keep that in mind when choosing background and texture; an overly glossy finish or dark field will prevent the recipient of your card from taking notes.)
- Using a card to follow up a cordial conversation makes you look prepared and eager, two traits that everybody wants to work with.
Obviously, no business card is an acceptable substitute for a winning presentation and a sincere display of interest in the other person. However, if you’ve mastered those two qualities, having a nice, personal business card to hand over before you say goodbye only makes you look better!