How to Design Your Business Card

As web designers and developers, we often overlook printed marketing materials.

But on occasion, they can come in very handy: at conferences, when we meet face-to-face with clients, or when we happen to run into someone we might want to do business with. Having business cards is a great way to promote yourself in the physical world.

Of course, since web design is a creative field, you’ll want your business card to serve as a sort of mini portfolio that displays your skills. You should put the same time and energy into designing your business cards that you put into designing a website.

And the skills necessary to design a business card can be easily adapted from those that are required to design a website. Read on for more information about how to design your business cards.

 

Size and Shape

Standard business cards are 2″ x 3.5″, in either vertical or horizontal orientation. Horizontal is more traditional, but plenty of people and companies now opt for vertical layouts.

There are a few benefits to the standard sizing, the primary one being that it’s generally less expensive because it’s common. The other big benefit is that it is immediately recognizable as a business card, and will fit in standard business card holders.

But just because business cards are traditionally a 2″ x 3.5″ rectangle doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from that size and shape. With modern printing and cutting techniques, virtually any size and shape can be used for your business cards.

Die cut cards are particularly popular. Some opt for a traditional rectable, but with rounded corners or some kind of cutout shape within the card.

Others opt for an entirely custom shape, often reflecting their logo or a company theme or mascot. Just remember that anything too complex is likely to get bent or otherwise misshapen, which may defeat its purpose.

Here’s a great example of a die-cut card, with letters cut out of the card itself.

Over-sized and under-sized cards are growing in popularity. Over-sized cards are often die cut custom shapes. Like die-cut cards, over- or under-sized cards can make your business card stand out from those of your competitors.

Folded cards are yet another option. You can choose to have the fold along the long or short side of the card.

The best option generally depends on the purpose of the folding parts and the orientation of the card itself. With a vertical-oriented card, you may want the fold along the short side, and with a horizontal card you may want it on the long side. But again, it depends on the overall design of the card.

 

Materials and Effects

The vast majority of business cards out there are printed on paper cardstock. Cardstock comes in a variety of weights, textures, and colors. Card stock weights are calculated a bit differently than text-weight paper.

A pound weight of card stock is calculated based on the weight of 500 20″ x 26″ sheets, while text weight paper is calculated based on the weight of 500 25″ x 38″ sheets.

Card stock is any paper with a weight of between 50 and 110lbs. It’s also sometimes referred to by points or mils, which is the thickness of the sheet in thousandths of an inch. So a 12 pt. card stock is .012 inches thick.

In addition to the weight of the paper, you’ll also want to consider paper color. Most business cards are printed on either cream or white paper. But virtually any color can be used. Ask your printer for options as they likely can get better deals from certain manufacturers.

The paper texture is also important. Decide whether you want your paper to be smooth or rough, matte or glossy, or anywhere in between. Your printer can likely give you samples to see what they have available. Alternatively, check out your local office supply store to see what they have on hand.

Coatings
While many business cards don’t bother with any kind of coating, you may want to opt for an aqueous (water resistant) or UV-protective coating. Either of these options make your business card more durable, but they do add to the cost.

Specialty Materials
While most business cards are printed on paper, there are a growing number of specialty cards that are printed on other materials. Plastic and wood seem to be the most popular, but there are also examples of metal business cards. Plastic cards are available clear, opaque, or frosted, and are even available in different colors, and aren’t significantly more expensive than good quality paper cards. Even wooden business cards have come down significantly in price, with single-color cards starting as low as $35/100.

Here’s an example of a business card made from wood, with a custom shape.

Embossing
Embossing is done by applying heat and pressure to create a raised area on a piece of paper or cardstock. Embossing is generally done without applying any ink to the raised parts. A logo, monogram or other image are all commonly embossed on business cards.

Embellishments
Depending on your budget, you can add virtually any embellishment you want to your business cards. To get an idea of some of the types of embellishments widely available, check out your local scrapbooking supplier. If you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease on your own cards, you can often pick up supplies in these shops. Alternatively, check with your printer to see what types of embellishments they might be able to handle (it will vary widely between printers).

