Saturday, July 7, 2007

How do I make a darn good business card?

First of all, you have to define "Darn Good."

Darn Good - adj - communicates effectively through the use of GOOD layout, typography and color. Catches the eye, and facilitates staring and comments like "Hey, this is a really cool card!".

This means your card must be:

1. original
Some would say nothing is original. But, I disagree. If you're having a hard time being "original," research some business cards you like and take note of what's really "effective in communicating." You can also look at some nasty business cards and ask yourself, "What would I change?"

2. simple - KISS (Keep it simple stupid)
Clutter means chaos. Chaos means hard to find information. Hard to find information means you're not communicating. Not communicating means people won't hire you because you're supposed to be the EXPERT in visual communication! Do some research! USE WHITE SPACE! (This doesn't mean it has to be white, you can use other things like visual texture.)

Just be sure to make the first impression of your card be a reflection on what you do. If the card if for an architect - make the card reflect the personality and tone of that industry.

3. legible
The first impression of a card is, how professional is the designer? It's easy, can it be read with squinting? Is the type too small? (not a good technique) Use at least 9 point on your print work. Another problem with legibility on business cards is color contrast. Don't use opposite colors on the color wheel unless it's done for focal point.

"The purpose and priority of a business card is to
show contact information, first and foremost!"

People have business cards because "boom, boom, boom" it gives you exactly what you're looking for, fast. If within a couple seconds, someone can't find your e-mail, or phone, or fax, or whatever -- redesign the card.

You can use serif or sans serif fonts -- it really doesn't matter here, just as long as they can be read. Using more than 2 typefaces can be distracting and can reduce legibility. Don't do weird stuff with your type like make it go around in circles, or off in different directions. It makes it hard to FIND the info. If I were to do this with type, I'd limit the information to be only about 10 characters each line. Use a focus group if you aren't sure how it will be perceived.

4. with correct information
Give people the correct contact information. If you're changing your e-mail address to be more professional -- be sure to check your e-mail every day! If people are trying to contact you and you aren't responding, this gives a sign that you aren't responsible, or dependable or professional. Get it together!

5. with necessary information
Okay - all you REALLY need on your business card is: First/Last Name, Phone, E-mail, Title. If you have a business, you will add your Business Name, Fax Number. That's it. No mailing address is necessary, believe it or not. (This works for any business, any industry.)

You'll be surprised at how many cards I've seen from graphic designers who forget to put what they do. I end up with a card with someone's name and phone number. I can't remember who the heck that was! Make your card unforgettable!

If you're using a logo - that it remains large enough to be recognized. Be consistent on the placement and size of the logo throughout all your printed materials.

6. a normal size
The business card must be the standard size - 3.5" x 2" (vertical or horizontal) - and must be able to fit in a wallet or business card case. What happens if it doesn't? Someone will throw it away or cut it up to make it fit.

You wanna get funky? If you have the money and the creativity, experiment with die cuts. Rounded corners, other shapes or holes. Just make sure, at the end of the day, it fits in a wallet.

7. printed nicely on nice card stock

Should your promotional piece have a gimmick? Here’s an example of how some cards aren’t printed on actual card stock. I really like 120lb stock. Aqueous coating is nice too that gives you a high-gloss, scuff-resistant coating. But it really depends on the message you're trying to give. It's about the whole experience.

"If you're a graphic designer, your marketing piece is your business card. Use the best quality. Spend some money to market yourself. Don't get cheapy tear-apart-cards you get at the local office supply. YOU design it, YOU work with a professional printer."

If you have any ideas or examples of business cards you've made, please share them with me, and I'll post them on the blog. Post your comments by selecting the comments link below.

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