Best Practices in Business Card Design

When I get back to my office after conferences, I invariably have a stack of business cards from people who I met, a stack that I dutifully try to enter into my contact database or at least invite to subscribe to one of my mailing lists. As a result, I get to see a lot of business cards in a typical year, probably thousands of them.
Having just gone through about forty this evening, let me make some observations about what makes a really good business card versus one that I think fails at its dual job of both supplying key contact information and piquing my curiosity or jogging my memory about that person. I realize that you might have different thoughts about the purpose of a business card but I invite you to spend a few minutes leafing through your own stack of cards and ask yourself: what works? Why?

Here then is my list of Business Card Best Practices:

  1. Have a Credible Email Address — Here’s one that constantly amazes me, actually. For example, I have a business card from a Realtor, from someone whom I am presumably going to engage in incredibly expensive transactions that might involve me assuming debt for 25 years or longer. Yet their address? Something very similar to Does that instill trust? Do you feel instantly that she’s a professional more than capable of handling my large business transactions? Or the chap who forgot the .com at the end of his email address. Not a huge error, but checking for typos is #2…
  2. Avoid Typos — Again, another basic one. Proof read, proof it again, and ask someone else to check for spelling mistakes, grammatical glitches, typos in email addresses or domain names, incorrectly use of punctuation, and whatever else can sneak up and ruin your business card. Remember, this card is a tiny little billboard and every time someone looks at it or pulls it out of their wallet / desk, you want to give the very best possible impression.
  3. Don’t Include Too Much Information — Most people get this one right, but one of the cards I received has a company name, a seven word slogan, then a thirty word paragraph explaining what the business is about! I love so-called elevator pitches as much as the next entrepreneur, but I’m just not sure that needs to take over the front of a business card. Oh, and sticking it on the back isn’t much better either.
  4. Add Some Color – I know, not everyone can afford color business cards, but it’s really hard to have an attractive card that’s just black mono-font material on a white background. If you’re just distributing contact data, that’s probably fine, but if you want to have it stand out, to really help convey your unique value to your potential client / customer / JV, then consider a color logo, color rule line, color fill, or photograph. There are lots of splendid – and remarkably inexpensive – choices for great color cards.
  5. Leave The Back Blank — I believe pretty strongly in having the back of business cards blank so they’re space for notes. People are going to write notes on ’em anyway, why not give them some space? Further, this means that your fancy slick glossy finish is a problem (people can’t write on them) and that any color other than white or a very light yellow or grey for a quality paper stock is a real problem. For about a year I had a card with a lovely dark blue back color, until I realized that every time I gave someone a card they ended up writing on the front of the card since the back was essentially useless.
  6. Have Business Cards — Explain this one to me: four people paid the money and spent the time to come to a weekend conference about online business success, but had to write their name and contact info on a piece of scratch paper because they “didn’t have any business cards yet.” That’s no excuse at all, in my eyes. You can pop into somewhere like Kinko’s or use an online service and get a small box of even the most rudimentary business cards for $20. Everyone in business should have an up-to-date business card. Everyone. Yes, even you.
  7. And A Special Category For PR Folk… — There’s a special spot reserved for PR folk who think that we care about the name of their agency and its logo. We don’t. We care about the companies that they represent and work with, yet I have never seen a card from a public relations person that listed, on the card, the companies they rep. Or a card from the company they work with that lists them as “Public Relations, XYZ Agency” and has the appropriate contact info. Surely this can’t be too hard, but my stack of cards includes many, many PR cards that I’ve had to deface by scrawling “Phillips”, “Nintendo”, “Microsoft”, “Symantec” or whatever other company they work with…

I’ll think about this for a bit and invite you to add your own thoughts, at which point I ‘ll probably expand this list with another half-dozen obvious best practices. But meanwhile, what do you think?

37 comments on “Best Practices in Business Card Design

  1. Hi Dave,
    I had a good chuckle while reading this. I haven’t been to your intuitive blog in a while, and I just happened back today before I leave for Chicago for the System Seminar.
    Your number 6 made me laugh! I just yesterday went to Kinko’s and had cards made up because last year when I went, I didn’t have cards and I felt like an idiot. So, thanks for the great advice!
    Hopefully, I will have a chance to give you mine this weekend! See you there.

  2. Excellent post.
    Another point to consider: use big font for key information (name, email and phone number). Everyone with less than perfect eyesight will appreciate the thoughtfulness. And this helps at meetings – when people glance at your card to recall your name.
    On the subject of leaving the back blank and point 3 – I respectfully disagree. I think a short write-up about company/product makes sense on the back. Will make it easier to remeber what this person was talking about.