A creative card design with hair pins as embellishments.


 

Printing Method

There are a variety of printing methods out there. There’s also a wide variety in the quality, look, and cost of the different printing processes. The most common process for commercial printing is offset, though unless you’re getting a very large quantity of business cards printed, it can be cost-prohibitive because of setup fees.

Digital printing methods are probably the most common ways to have business cards printed. Among digital printers, some use inkjet technology while most others use laser printers. Digital presses are usually more cost-effective for shorter print runs due to lower setup costs.

In addition to the common processes above, there are a few other options out there. Letterpress is a great choice for a card with a higher-end look and feel. Because printing plates with raised letters are pressed into the paper, the end result has indentations for each letter or printed image.

These are best limited to cards with only one or two colors, as each color has to be printed separately. Most letterpress shops are small, often using antique platen presses. The cost per card is high, especially for smaller quantities, but the end result gives a custom, bespoke feel.

Letterpress is often associated with more traditional designs, but it works well with a modern design like this one, too.

Engraved cards are also an option. Engraving is most often seen on wedding invitations and other social stationery, but it is an option for business stationery, too.

Engraving involves using printing plates that are engraved with metal gravers or acid etched. The printing plates are inked, and the ink fills the etched or engraved lines. Dampened paper is then printed using great pressure, to ensure it will absorb all of the ink from the plates. This results in a heavily-inked, sometimes raised effect. Thermography printing is sometimes used to achieve a look similar to engraving at a much lower cost.

At the absolute low-end of the scale are self-printed business cards. If you’ve ever set foot inside a stationery or office supply store, you’ve probably seen the pre-scored sheets of business cards you can buy to print your own cards on your inkjet or laserjet printer.

If your card is very simple, preferably black and white, and you have no budget, then printing your own cards can be acceptable. One trick, though, is that instead of buying the pre-scored business card sheets (which will have tell-tale remnants of perforations along each side), buy good-quality cardstock and a paper cutter. Use the templates for laying out your business cards, but then cut them apart yourself to eliminate the perforation marks.

 

Color and Style

Now that you have an idea of the options available for creating your business cards, it’s time to get down to actually designing those cards. You’ll want to take into account the style of your current marketing materials, including your website, as well as the image you want to portray to potential clients.

These business cards offer a great example of how color can be used in your design.

Your color choices can have a great impact on the type of printing process you can use, as well as the cost of your printed piece.

A standard, 4-color process is common with both offset and digital printing. While opting for a single-color business card on these types of presses can sometimes save a bit of money, it often has no effect on the cost of the project (especially with digital presses). By contrast, a one or two color design can be much more cost-effective with a letterpress or engraved business card, as each printing plate has to be custom-made for each color.

If your website and general style are minimalist, stick with a minimalist card. Pay close attention to typefaces and color and less attention to images and embellishments. With a minimalist design, you might consider using a more expensive printing technique like letterpress or engraving, especially if you’re only using one or two colors.

By contrast, if your style is more artistic or extravagant, have your business card reflect that. Go with a four-color printing process and really let your personal aesthetic style shine through. Be as creative with your business card design as you would be with your website designs.

Experiment with a few different card styles and designs, and then get estimates for how much each one will cost you to have printed at different quantities. Since business cards can range widely in price from only a few cents each (or less) to well over a dollar or more, your budget will likely have as great an effect on the final design as any other factor.

 

Information to Include

Remember that your business card’s primary function is for prospective and current clients to be able to access your contact information. The information you provide on the card is vital to how effective it will be.

But some designers and business people have a tendency to include every bit of information they can think of on their business card. Because of their smaller format, business cards are a prime case of less is more.

What you choose to include on your business card is highly dependent on the design and how you’re most-often contacted by clients. In the simplest incarnations, a business card might only include your website address. This can work if your domain name is your name or your company name, but otherwise it’s only likely to be confusing.

