How do you feel about business cards?

15 tips for designing business cards

Professional business cards have to look good and have to be printed perfectly - so far, so natural. But beauty alone is not enough. There are some dos and don'ts that you should ignore for really good reasons. Here are 15 design tips based on tried and tested rules and current trends.


1. The content: What belongs on every company business card

Isn't it enough nowadays to simply company name, name, e-mail and web address and maybe the mobile phone number? The recipient can find the rest online at any time ... Yes, he can, but it is precisely this effort that should be spared him. And it does seem a little arrogant when you signal: “If you want to know more about me, please look for it yourself.” In addition: The less information you see on the map, the fewer points of contact you give the other person, and thus also opportunities for discussion or incentives to establish contact. If, for example, the address is missing on the business card, nobody can tell at first glance that you may be a kind of neighbor - and proximity is a good basis for not so few businesses. Landline numbers are also a trustworthy detail, even if they are used less and less. Little-known companies should provide an indication of what they are actually doing or offering on their business card - an important reminder for potential customers. However, you can save the space for the fax numbers - or when was the last time you sent a fax? Social media links can or do not have to be. Too much of it seems rather modern.

This results in the following "mandatory program":

  • Company name (if available, of course including logo)
  • Company object or claim (especially if your company is not yet well known)
  • First name
  • Surname
  • Academic title (in accordance with customary local customs)
  • function
  • e-mail
  • Web
  • address
  • Landline number
  • mobile phone number

2. The weighting: where should the gaze fall first?

As with any printed product, the reader's eye should easily get to the most important information on the business card - and in this case that is of course the name. So it should immediately attract attention either through a prominent position or typographical emphasis. With very subtle designs, this aspect is sometimes neglected. How strongly the name is emphasized can also be a conscious signal. Companies that want to put the personalities of their employees in the foreground often put the names in large letters on the cards.

Here you can see immediately whether the person or the company is in the foreground:

3. The format: the de facto norm

The credit card format (85 x 54 mm) has established itself as the standard in Europe, even if - oh wonder - there is no official EU or other standard for business cards. Business card cases, wallet pockets and other card holders are also designed for this format, and therefore it makes little sense to deviate roughly from it. If your card is significantly larger than a check card, it will not fit in any shelf. The risk of losing your oh-so-creative business card is growing. And if it is significantly smaller, it may seem rather puny. At most, the 89 x 51 mm format common in the USA is worth considering - it still fits in most cases and looks a bit slimmer.

Whether it fits better vertically or horizontally depends on the logo and generally on the corporate design of the company: a long lettering can only be reproduced very small on a portrait-format card and vice versa. Otherwise, the only thing that speaks against portrait-format cards is extra-long e-mail addresses or web addresses, which are then difficult to fit in one line.

4. The edges: tolerance is part of it

Good printing companies cut business cards precisely, but small tolerances can still occur in individual cases. Designs that z. B. provide a 2 mm thick border on the outer edges, are therefore not ideal. If the cut is shifted even half a millimeter, the frame is visually off. The desired design on the left, the unwanted effect on the right:

So: if you have a frame, please make it thick enough so that small fluctuations are not noticeable.

By the way: Text that extends exactly to the edge of the card is not recommended - also because of possible cutting tolerances - the same applies to logos that should be exactly on the edge and have no bleed allowance (i.e. must not be trimmed).

5. The axes: align precisely - or not at all

The human eye loves matches and contrasts - and it hates unclear relationships. Therefore, text blocks and lines should either be exactly aligned with one another or not at all. Designs where you don't really know whether a deviation was intentional or simply sloppy are therefore not recommended. Layouts with variable amounts of text, which are then e.g. B. be selected in a web-to-print system are particularly at risk here. Therefore: Try out all the possibilities.

6. The fonts: two to three are enough

Names should stand out - see above. And this special position often requires a special font or size. And maybe that also applies to the company name. But that's about it with the typographic variety - because you shouldn't use more than three different styles on a business card. So z. B. Myriad Bold 9 points for the name, Myriad Bold 7.5 points for the company name and Myriad Light 7.5 points for all other texts.

On the left the simple variant that gets by with two styles, on the right the already very restless version with four styles:

The font itself should harmonize with the logo or create a strong contrast to it. Uses the logo e.g. B. Titillium, the text on the business card should also be in Titillium or in a clearly contrasting serif font such as B. Source Serif, but never in a similar font.

On the left the serif font as a contrast, on the right that of the logo font similar to Open Sans:

7. The font sizes: Just not too small

Most of the texts on business cards are set in sizes from 7 to 9 points - but that doesn't help much in practice. Because, depending on the font, a 7-point text can still be legible or not at all legible. Testing is therefore essential, and it is best to invite people over 50 (with and without glasses) to do so. Because nothing is more annoying than a badly legible telephone number. Don't just think of whole-number values: Often 1/2 point more works wonders without destroying the elegance. You can also vary the weights within a font family: B. the light version in small sizes is sometimes easier to read than the extra light. Texts in italics - currently not very en vogue anyway - tend to be more difficult to read than straight.