  3. I can agree with you on the company info on the back of the card IF they also leave sufficient room for people to scribble their own notes on the card too. Otherwise, I’d much rather you leave me without your company elevator pitch and let me use your card how I’d like to use it…

  4. Hi Dave,
    Your post was timely. We recently redesigned our cards and I agree with your advice (except #5). We dropped the glossy cards (can’t write, show smudgy fingerprints) and a bunch of superflous info (our 800# for example).
    Back to #5 – I think having a backside on the card that clues the recepient into your value-ad is a good thing. Still, we left lots of space (and a white background) for writing notes.
    Here’s the card itself if you’d like to take a look:

  5. Great Article. I am going to link to this. I do want to add that business owners who include a graphic should use one that demonstrates the benefits of their product or service not just an interesting but ultimately meaningless design.

  6. Hi Dave
    Your article was very helpful.
    I have a question about using MBA after my name. I am a portfolio manager and currently have my CFP designation behind my name. Is MBA lost its appeal or does it still hold value?
    Would Alexander Grinshpun MBA, CFP be appropriate?

  7. Alex, I can’t say that I’m an expert on this topic, but it does seem to me that if your clients will find your MBA useful as an adjunct to your Certified Financial Planner (CFP, right?) then by all means, use it. If they aren’t going to care, then skip it. How to find out? Ask ’em.
    Dave Taylor, MS Ed., MBA

  8. Hello all 🙂
    Complements on the post.
    I’m designing a businesscard for my family real-estate company in bulgaria wich mainly has the purpose of handing out the website adress to potential buyers. I like the blank side idea but in this case I’m going for a plastic glossy creditcard type material wich I think feels impressive and stands out.
    the whole in black, the text in white. i wanted to create something different from the rest and i think it looks better this way although there is an arguement for the negativity of black. i do appreciate point 4. and believe that it’s usually the case that colour is needed. but somewhere it depends on the design.
    front: large logo, “varvara beach” “villas & residences”
    back: “” “” “bulgaria #” “ireland #” “belgium #”
    i think putting the phonenumbers of the different country’s offices is impressive even though we will most likely windup redirecting the calls to bulgaria.
    On the more individual business cards wich serve to hand out to potential investors, landowners,etc,.. I had put a more detailed contact information in both bulgarian and english, we could have made a seperate version but I felt it was more impressive this way, this card does have a very vague backside background graphic wich can be written on(somewhere pure blank backgrounds would look cheap to me). I did make the big mistake in making the text too small, I hate it when someone has to whip out theire glasses because of that.
    What do you think of my approaches and how would you change them?
    PS: wanna buy a house? 🙂

  9. Great info Dave! My thoughts about business cards is that they can be powerful if you can get them into peoples pockets without you being there to hand it to them.
    Here is an interesting way to make money with your business cards that you may not have thought of!
    For me, I ended turning it into a revenue stream, because I knew there had to be a way to take advantage of the millions of business cards out there. It’s a strong concept to generate leads. Here it is…worth a quick look

  10. Thanks for your blog!
    We at IU are painfully giving birth to a new Visual Identity system. Here is one “issue”: “I just got my box of new business cards and I can tell you that the font size for my name is an 8- or 9-point sans serif as opposed to what looks like about a 12-point (or larger) serif type on the old cards. Put it this way: I can read the name on the old card without glasses but not the one on the new card.”
    And here is the response: “The design for these cards was done by one of the top firms in the nation and they were trying to balance many competing interests including aesthetics, units with very long names, excessive content, cost, and of course branding the institution. They struck a good balance.”
    Ummmmmmm, NO. I think font size is critically important. If no-one can read your name, what is the point?

  11. Here’s a thought for you…
    Business Cards should be looked at like mini billboards. One common mistake that alot of people make is putting their business name at the top of their card! EG. If you fix broken TV’s…rather then put “John’s TV Repairs” at the top, you would be better off putting “Your TV Fixed in 2 Days or You Don’t Pay!”
    Putting an eye-catching headline is key…just like when you read a newspaper, you look for the headline that interests you and read the article…a business card is the same.

  12. Dave,
    Thanks alot for your valuable information about the business cards. I’m not a business man but I’m hoping to setup my own business in future and this information would definitely help me to have an excellent business cards.Further I request you to post information about the business card which may be used for a starting up a business.