At a bare minimum for most cards, you’ll want to include your name and your company name, what you do, and your basic contact information (phone, email and website address). Other information you might consider including:

  • Street address
  • Twitter username
  • Professional certifications or memberships
  • A tagline or slogan

You may opt to include your logo, a background image, or some other complementary graphic. Alternatively, you might decide you only want text on your card (possibly on a colored paper background). Look at your other marketing materials and website and emulate their look and feel when it comes to graphics.

 

File Setup

For anyone with a background primarily in website design, print specifications can be a bit foreign. There are certain things that are vital in a printed file that are either irrelevant in a digital file or can be fudged quite a bit. But if you try to do that in something that will be printed, you’ll end up with a card that’s a mess and way less professional-looking than you might have hoped for.

DPI is one of the most important things to remember when you’re designing a printed piece. Your business cards should have a resolution of at least 300dpi for any images included. Fonts should be embedded rather than converted to images for the crispest edges. You’ll also need to factor in a bleed if there’s color or images that run right to the edge of the card. Bleeds can be more expensive, though that will depend on your particular printer.

Each printer is going to have their own preferred specifications for your files. Check with them prior to finalizing your design to make sure you’re working within their guidelines. Some printers might want your original artwork files while others want PDFs made to particular specifications.

Others might be able to accept an EPS or TIFF file, though in those cases you’ll want to use an even higher resolution file (600 or even 1200dpi), since your fonts won’t be embedded.

 

Examples

Below are fifty examples of excellent business card designs to inspire you and give you ideas for your own business card designs.

Written exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman

How do you design your own business cards? Which designs do you feel have a more lasting impression? Share any other comments below…


  • http://www.chris-spain.co.uk Chris Spain

    Some truly lovely examples of interesting and innovative business card design here.
    I’m definitely feeling more inspired to create this morning; thanks for helping to get my week off to a nice and enthused start!

  • http://www.digitalbrandsgroup.com Chris Bitti

    wow!
    i thought our cards where different, but looking at these, i realised that people are doing things out there. wonderful post!

  • Shankar

    Its superb and Looks cool :-)

  • http://www.apostogano.com CopaPKR

    They are excellent, very good article left me amazed some cards, have a very good design.

  • http://deseynerseyecreations.net Lisa Raymond

    Very good post! Until you delve into making your own business cards, it’s easy to overlook them as being “simple”. If I may, I would add these points:

    1. The chosen print shop may require a bleed area, and there is not a standard. Some print shops may require a 1/4″ bleed while others may only require an 1/8″ bleed.

    2. It’s important to ask whether the chosen shop will be printing the business cards in-house or outsourcing the print. Some places are not set up to do much more than copying, such as Officemax and Staples. In a few cases, the person that may be the representative for the chosen shop may actually be a broker, so the costs may be higher. You may ask for a tour of the shop to see how the cards will be run; most will readily agree.

    3. Depending on the paper stock or quantity, it might be less expensive to go with a digital printer that will use a printing press rather than offset printing. It may also be that, due to whatever accompaniments are designed into the card (i.e., die cut, embossing/letterpress, etc.), using the press may be the only option. This area should definitely be discussed with the chosen print shop.

    4. With regards to die cuts, you should ask the chosen print shop if they can apply the die cut or does this have to be outsourced; in either case, does the print shop charge each time the plate is used along with the creation of the plate, and how much?

    5. If the print shop doesn’t use a .pdf file and the file is being created and saved as an .eps format, I would automatically resave as a “PRINT” file and immediately turn the fonts to outlines (paths) so there is no font issue. NEVER assume the chosen print shop has the fonts you are using. Another method would be to package the entire file, including fonts, and send to the chosen print shop.

    Thank you, and again – great post!

    • http://www.houmedia.com Alysia

      Lisa made lots of great points. It should be clarified, though, that using a print broker does not always mean higher prices. Many reputable brokers have agreements with the print shops to have significantly discounted rates. This allows brokers, if they choose, to offer the same price as the print shops in many cases. The advantage is that the broker handles the customer service-end–a good broker will have the patience and expertise to walk you through the process or even assist with file set-up without extra fees.

