Your business card should achieve one main objective – serve as an easily accessible and clear reminder of you and your business. The limited surface area of a business card means that maximising the impact of the few graphic and textual elements is vital. Here are the four big no-no’s of business card design…

Fancy Fonts
A prospective client scrunching up his eyes as he peers at a business card he is holding at arm’s length can mean one of two things: (a) his eyesight is fading, or (b) the designer has gone overboard with a fancy calligraphic font!

How Not to Design a Business Card

Due to the size of a business card, the font will usually be small and so needs to be clear and legible. Clients should be able to absorb the information on a business card within a second or two. Any longer and they may lose interest, so for ultimate impact, stick to sans serif fonts in your design.

Deficient Detail
After attending a function, you arrive home and empty your pockets of all the business cards you have amassed. Nineteen cards are spread out on the coffee table in front of you. Can you remember meeting each of these people, and could you list their occupations? Of course not! And you shouldn’t have to…because their business cards should be doing the talking. Here’s where the level of detail on a business card is important.

Let’s take an example:

How Not to Design a Business Card

If the owner of this card did not make much of an impression during a meeting, we may struggle now to remember the business arena in which Strawberry Shortcake operates. Was it a catering company, a coffee shop or salon? Providing too little detail is an easy mistake to make because your business may be a household name … in your household! So, in addition to ensuring that your business card includes all the usual suspects (name, title, contact details and address), check whether the name of your company indicates your area of expertise. The simple and subtle addition of salon and spa would improve the Strawberry Shortcake business card. However, remember that while providing too little detail is a formula for failure, so is overwhelming the card with unnecessary information, such as listing every treatment Strawberry Shortcake offers. Finding the right balance is essential.

Strange Shapes and Sizes
Thinking outside the box is commendable in graphic design, but sometimes, it’s just the box that counts. Let’s look at the shape of business cards.

How Not to Design a Business Card

While the above cut-out-style design could work well as a fridge magnet, it’s not suitable as a business card because of its shape. Imagine a harassed mother with four teething toddlers pulling at her skirt as she struggles unsuccessfully to fit the Rainbow Tots business card into the card slot of her purse. The resulting irritation factor may cause the business card to end up in the nearest bin instead! So, avoid being too clever in terms of the size and shape of your business cards. Stick to the norm (85x55mm or 90x50mm), and focus on standing out from the crowd through other elements of the design process (e.g., selection of paper stock or use of colour).

Poor Proofing
Think about the last time you received a business card that bore an unsightly inky scrawl through the telephone number above which hovered a handwritten alternative. Based on that card, what was your first impression of its owner? Unprofessional, disorganized and sloppy come to mind, right? Same goes for spelling mistakes on business cards … would you choose to work with someone who is not proud enough to ensure that the address on his or her business card is spelt correctly?

At final proof stage, ask your designer for a hardcopy proof. When checking your details, don’t rush. Walk out of the no-doubt buzzing design studio and proof your business card away from any distractions. A fresh set of eyes never hurts, so consider also asking a colleague to check for any mistakes before finally signing off on the job.

How Not to Design a Business Card

So, to recap, the four no-nos of business card design are:

  • Forget the fancy fonts
  • Detect the deficient detail
  • Set aside the strange shapes and sizes
  • Perfect the proofing for an A-class business card.