  13. Good advice, and I wholeheartedly agree with the “back blank” rule. I took a networking class in which the instructor recommended that I write something on the back of the card that described the person handing it to me. It helps to remember what we discussed and is particularly good for cocktail parties when you’ve had a few drinks and would like to touch base with a person with whom you shared a moment.
    Also, does anyone have any notably positive experience with any online business card makers? There are so many choices…

  14. I disagree with #3, in part. Too much information is being unable to prioritize and include only the NECESSARY information to disseminate. A paragraph about the business may be a bit much for the front of the business card, but not a bulleted list to remind recipients of the most important and/or unique services that your business offers. Take, for example, a tire store. Most are similar, but some do offer services that others do not, i.e. industrial tires, foam fill, lawn & garden tires, specialty tires such as ATV tires or wheel barrow tires. A specifically written and ordered bulleted list can provide recipients with so much more than a single phrase or business name.
    As for a blank back, one of the things that we’ve used it for is to rubber stamp a money-saving coupon when appropriate, to encourage people to visit the business for the first time, or in the future.

  15. Very intresting read. Planning to redesign my business card again so took a lot of good tips. But does anyone know rules (based on astrology or numerology) for the same.

  16. I enjoyed reading your blog and could use some advise on a business card of my own. I’m a licensed Mortgage Broker and licensed Real Estate Sales Associate. Mortgage Resources, Inc. and Real Estate Resources, Inc. are two seperate companies but under the same ownership and operate out of the same office. I want to market myself as an experienced professional in both by offerring full service. I like the idea of a one sided card better than two-sided because I want to print up some magnet calanders as well. Do you have any suggestions for doing this without putting too much info on a card? Ideally, I’d like to include my picture too.

  17. Very useful info, thanks! Try They have a special right now for 2500 business cards for $59.00. Hope that helps.

  18. You might also want to try I just ordered my second batch of business cards from them last week. Was very impressed with the quality and speed they can offer.

  19. I am about to order new cards and wonder if I should have EMBA (for Executive MBA) or just MBA after my name? Thanks for your insight.

  20. Blog came up searching ideas for editor cards…” wondering if 32 avoid typos should be re-read as “incorrectly use of punctuation” should be “incorrect use” or “incorrectly using”? Sorry, it’s a disease. –max

  21. I am currently re-locating and revising my business card for the new job search. I cannot use my work e-mail on my temporary business card so aside from a company e-mail, what IS an e-mail that is “credible” and available for personal use (or at least does less harm than good)?

  22. Mollie, if you have to use a public email addr, I suggest Gmail — at — and try to have the most professional account name you can find. No “cupcake353” sort of thing. 🙂

  23. Great list. I always thought it wasn’t very conventional to have the back of the business card blank but that was a great point you made about why it should be left blank.

  24. Instead of a “blank” back, you could use a transparent logo, so the ability to write is still there.
    Or get creative! put numbered lines on the back, but make sure to fill in #1 with “extremely handsome/beutiful”

  25. I’m looking for a fact.
    I’ve heard some were that if your picture in on your business card there is a 70% chance of the person keeping your card because they can remember you, because of the picture.
    Do you have any fact’s regarding this?

  26. Business cards have always been such a puzzle to me. In the end I tried to go with the simplest design possible. After looking at these tips I might try out something new. The good thing is, business cards are quite easy to make and redesign these days with the help of the internet.

  27. Hi Dave,
    I enjoyed reading your article about business cards. I am the Sales Manager for an independent Real Estate Broker in CT and many of our agents have earned multiple designations. One in particular has 7 designations she would like on her card. The card is so busy it makes my head spin. Any suggestions?

  28. Joel, a tricky situation. I would say that there are likely some designations that are more important than others: Pick the two most important and have them after her name. Or, do what some Realtors do and have all the secret acronyms on a separate line on the card not associated with their name. Makes for a busy biz card, but it *is* a solution. Good luck!

  29. Typos are just unacceptable, it says a lot about a person, not in any positive way mind you. I always keep it plain and simple. Readable type of fonts and font sizes on quality paper, nothing too fancy.

  30. Hi Dave
    I am going to start my MBA programme this year. I’ll be going away for an internship before and during the programme. As I know, I’ll meet people & need to build network etc. I would like to create my business cards. I, however, am not sure what to include in the card, which with do the trick on getting people’s attention as I wont be working and will be a student. Could you give me some suggestion?
    Thanks. Sanjida

  31. I have recently been searching for business card sizes information approximately this topic for a while and yours is the greatest I have found out so far. But, what about the standard business card dimensions?

  32. Its better to have a professional studio design for your business card to truly stand out from competition.

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