  • http://yabocs.avytes.com/ Yabocs

    Nice and inspired cards
    but I do miss this original USB card: http://bit.ly/ctf7dy
    Happy monday…

  • http://www.suchmaschinenoptimierung-stuttgart.eu Seo Stuttgart

    Really nice examples, wish we had some cards like those ;).

  • http://www.natashastorm.co.za Storm

    Stunning examples! It’s always interesting seeing how more and more creative people are getting with business cards, my favourite thing to design <3

    Thanks for all the rad posts!

  • http://www.coroflot.com/wahab Abdul Wahab

    Very helpfull post…
    Thanks!

  • http://rolling-webdesign.com Theo

    Great cards, would be nice to have a post/article about printing companies.

  • Matt
  • http://www.clippingimages.com Shamima Sultana

    Great resources…
    Thanks for the post…

  • http://www.deepbass.com/portfolio Brad Shaw

    erm, I meant 3.5″ x 2″ but I can’t edit my post.

  • http://www.eavasi.ru/ eavasi

    Just very very Great post and wonderful buiseness cards. Its like me very much!!!

  • http://www.psyched.be/wordpress Darkened Soul

    some nice collection of examples here

    I do think though that for small companies one should stick to low cost cards.
    the more extravert those cards are the more it will cost n for some companies, that’s not the biggest priority.
    On the other hand, some will get their money out of it since out of the ordinary designs might stick alot longer in ones subconscious mind…

    pro’s n con’s, but a nice collection nonetheless

  • pushpinder

    Its always welcomed to mention the names and references of these card designers. We might hire them for work.

  • http://vandriessche-interieur.be/ Interieurinrichting

    Some very creative ideas in this list. But I still prefer the simple designs like “Alterpop” card.

  • http://www.rivict.com/ Vanni

    Good and inspiring examples!
    thank you

  • http://trimbakeshwar.in/ Trimbakeshwar

    wht a mind blowing collection of cards..
    i cant even imagine cards like such creativity …..

  • http://www.majoripc.com/ Paul Collingwood

    hay …lovely collection of business cards….
    i m really inspired ….
    thanks for posting…

  • http://www.venturetothetop.com Dee

    Very creative designs here. Helps me think outside the box a little for my new business card design.

  • http://virtua-gallery.com kjpweb

    Nicely done. Good overview and some great inspirations!

  • mvhoute

    I think you can add this to this blog: http://twitpic.com/1pq2wn

  • http://www.spirofrog.de Thomas

    Very nice V Cards I must admit, so I should change my style!

  • http://www.ate5.com Jordan Walker

    Those are great examples of business cards.

  • http:sexidesign.com Melody

    Argh me matey! Thanks for showcasing my pirate card! Was so surprised to see it up there =D
    The world that’s intricately cut out makes me want to go out and buy a laser cutter.

  • http://www.michaelsaathoff.com Michael Saathoff

    whoa these are awesome… i rarely get the opportunity to design business cards (or any print for that matter) and it looks like when i do i need to step my game up!

  • pesho

    it’s great !
    thanks ..

  • http://www.small-business-graphic-design.com Rhonda Brown

    Great article! I thought the examples were outstanding.

  • http://www.sametomorrow.com/blog adam

    Good post and interesting showcase of cards.

  • http://interactivemoon.com Hang Le

    Wow, nice.
    At my old company we even ordered cookie stores to make our cards as cookies (those that use edible ink – completely can be eaten – but most of the time we don’t because it looks so good) and give it along with a physical card to clients :)

  • http://www.cardnerd.com Card Nerd

    Some lovely business cards, very creative. Really like “Nation Builder”.

  • http://www.webdesignerideas.com Adie

    Some amazing examples here. My cards now seem so boring that i want to do them all over again.

  • http://www.adelieland.eu/ Diti

    Another thing you should include onto your business cards is a QR Code of your vCard. It will help a lot people who do not wish to waste time recopying your contact info.

