The business card! That ancient print object that has been hooking-people-up for centuries can be both a thing of simple beauty and a hideous design Medusa that turns all tasteful sensibilities to stone!
While I don’t purport to be the world’s greatest design expert, I’ve been in the design and marketing business long enough to know when someone’s made a massive business card booboo! Moreover, working for a company that specializes in business card printing has given me a particular insight into the kind of eye-offensive business cards that cause design and marketing people to drop to their knees, pleading with the Gods of Style & Good Taste to please stop the hurting!!!
Before you start designing your card, here is a list of some of the biggest business card errors!
1. Pixelated graphics
“Low resolution stinky pixels!”
Pixilated! Yuck! Don’t people see this mistake? A pixilated design looks like it’s caught some kind of nasty digital blur infection! I actually try to avoid putting my hands on pixilated business cards in fear that I’ll catch this terrible condition. I do not want my hands to suddenly turn into a big mess of undefined pixels. (Just you try playing ping-pong, typing a letter, or eating a sandwich with pixel-hands…you can’t!!!)
When you get pixilated images, you’ve either:
- Designed your card at a miniscule 72dpi (or lower) instead of the required 300dpi.
- You’ve grabbed a tiny (72dpi) image from somewhere on the web and tried to enlarge it to fit in a much larger 2”x 3 ½” (300dpi) space? Either way, the resulting prints will be a hideous blurry mess of pixel stink.
Here is a common thought among people who want to design their own business card;
“Hey! I really like this tiny bitmap image of a cat wearing sunglasses I saw on the internet! That would look crazy-cute on my business card!”
No it won’t! It will look like an unholy mess! Not because you’re putting a picture of a cat on your business card (although that’s not a good idea either unless you own a pet store), but because you’re trying to force a low-res image that was created for web use into a design that needs to be created for print? The two things are not compatible.
Don’t ask me why people do this? You cannot magically transform a 180px by 180px Facebook icon into a crisp hi-res portrait! Pasting a graphic or picture from the internet into your design and enlarging it to 50 times its original size will not achieve the effect you want!
My advice is to use a proper business card design template that is already prepped and optimized for print purposes. It is also advisable to avoid right-clicking/saving random images on the internet for use in your print projects. Try to use stock sites and other high-res image sources for your inspiration and design imagery.
Before setting up your business card design file, check the following essentials:
- The size of your standard business card should be 3½” x 2” or 1050 pixels x 600 pixels
- Your business card image resolution should be set at 300dpi
- You MUST design your card in CMYK mode for print (not RGB web mode)
- If your image looks pixelated on-screen in a 300dpi environment, it will look even worse when printed!
This is pretty basic file info for most programs (Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Corel Draw, etc,) All these programs have their own issues and limitations but if you can at least set your file up in the right pixel size, you are starting your design out on the right track.
2. Using the wrong software
“I don’t have Photoshop… will Word do?”
Trying to design a business card in Word, Open Office, WordPerfect, or similar programs is the artistic equivalent of using crayons to create the Mona Lisa. You just don’t have the right tools for the job! These programs are great for typing reports and manuscripts but they were never really meant for graphics.
You might have some success creating a very simple text-based card if that is all you require, but anything graphically complex is near impossible. Word programs don’t handle graphics very well. They function inside a very tight grid of space that is meant for basic text, graphs, paragraphs, and tables. Even if you are able to set-up a word doc with the dimensions of a business card, the margins, tabs and other functions that make creating a manuscript an absolute snap, cause massive problems for someone trying to design a business card. Have you ever tried positioning an image on a Word doc? It’s like playing a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey; the image just won’t pin to the document in the place that you want it, and you end up chasing it around the screen, trying to line-up your text in some way that makes sense?
If I can’t change your mind about using Word to create your business card, I hope I can at least convince you not to use the choice of “art tools” available. This selection of autoshapes and clip art from the insert menu has barely changed since the 90’s. It represents a garish and fluorescent mix of random images that I last saw being used to ‘spruce up’ my schoolteacher’s handouts! It would also be ill advised to use any text effects from the Word Art menu. The choice of bubblegum-style, gradient-heavy effects on offer will likely make your business card look like you gave it to a high-school cheerleader to design!
