Business Card Designs

(Originally published on February 14th, 2015)

If you are a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or a business owner, upgrading your business card design can improve the first impression on your business, increase number of follow-ups, and drive business growth. Unless your business card shows you work for one of Fortune 500 companies, chances are people will subconsciously evaluate the credibility of your business based on the appearance of your card.

I summarized what I’ve learned by studying hundreds of business cards and hand curated some of the most representative designs for your inspiration.

Let’s first review the common information shown on business cards:

  1. Name
  2. Title and short bio
  3. Logo and business name
  4. Profile picture
  5. Email, Phone number, Twitter handle, Website or QR code

It’s an inconvenient fact that we can’t fit everything onto the card but limitation encourages aggressive removal of nonessential information and sometimes even promotes creative thinking. Showing less is key to creating a clean design so make sure only necessary information are included.

1. Dimensions

Have you ever wondered how big business cards are? We all know they fit in our hands. But to create a great design, it’s important to begin by knowing the exact dimensions and aspect ratio, so that when they get into people’s hands, the name, logo, and other information will look just right, neither too small or comically big.

The following table lists the most common business card dimensions you may find around the world.

Adapted from: http://designerstoolbox.com/designresources/businesscards/

2. Material

It’s said that “the medium is the message”. The materials of the business cards are as crucial as the designs themselves. The most common materials are paper, plastic and wood. Generally the heavier and thicker the cards are the better they feel in our hands.

Smooth Paper

The most common paper stock for business cards has a matte and smooth finish. You can achieve the best contrast possible on this type of paper. Although the following design is black & white, it doesn’t look boring because of its artful logo design.

The floral pattern makes the card look engaging. (source)

If your design contains a photograph, choosing a smooth surface can avoid introducing unwanted texture in the final print.

Both sides are smooth. (source)
Full color design will turn out great on smooth cards. (source)

Card Stock

More trendy and memorable business cards are usually printed on thicker and rougher card stock. The extra weight reminds us that they are thoughtfully designed artifacts to communicate with one another, not just paper slips with phone numbers.

Depending on roughness of the surface and letterpress patterns, a paper card may have the feel of that of wool, cotton, or wood. Human brain is wired to recognize patterns and textures quickly, probably as a survival instinct. When people receive a card with a rare texture, they may unconsciously associate the texture with the giver, thus making it more likely to recall the encounter.

The letterpress texture makes this card look soft like cotton (source)
This recycled brown paper is emblematic of wood and earth (source)
The coarse grain and grey color is typical of wool felt (source)
Another card that looks like made of cotton (source)

The cards printed on rougher card stock have a modern industrial look.

Business card printed on grunge texture. (source)

Plastic

Plastic business cards are smooth, thin, durable, and water-proof. Unlike paper, plastic can have various degrees of transparency, which gave them the particular look and feel. But it also means the two sides of the card are mirrored image of each other, because of the transparency.

This translucent card blurs the background and makes the logo pop out. (source)
This clever design took advantage of the transparency and the result is a memorable one. (source)

Wooden

The charm of wooden cards lies in their uniqueness in pattern and color and will certainly impress whoever received them. However what you can print on the wood is quite limited and they are usually more expensive.

Each card is unique in color and pattern. (source)
A high-end wood business card. (source)
An elegant and minimal wooden card. (source)

Other Materials

Advancement in manufacturing and engineering has made it possible to create business cards in virtually any material and shape.

These laser cut business cards really show off the designer’s know-how. (source)

However the extra cost is not always justifiable for the return. Besides how likely are you going to carry 50 business cards made of metal or concrete with you?

Business cards made of concrete are one of a kind. (source)

3. Fonts

Keep in mind that the usefulness of business cards lies upon their ability to communicate clear and meaningful messages about the person and the person’s organization to the receiver. Therefore careful selection of fonts should be the next step in the design process to ensure key information are as legible as possible, on the selected material.

If you want to create a clean, slick and modern business card, start with sans serif fonts for the name and title. GoogleWebFonts and FontSquirrel have hundreds of free sans serif fonts.

Here are some beautiful designs which employed this type of fonts, all of which look modern, clean and slick.

White text against black background provides excellent contrast. (source)
Impressive design with beautiful and natural wet edges. (source)
Elegant design which puts the emphasis on the title. (source)

Note that in the following design, although the card looks clean and neat, it come out a bit dull. What it lacks is visual emphasis which is the first thing people land their eyes on. Without it, the design is not as interesting and hardly impressive.