  • http://www.squiders.com Web Design Kent

    Some great cards, have always been restricted by budget but would love to be a bit more creative with my cards… next time!

  • http://www.deepbass.com/portfolio Brad Shaw

    Interesting, you posted the correction to my typo but not my comment which was; the only place in the world where 3.5″ x 2″ cards are “standard” is North America. Sizes are normally in mm everywhere else and vary around the world based on geographical location.

    You can see the sizes listed by country on Wikipedia under the “business card” entry, but 90mm x 55mm, 85mm x 55mm, and 90mm x 50mm could all be considered “standard” sizes for example.

  • http://unexpectedways.net/7-tips-for-choosing-a-great-designer-by-an-atlanta-graphic-designer/ Atlanta Graphic Designer

    Hey!

    This article has a lot of great points in it – and the showcase is awesome! It’s always so inspiring to see different designs that are so creative and out of the box. I think it’s great that over the years business card design evolved from the traditional expected form to an entire experience as opposed to just a card.

  • http://www.sarahkbraun.com Sarah

    I’ve just started working on designing my business card design so this article is perfectly timed. Thanks for the tips and the showcase – some awesome inspiration for my design!

  • http://christianamauger.com Christian Amauger

    Very inspiring! Thanks a lot for this article!

  • Sean

    These are really great.

    I’ve been searching for how to get some custom-shaped business cards done.

    Does anyone have any options as far as custom-shaped cards, cutting, die-cuts, etc.? Are there printing websites that do that sort of thing, or is it better to do it locally? Where would I go about getting a custom die-cut for the shape of card I want?

  • http://www.airbionicfx.com Alexey

    Good post, like business cards posts

  • http://www.collectivecore.com Chris Lentz

    I love these designs, but I have one question, where were some of them made??? So many websites show off designs, but hardly any actually tell you who is behind the amazing print jobs!

    I would like to have specially made cards for my staff, but I can’t find anyone who does this kind of work.

    • http://unexpectedways.net/7-tips-for-choosing-a-great-designer-by-an-atlanta-graphic-designer/ Atlanta Graphic Designer

      Hey Chris,

      I was wondering that myself, about the really fancy ones, but here are some websites:

      http://www.uprinting.com has different die cut shapes (there aren’t too many to choose from, but it’s still better than many other online printers).

      http://www.moo.com also has a good variety and you can have different designs on each of your cards.

      http://themandatepress.com/ started doing letterpress business cards.

      http://www.navitor.com/ I haven’t really been on there, but thought I’d just throw it in there in case you find it useful.

      Hope this helps!
      Lou

  • http://inspirationfeed.com inspirationfeed

    Great collection, very inspiring!

  • http://www.houseofcat.net Cat Johnson

    Oh, the old business card design question.

    There are so many ways to go with your card. I’ve started printing in smaller runs because I generally change my mind/mood/style every 6 months or so. With so many options available for these perfectly uniform little calling cards, it’s hard to settle on just one design.

    As ever, thanks for the information and inspiration. Cheers.

  • http://www.rezyde.com/residential Rezyde

    Wow! This is great I got some interesting ideas for my new business card.

  • http://www.montpellierinteractive.com/web-design.htm Web Design Cheltenham

    I’ve seen some of these before, but IMO the best ones are the designs you could never bear to throw away, no matter how much of a ass you thought the person gving you their card was!

  • http://www.alejandroperazzo.com Punta del Este

    beautiful cards!!

  • http://www.scottcorgan.com Scott Corgan

    Letterpress FTW!!

  • Patrick

    Just to rain on the parade a bit, some of those look fantastic, but if they don’t fit easily into my wallet, they’ll be tossed pretty quickly.

  • http://www.redbubble.com/people/o0odemocrazyo0o o0OdemocrazyO0o

    nice mix of styles and occupations… very inspiring…
    now if i can just sort out this math question thing below before my morning coffee… (o)_(0)

  • http://www.design977.com Pusparaj

    Wow great, feeling motivated…

  • Viv

    Excelent!!! Thanks!!!