If you’re serious about design, then you really should have a copy of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign (but that’s a whole other blog topic.) However, there are some great options out there for people who want to create their own quick and easy designs without having to resort to Microsoft Word or similar text-based programs.
- Use an online design program that is specifically meant for quick and easy business card design. (Now you mention it!) We have an online business card design option that allows you to add photos and logos and create pretty sophisticated design with many of the design features of the big-name design programs (It is, at the very least, a far better option than trying to use word to make your cards.)
- Find a pre-made business card template that you can adjust and customize to suit your needs (we have those too!)
- Or get a professional to do it! (call us on 800 251 9948 we also have professional design services)
3. Bad Grammar and Misspelling
“I spelled my name incorrectly and you didn’t magically change it on your print press!”
As much as NextDayFlyers will try to fix all graphical errors, resolution issues, and other file errors that we can see, we can’t be responsible for typos, poor grammar, or spelling mistakes. If we had to look at every file for copy errors, we’d need a room of copywriters and a time machine to ensure that all files got printed on time!
Before submitting your files to print:
- Check the spelling and grammar of your business card numerous times
- Triple-check to make sure that all your contact information is correct
- Even better…give your design file to someone else to copyproof. People can sometimes miss glaring errors that another person can spot immediately
All this may seem like you’re going overboard, but you will be kicking yourself after receiving a batch of 500 business cards and realizing you missed a period on your email address, or a digit in your phone number!
4. Card Clutter
“I have a million things to say and I’m going to say them in a 3½” x 2” print-space!”
Don’t do it! Don’t try and make too many copy or graphical statements on your business card! Your business card is not a flyer! It should only present:
• Who you are
• What you do
• How to contact you (phone, email, website)
DON’T clutter your business card up with pictures of you, your, house, your wife, your kids, and your hamster! And don’t add a hundred different sales slogans to mystify and confuse people! I say the less text and imagery on a space that’s only 2” by 3½” the better. I’ve seen business cards that look more like mini-sales pitches! This kind of business card not only looks awful, but it also reeks of desperation.
The other problem with adding too many elements is that you lose the important information in a business card. Your viewer should be able to find your email or phone number at a quick glance – these can get hidden amongst a jungle of graphics and marketing copy.
5. Photo Portraits
“Look at me on my business card! I’m so cute! Don’t I look great!!!?”
Let’s be honest! Does your business card really need your portrait photo on it? The “glamour shot” has been the design standard of sales, real estate, car dealership and other such companies for many years, but nowadays, it just seems a bit old-fashioned! If you are dead-set on using your photo-portrait, you should at least make it a good one and incorporate it into your design in a style-conscious manner.
This is going to sound harsh, but we’re not all cut-out to be the stars of our own business cards. Personally, I would never put my mug on a business card (far too off-putting) However I do appreciate the need for Realtors and other people to make that extra-personal connection. If you are going to put your picture on your business card, here are some good and bad ideas for portraits:
|Good Ideas for Pictures||Bad Ideas for Pictures|
|Dressed in a smart suit and tie||Shirtless! (or in anything sexy or revealing)|
|Quality snapshots of you in your work environment||Bad iPhone snapshots of you chugging beer at a bar!|
|Pictures of you at a desk, on your laptop, or in some other work-mode||Pictures of you on vacation, dressed in bikini and flip-flops, dancing the conga!|
|Pictures of you, ready-for-action in your scrubs, lab coat, or other work uniform.||Pictures of you dressed as a mythical character, superhero, or in a sexy Halloween costume!|
The business cards shown in this article are particularly poor examples of business cards and they don’t represent the fine work of our customers. But when all is said and done, it’s important that you get the basic things right when creating your business card, and it’s also really important to get it printed right. Upload and order business cards from NextDayFlyers and ensure a quality offset print product.
- Do you agree with everything said in this blog? Do you have your own dislikes when it comes to business cards? Ever make an embarrassing mistake on your own business cards? Get involved by posting in the comments below