Think about it: Every meeting you attend outside your company, every business function you attend, every group you join, even casual encounters at sporting events, concerts, classes and athletic competitions like races and charity bike-a-thons, the one thing you can use to conveniently provide your contact info and your business “story” to a new acquaintance is your business card. It carries your company brand, it carries your professional reputation, your phone number, e-mail address, website URL, physical address, even a level of achievement and professional status – that’s a lot of heavy lifting for a piece of card stock 2″ x 3.5″!
For small businesses, the many choices made in creating a business card are each vitally important to be sure it can carry all that weight effectively. Nice layout but thin, flimsy stock says I’m just starting but don’t have the resources to spring for the good stuff (sending a subliminal message that maybe I’m not concerned with other details of my company’s image, either). Standard white with black type might send the message that basic is good enough, I don’t care enough about appearances to even pay attention to subtle design cues and engagement that some color can create. Way colorful and “cartoony” might make it difficult for the recipient to grant your firm the importance and weight of consideration it deserves. Lots of type and images of you might come off as narcissistic if over done. Too “designy” might reduce the impression of seriousness and business acumen that goes behind your creative decisions. Type too small to read, too much information packed in illogical order, funny, multiple or odd type faces that make it difficult to read or absorb quickly, are all poor choices, and we’ve seen them all at one time or another. All these choices are critical to convey the message in just the right way that really makes you memorable, carries your brand effectively, and connects that person who receives it with the way you can somehow help them achieve their goals, no matter what they are. Like I said, a lot of pressure for a small scrap of paper . . .
With all that going on, it’s usually best to leave the design, layout, and production choices to a design professional who has a reasonable portfolio of business identity work. That doesn’t mean your new sister-in-law who just graduated from art school can’t take a crack at it, depending on what type of business you’re starting or promoting, but her input should be able to stand on it’s merits, not on her attendance at Thanksgiving dinner. There are basic design tenets that should be adhered to when crafting an effective business card (and other identity materials), but those tenets leave a huge margin open for creativity and ingenuity! Don’t feel boxed in by convention, just give due weight to the experience of those who are successful at creating these little buggers.
For the money, business cards can be your most effective weapon in the battle for recognition, growth, brand awareness, new customer acquisition, and professional networking success. Its certainly the oldest, and most valuable dollar for dollar. Sure, digital elements are global, changeable, adaptable, mobile and modern, but the lowly business card travels further, gets kept longer, is more portable and shareable, carries more information and meta-information, more memorable tactility, and more engagement than a web banner ad URL could hope for on its best day!
Next time someone hands you their business card (hopefully you asked for it first), take a moment and study it, feel it, read both sides, absorb it for a moment, then look up and connect all that information with the person in front of you. Does it all hang together, is it “as expected”, or is it in jarring contrast to the person, company or position you’ve encountered in the person you’ve been speaking with? That jarring disconnect is to be avoided at all cost, as it reduces that attachment, that engagement, that connection and memorability that are the card’s main job. If the card looks and feels just like you’d expect after speaking with the person for a few minutes, observing and listening to them, then its a winner, and carries that person’s brand, their status, their stature, their ethos and of course, the way to continue the conversation later, perfectly packaged in one small fragment of wood pulp. Not bad for a few bucks and some thought . . .