  • http://www.fitforpaper.com Lisa

    I love special finishes and materials myself, but try not to go overboard — only use it if it somehow tied to the brand identity, or the message of a particular piece. I also think Patrick makes a good point: if it doesn’t fit into the wallet, it’ll likely be thrown away, or left somewhere in a pile of papers and forgotten. (of course I tend to keep them, but mostly for design reference/inspiration, rather than contact details)

    Chris and Lou — I usually work with a local printer for anything that requires special finishes; it’s nice to be able to see and touch the paper stock and look at examples they have done. Usually, the bigger printing companies that do offset printing will have a variety of custom options as well. You’re both in Atlanta, right? Here’s one that came up on google: http://www.alphagraphicsatl.com

    Their business card printing services description:
    • An array of sizes, including standard 2×3.5 in., or many unique configurations such as a folded 4×3 in. or custom die cut
    • Printing options such as embossing/debossing, foil stamping, magnetic stock, custom papers and raised lettering and coatings

    Not affiliated with them in any way, and I’m sure there are more… you can always call/e-mail and ask the local ones.

    Lisa.

  • http://www.krisbradbury.co.uk Kris

    Excellent article… came just at the right time as I was going to be sorting out some business cards pretty soon too!

  • http://www.strafecreative.co.uk Web Design Nottingham

    A well designed business card can make you memorable to a potential client, well worth taking time over it. Great collection for some inspiration. Nice work

  • http://Wordhoard.posterous.com Siobhan

    A really inspiring article, and it’s come at the right time for me. It’s good to be reminded that a good business card can mean as much to local, real-life clients as much as a lively twitter account can mean to a younger target audience.

    Thanks again.

  • http://www.fuzzimo.com/ fuzzimo

    Always fun to see innovative ideas for business cards. There are way too many boring cards out there.

  • http://www.w3graphix.com Robin

    Designing a business card is a biggest tips for the bloggers and others becoz if they know to design they can put their creativity. This is really a best tutorial…thanks a lot

  • http://www.mer-telecom.com/?CategoryID=280&ArticleID=107 Guy Towers

    Sweet list. I personally love the little cards from Moo.com but then again, who has the time to create 100 different designs?

  • http://aamnah.com Aamnah

    very impressive designs. makes me want to print my own cards although i have no business. i think i’ll just show off =D

  • Jeffrey

    A great post but an important rule of design, especially print, is the first dimension is always the width (except when designing billboards). 3.5″ x 2″ is landscape… 2″ x 3.5 is portrait..

    Again, a great post…

  • http://www.adriancrellin.co.uk IOM Web Design

    Thinking of designing some new personal business cards, so this article could prove very handy.

    Thanks

  • http://www.hyaho.ch hyaho.ch

    nice collection, thanks a lot!
    r.

  • http://cardview.net Cardview

    Excellent article! Thanks!

  • vnikey

    Amazing article, thx!! I was looking for this for quite some time…

  • http://www.mcm.co.ba MCM designs tudio

    Hi Cameron, I just read your article and it was very helpeful because right now I am working for one client which wants professional loomking and unique BC.

    Greetings and keep up the great work!!

  • http://www.submitshop.com John

    I got a good idea how to get or make business cards thanks

  • http://businesscarddesignideas.com Seth

    Really nice post. Great examples too!

  • Sheila

    Very nice post! So great to see all of the unique business card designs!

    I have seen wood cards before, and heard great things about Cards of Wood who make wooden cards. Maybe I will contact them once I can make up my mind on how I want to design my new cards.

  • http://leonking.com.ua Leonking

    In Ukraine, hard to get the customer to do this kind of business cards. And most welcome cheap projects. When trying to make cheap and creative, then do not go any more. You good luck, and new ideas.

  • http://www.printdo.com/ Arvind

    Such a awesome collection of business cards. Thanks for sharing. You may also find many of cheap business card online here.