How to design your own great-looking business cards

Lesa Snider
9 February, 2015
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Mac-in-Business

Business cards, design, macworld australiaFew design projects are as nerve-wracking – and important – as designing your own business card. Just like the clothes you wear, your business card tells the recipient if you’re professional, artistic or a big ol’ ball of cheese. Aside from the aesthetic message, you’ve also got to pack a ton of info into a tiny-teeny space and keep it readable. To put your best business card forward, try following these essential design tips.

Pick a printer

The first step in designing your own business cards is to pick a printer. There are online resources aplenty, including VistaPrintMoo and Zazzle. Most of these services have web-based design widgets, though you can upload your own designs, too.

Poke around the printer’s website for document specifications such as size, resolution, colour mode and which file format to submit (vector-based PDFs keep your text nice and crisp). Better yet, see if they’re got a Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator template that you can download and customise.

Use imagery

A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and that’s true for business cards, too. If you’re promoting a service that you perform – think attorneys, consultants, therapists – include your photo on the front of the card, just like a savvy real estate agent would. If you create a product, use a photo of that. If you’re a photographer, place your best photo on the front of the card and your second best on the back. If you’re a travel agent, use photos of the locations you book.

 

business card replacement

Notice how friendly the new design is (bottom), versus the old design (top). If the photo extends to the right edge of the card, be sure there’s a calm spot for text. In this example, the right edge of the photo was faded out using a layer mask in Photoshop.

 

Alignment

When many folks read, our eyes enter the piece at the top left, they move rightward to the edge of the piece, and then they move down. Try placing a photo or logo on the left and your contact info on the right. Since the line width of your contact info will vary, opt for right alignment near the right edge of the card.

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Use an email address that includes your URL

Unless you’re designing a personal or couples’ card for friends and family, use an email address that includes your website domain. Nothing screams ‘startup’ as loudly as an email address that ends in hotmail.com, yahoo.com or even gmail.com. Besides, if your email address includes your URL, you don’t have to include it elsewhere in the design!

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Here’s a before (top) and after (bottom) version of a friend’s business card. Notice how adding imagery, as well as a professional email address, improves this card.

 

Spacing

Adjust the spacing between lines of text so that related items are closer together than unrelated items. For example, instead of putting equal space between each piece of contact info, put less space between your name and title, less space between the lines of your address, less space between phone numbers, and so on. Rather than using blank lines to control space, use your app’s line spacing, leading or space before and space after paragraph controls.

If necessary, adjust the spacing between individual letters by using your app’s character spacing or kerning controls. Pay special attention to numbers – they often have ugly spacing!

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Spacing text according to how its related is an important design technique, and makes the text on this business card easier to read.

 

Use coloured text

While it’s important to keep text readable, it doesn’t have to be black. If you’re designing on a white or light-coloured background, try using charcoal grey. Even better, snatch a fairly dark colour from the logo or photo you’re using – this trick creates consistency by utilising colours that are already in your design.

If you’re designing on a dark-coloured background, use a very light colour instead of pure white to keep contrast down. Colorising certain bits of text is also a great way to draw attention to them. For example, if you prefer to be contacted by phone rather than email (!), colourise your phone number (you can see the reverse of this at play in the previous image).

Dangerous dangling

While it’s fine for a photo or other artistic background element to ‘bleed’ off a card’s edges, your logo and contact info need breathing room, else they look like they’re about to fall off the card. To avoid this, incorporate an equal amount of space between each element and the card’s edges (say, 5mm).

Picking the right font

Sans-serif fonts such as Frutiger, Myriad, Arial and Helvetica are easier to read at small sizes because they lack the ‘feet’ of serif fonts like Times, Minion and Garamond. If you’re placing light-coloured text atop a dark background, it’s crucial to use a sans-serif font, else the dark ink spreads into the letterforms and renders them unreadable. You can also add contrast to your card’s text by using different font styles within the same font family (say, Myriad Bold with Myriad Light).

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Matte versus glossy

People write on business cards all the time. For example, you might jot down a price quote, where you met the person, the document you’re supposed to email them and so on. While glossy business cards look slick, they’re impossible to write on. Instead, opt for a matte finish.

By following these tips, your business cards will always look their best. Until next time, may the creative force be with you all.

One Comment

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  1. Lily says:

    Good job, Lesa. This is a very helpful guide. Thank you.
    After designing your own business card, you could go to thebestprinting.com.au to print them in cheap but high quality, and great support.

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