This design is not as impressive as others. (source)

Serif and script fonts however, can enliven designs because they give them unique characters. Using serif and script fonts is often a nice and easy substitute for symbolic logos. Below are some good examples.

Many logos are serif type based. (source)
This design is unique because of the script font. (source)
A design featuring serif font for the studio name and sans serif font for key information. (source)
Script font is used in this design to highlight the name of the store. (source)

FontSquirrel has more script fonts you can download and use in your designs.


4. Letterpress & Emboss

You may have noticed the 3D effects in some examples above. Emboss and deboss/letterpress add yet another dimension to designing better business cards.

Foreground

Emboss and letterpress result in subtle designs which are low key, modern, and stylish. The process uses heat and pressure to imprint text or patterns into the stock.

This design is created by applying ink on one side but not the other in the letterpress process. (source)
Blind letterpress does not use ink. Text looks carved out of the card. (source)
The logo is debossed (source)
Another letterpress card. (source)
Embossing creates a raised layer of text which casts subtle shadows under light. (source)
Notice the subtle highlight, shadow, and reflection around the imprinted logo. (source)

Inks on paper are limited in the characteristics they can reproduce such as the luster of metals, due to the fact paper is a good diffuser. Foil stamping is a process that allows us to add the shine onto business cards.

Embossing with nonmetallic foil may have a liquid effect. (source)
The linear gradient across the logo clearly distinguishes the text from its background. (source)

Letter pressing with metallic foil stamping can really make logos and names pop out.

Letterpress with metallic foil stamping puts golden glitter on the card. (source)
This one has the color of copper. (source)

Here are a couple more metallic foil examples for inspiration.

Golden logo against fabric background. (source)
Another metallic foil stamping example. (source)
Golden logo is majestic. (source)
Here is a rose gold example. (source)

Background

Letterpress patterns can add additional textures and subliminal visual elements to business cards.

Letterpress gives this card a unique and interesting texture. (source)
This card has a rubber-like texture. (source)
Imprinted patterns react to different lightings, creating a sense of depth. (source)
The simple letterpress pattern makes an otherwise flat design more appealing. (source)
An intriguing card with imprinted contour map. (source)

The following cards are of the most sophisticated sort owing to the brilliant uses of foil stamping and embossing.

The light-ray pattern naturally guided our focus to the center. (source)
This gothic design makes it hard to put down and will certainly amaze everyone who gets it. (source)
Another high end business card design. (source)

5. Layouts

Now we have considered individual elements in the making of impressive business cards, let’s examine the step which puts everything together, layout. A great layout keeps the design visually balanced and provides a clear structure for easy processing of the information presented.

Golden Ratio

When one considers anything related to visual aesthetic, golden ratio should be first thing comes to mind. Using golden ratio as a design guide will create natural and harmonious designs.

In the following design, the text size and the dot looked arbitrary at first. However when we overlay the golden rectangles and golden spiral over the card, the careful thought behind this design is revealed.

Note how the dot and height of text closely adheres to the borders of golden rectangles. (source)

In the following design, overlaying golden rectangles also revealed the hidden structures of these elements. Note the first telephone number on the back of the card falls out of the lower rectangle. It’s important to remember golden ratio is a fuzzy guide, not law. The best way is to follow the guide but be creative in making adjustment to fit the need of the content.

The front of the card. (source)
The back of the card. (source)

Here is another example of the design being in close approximation of golden ratio, whether intended or not.

Another golden ratio based layout. (source)

Symmetry

The most common layout of business cards is symmetric layout. It makes sense given the limited size of the medium. It works very well in most cases.

Simple symmetric layout, puts the logo at the center. (source)
The foils looks illuminated even in shadow. (source)
Symmetrically arranged elements result in a balanced design. (source)
Another centered design. (source)

Grid System

Another common way to layout information is to use a grid system. By adhering to the grids and using consistent gaps between elements we can create pleasurable visual rhythms in our designs.

Grid introduces rigor into design. (source)
An explicitly grid-based design. (source)
Analysis of the layout reveals the grid system used to create the design. (source)
Simple stripes also served as guidelines. (source)
Grid system makes it possible to create unconventional yet visually organized designs. (source)

Hope you have got enough inspiration for your next business card!

Design your unique card. (source)

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.