8. The text colors: less is more

Colorful texts are almost always more difficult to read than black ones. Therefore, be careful with colored font on business cards, because the font here is usually very small anyway, and light colors in particular can be a problem. However, gray text looks classy and elegant - but it is only legible if it is really sharp and not roughly rasterized. Ideally, a gray spot color should be used in full tone (not screened).

If you use special colors in your corporate design that cannot be reproduced in digital printing (e.g. luminous or metallic colors), there is another stumbling block: the variable texts (i.e. everything that changes from card to card, such as name, e-mail, telephone number etc.) should NOT be provided in this special color if possible. If so, the post-production of individual business card packages will be disproportionately expensive due to the cost of retrofitting the machines.

9. The background: Pay attention to the fine print!

The current trend is full-surface - pure monochrome or with a picture - printed backs, on which either the logo (e.g. negative in white) or a web address is emblazoned. Colored areas are ideal for such designs. They are less suitable as a background for small texts - especially when the contrast is low. Totally illegible is z. B. gray text on a red background or white text on a troubled photo background.

Here it is also quite tedious to decipher the name and function:

10. The logo: respect distance, please!

How big you put your logo on the business card depends, among other things, on how detailed it is: If it contains text or a byline that has to be read, there is no place for false modesty. Simple logos without text, on the other hand, usually look all the more elegant the smaller they are placed on the business card. Many corporate design manuals devote themselves to the topic of logo positions with great dedication, and not without good reason. If you don't find any rules there, you should definitely heed one principle: The logo needs air to breathe, so ensure that all other elements are kept at a respectful distance.

Here is a negative example:

11. The finishing: The balancing act between creativity and costs

A welcome trend for business cards is the trend towards luxurious finishes: lacquer, blind embossing, hot foil stamping, foil lamination, color cutting, punching, rounded corners and much more is possible, but many ideas are slowed down by high production costs. The balancing act between creativity and costs can be managed if you speak to the business card manufacturer early enough and get detailed advice. Because some refinements such as B. varnished logos can be easily implemented using forms, others such as B. individually coined names are very expensive and time consuming. It gets even more complicated when you want to combine different techniques. Hence the tip again: involve the producer as early as possible!

12. The paper: thick, thicker, thickest?

Who has the fattest? The current fashion for business cards is quite voluminous. Until a few years ago, business card boxes of around 250g / m2 were standard, today it is more like 300 g / m2 - and often much thicker is applied. Retro friends, for example, love letterpress printing on “boards” with a thickness of 600 g / m2, with a deep embossing effect that is very appealing to the touch. Cards with a color cut also require a thick edge for the effect to take effect. Multi-layered papers are also in vogue; a color-cut effect can also be achieved, or two different-colored papers can be glued together. The extra-thick cards with more than 400g / m2 are disproportionately expensive to produce, which is why larger companies use them very rarely. And as good as they feel - if the business card case with 5 cards is bursting at the seams, it is also not suitable for everyday use. In any case, high-quality branded cardboard with grammages between 250 and 400 g / m2 is recommended and problem-free in production.

And another tip: uncoated cardboard (with a rough surface) is currently particularly popular. They feel good, enable a particularly high degree of whiteness of the paper and, with the same grammage, they are also significantly stiffer than matt or gloss coated cardboard.

13. The layout: space for all cases

Test your business card layout with all conceivable use cases: Does it also work with names like Alexandra-Theresia Unterhochstätter-Schnepfenbrink and the corresponding email address? Where does the home address or an additional telephone number go, if necessary? What about different languages, locations and subsidiaries? There should be enough space for all variants - and clear rules that can then also be stored in an online ordering system. The more well thought-out the layout, the sooner it can be used company-wide in self-procurement with automatic typesetting and the lower the number of time-consuming special cases.

In the following example there is enough space for very long names, but it gets tight for longer e-mail addresses - problems are inevitable:

14. The QR code: Best of both worlds

It took a long time, but now the QR code on business cards seems to be finally gaining ground. With a quick scan, the recipient can transfer all important contact details to their smartphone, which is why more and more companies are having the square pattern printed on the card - mostly on the back. But why do you still need business cards? Wouldn't it be easier to scan the code directly from the other person's display or to transfer the data at all via Bluetooth or NFC? Perhaps in individual cases - but at meetings in particular, it is still faster and more personal to exchange a printed card. And finally, the card is more than just a data carrier. Due to its optical and haptic properties, it also signals style and quality awareness of the conversation partner. The QR code is something like the best of both worlds - it combines the advantages of the classic business card with data transfer in seconds.

15. The photo: This is where opinions differ

In contrast to the QR code, business cards with a photo cannot currently be considered a trend: not even 1% of the business cards printed by prinux contain portrait photos of the respective employee. This variant is not uncommon in the USA, but for us it seems a bit too bold. With a discreet design, a portrait photo on the business card can be a good idea. B. brings home 50 different business cards from a trade fair, will be grateful for this reminder. The prerequisite is of course that really good photos are taken of all employees. The application photo from the personnel file will rarely be printable and usable - hands off!