Rethinking The Business Card

The intention is that with flashy, unique and well-designed cards, you’re more likely to make an impression on prospective clients, be remembered and, thus, contacted for your services.

However, is that truly the case? If you’re an artist with a flashy card, has it worked for you? Have you gotten calls or emails by virtue of you having a nice looking card?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen my share of impressive, creative business cards and they have indeed been captivating, at least for a short while. However, as impressed as I am by these cards, they have never made me want to pick up the phone or write an email.

I think a lot of people forget that the most important part of presenting your card to someone isn’t the card itself and how it looks.

The most important part of presenting your card is the opportunity to interact on a more human level, and not just through the paper and ink to which we as artists are so accustomed.

The real opportunity to impress isn’t embedded in that little rectangular piece of cardboard. It lies within your ability to make the card you’re about to give to an individual be relevant enough for that person to want to get in touch with you.

The good, old business card has been a permanent fixture in the world of professionals for a very, very long time. No one is really impressed by them anymore (at least not in the way we, as givers of the business cards, hope). I guess that’s why so many of us put so much time and effort into making our cards stand out in the first place.

However, the reality is that, more often than not, business cards get stuffed in wallets, purses and back pockets, only to be forgotten or thrown away. Think about the last time someone handed you his or her business card (even a really beautiful, expensive looking card). When did you find it again?

Now think about someone who made an impression on you by being, what I like to call, "an interesting human being." When did you decide you’d call them back?

The trick with business cards isn’t the card itself. You could write your contact info on a beverage coaster and you basically have a business card.

Making an impression is not your card’s job. That’s your job.

More often, your business card will just be ignored, whereas a truly impressive person who knows how to communicate effectively about his or her work is very hard to forget.

I’m not saying that you should forego having a super fancy, elaborate card to give out to people. I guess what I’m really asking is this: What good is a really impressive looking card if the person handing it to you is not?

  • Alex

    I think this article makes some really good points. The impression the person gives is far more important than the impression the card gives.

    However, I think business cards for designers are a little more important than most, as they can be a small, pocket-sized, take home example of what the designer actually does, whereas for most people they are simply a way of giving out contact information.

  • Interesting points. I have to say that I do agree with you up to a point. I think that even if you are an impressive person that is hard to forget if you are a design professional and you have a business card that does not reflect that it will not stand out. Now if you can impress someone in your sales pitch and then hand them a truly spectacular business card it is less likely to get lost or thrown out.

  • I would agree with this one here! I have a very simply card with nice font and color scheme.. I think sometimes we get to busy with cards and it gets out of hand. The person leaves the impression not the “cool looking” card!

  • I think a great looking card that uses a QR code is the best way to go. Then they just scan it and saves your contact info right on the phone. What better way to show you are up on the latest trends!

  • Enrique Reyes

    This idea is something I been thinking for a while. The product are you selling (this is valid not just for designer but for everyone on visual arts) is not only your design skills showed in the card itself. Its your ability to create a visual code that promotes a succesful bussines intercourse. In order to achieve this goal the formula “less is more” could be a powerfull resource. No matter if you are a tatoo artist, cartoonist, interior designer or a top architect. You’re what is on the market, not the card.

  • JC Parmley

    Very solid points here Isaac. I agree that it is important to leave your contact info to any potential networking party for whatever reason, but it is critical that you do leave an impression. In other words, leave something that will remind the card receiver to file your contact information instead of tossing it. A sincere smile and eye contact usually give you a head start πŸ™‚

    It may also be worth knowing your current market’s cultural business etiquette; for example, in most of the Chinese cultures and its affluent countries, business card exchange is quite formal from how to hold your cards to when to present your cards. In this global economy, a little bit of research goes a long way.

  • I have encountered people with horrendous cards, meaning cheap and not well design cards and no one cared. Other times I have received cards that you could tell that they cared and put the money were their mouth is. To me it is important to have a clean, visually appealing and sturdy card that will reflect your professionalism. Some potentially new clients will remember you by the first impression you made and then your business card will help them make that call. It is an extension of you and a representation of your skills in a nutshell πŸ™‚

  • The business card is only a spark, you have to turn into a fire.

    Good article

  • I love what you said Cory, and is the gist of what the article is about. The person makes the interaction memorable, not the business card.

  • Simona,

    Agreed! I think the real point I was trying to make is not that we should de-emphasize well-designed business cards. We are designers, after all. Rather, I was trying to emphasize that the interaction you have when presenting your card is just as important or even more important than how well your card is designed.

    With the advancements in communication technology in recent decades, I think we’re slowly seeing its latent negative effects on how people interact with each other. This is ironic because although we are now afforded many, many ways of expressing ourselves with ease, having so many opportunities for expression has the latent effect of also requiring us to be more efficient – and dare I say less adept – at actually communicating with each other on more human levels.

    But you are right, the card can be an extension of you and your skills. That will always be true for designers who choose to design their own cards so having a good looking card is still important.

  • This is one the most informative and actually helpful articles I’ve ever read on business cards, the morale of the story is this: stop focusing too much energy on the not too important part of dealing with people, which is handing them a card, and start focusing on honing your closure skills… period!!!

  • I totally agree with you. No matter how good your card looks, if you lack the interpersonal skills, then people might not want to deal with you. Verbal communication is very important, and I dare to say also that we are losing slowly the ability of human to human interaction and successful communication with each other. I wonder how many people rather send an email than actually pick up the phone πŸ™‚

  • Whenever I design a business card I try to keep in mind the most important element of it – readability. I want all the contact information on there and want it easy to read. If too many graphics or too much color is used then that information can get lost. I also like to spend at least a minute or two (or as much as possible) talking with whoever I give it to. Very sound advice that I’ve followed for a while.

  • Interesting points and I think a core idea you’re picking up on is that it takes more than just fancy business cards to get business. From a marketing standpoint, it takes a multi-media approach and from a sales perspective you just have to get out there and shake some hands.

  • This is a great article and very informative. I recently wrote a blog related to the same subject. Most people tend to forget the whole point of handing out business cards. I always let my flyers and ads do the impersonal part of my marketing. Business cards are used for me to apply a firm handshake and make a great first impression. I do feel a great looking card that has a nice thick card stock adds to the conversation. I always convince my clients to take advantage of front and back printing, so neither side will be to crammed.

  • You made excellent points in your article. One of the biggest mistakes that designers and creatives make is believing that customers are buying our creative. In most cases, they’re not. They are buying your ability to use visual tools to solve their business and communication challenges.

    I don’t recall having met a designer that loves sales. There is always the temptation that the business card is going to do this work by the power of its magnificence. Multimillion dollar projects have been formulated on the backs of proverbial “napkins.”

    An overly elaborate business card may show a bias toward a certain approach, which may alienate customers that want fresh thinking and innovation.

    Sell yourself and your ability to solve business problems with your talents and the rest will fall into place.