At my new job, I’ve encountered hundreds of business cards.  I work with a card scanner to enter data into a gigantic database.  I’ve noticed that some cards are much easier to work with than others.  Here are some tips to make your business card great.

  • Make your margin at least ¼ inch wide in each direction. I’ve scanned several cards, only to find that the words were cut off because the margins were too small.

  • Use a clear, thick sans-serif font. If you don’t, your cards become illegible by humans and machines alike.  The less manual entry, the better.  Use strong faces, not thin types that can be easily misread.

  • Write out your company name Don’t just put your logo and expect people to automatically decipher the company’s name.  Make it easy and place it right under your job title or across from your name.

  • Use common words and letters. Direct (D), Cell (C) /Mobile (M), Fax (F), and Phone (P) are common words for voice contact.  Other words such as Operator and Toll-Free are also acceptable, but writing O or TF may be misunderstood.

  • Write a job title. People don’t always know what you do at a job.  Write the title and make yourself seem as important as you really are.

  • Write your address the way you would on an envelope. The spacing between the street address and the city/state/zip line make things much more legible.

  • Make the back of your card white or a color light enough to write on. Sometimes notes are nice, and writing on the front destroys the beauty of the card.  Seriously.

  • Don’t make anything important a light color. Your name should not be sky blue, nor should the ‘@’ sign in your email address.  These things make it hard to read by people and card scanners.  Manual entry is very annoying.

  • Keep the standard information on the front. Your name, title, company name, address, phone numbers, website address and email addresses should be on the front of the card.  The back can have miscellaneous information, such as if your company is a branch of another or various other contact information that isn’t pertinent.  This way, the person only needs to read the front to find everything necessary.

  • Don’t use inverted text for your important information. PLEASE do not use white text on a solid color background for your main information.  It can be scratched off easily, and isn’t easy to read by card scanners.  It’s also often jarring for the human eye to look at.

  • Use a standard card size. 3.5 x 2 inches is the standard size.  Do not deviate, or people may have to cut your precious card to make them fit into card pages and organizers.  I’ve done this on several occasions because they were ¼ inch off.  Square cards are NOT ACCEPTABLE.  They get lost easily and push all the information into small amounts of space.  Everything looks boxed in.  Stick to the standard size and get noticed by making a good design.

  • Use cool elements. The best way to get noticed is to use special printing elements such as shiny ink (it still reads well on scanners) and embossing (only on umimportant things such as a logo on the back).  Debossing with ink printed on top looks very nice and gives an unexpected pop.  It’s also still completely legible.  Die cuts would also look great, but only with information printed carefully under it or if the information was cut in precisely.

I don’t know how I feel about curved cards, but I haven’t seen any so far while working here.   Try to stick to 90-degree angles for card edges.  It’ll also save you some cash.

Remember, business cards were created for businesses so they could get more business.  Don’t shoot yourself in the foot with a cruddy card that no one wants to look at.

Here’s a checklist (PDF) to make sure your card rocks.

Good luck making awesome cards!  I’ll post an example design in the future.