Business Card Design goes here

If there’s one thing I’ve done far too many times, it’s designing business cards.  Business cards can be used for many things, but ultimately they’re a method for passing on contact details or information about the business or person they represent.

So how do you design a business card?  How long is a piece of string?

There’s no one way or best type of design for creating a business card, but I can give you a method used for designing a traditional business card that you can easily get printed at most print shops.  You can then add your own unique touch to these guidelines if you wish!

This guide is assuming you have some basic program experience, like creating objects and text with no worries. It’s pretty straight forward, just a few guidelines you can use in just about any program.

First – The Technical Side

The first thing you should do (although it can be done later and the design adapted), is find out the specifications of the card you’re designing.  I’m talking about the dimensions, how much bleed and margin the printer you’ve chosen wants to print the cards.

Then choose the program you wish to use – vector based design programs like Adobe Indesign or CorelDRAW are best, but you can use Adobe Photoshop also, just create the image at the right physical size but make sure you’re working at 450dpi  (dots/pixels per inch) or more as text can still print a bit jagged at 300dpi.

Here in Australia business cards are roughly 90mm x 55mm (3.5″ x 2″ is the standard in the US), but you may also choose  a bigger or smaller size than usual though to be more unique.  Most printers will also ask for 2mm bleed (added image outside the cut area to keep the image printed to the edge of the card) and maybe 3mm margin (all text and logos should be inside this area – eg 3mm away form the edge of the card). So once you have the final cut size, bleed and margin you’ll also need to make the document size bigger to accommodate the extra image space for the  bleed (eg. a 90 x 55mm card with 2mm bleed will need to be 94 x 59mm).  Now you can begin designing!

As a general rule I put down guidelines on my document that represent all 3 positions, like below:

Page Layout of Business Card

This can be done rather easily in most design programs, but try to be precise – type in the numerical coordinate so your guidelines are exactly where they need to be – don’t just place them approximately.

Now you’re ready to start typing up the text and insert images – just make sure all images are at least 300dpi.

Start Designing!

There are many different (endless) ways you can go about designing a business card, it all depends on the business, the amount of information, the logo (or lack thereof) and your creativity.  Within the margins you can arrange the text in any way you see fit, as long as each portion of information can be easily identified and read.

A lot of businesses prefer basic – the logo in one corner, text in the other 3 corners aligned with the margins:

Simple Layout

Others may go for more impact having just the logo and branding on the front, with most details on the back:

Design with more Impact

Or somewhere in between:

In Between

Ultimately you can work with whatever idea you want.  Unique ideas outside the norm and even a few added touches like a die cut shape, different material, spot varnish or embossing are worth the thought – these options may cost more and will need to be discussed with your printer though.

Just remember – over the top isn’t always the most effective, never overlook the power of simplicity.

The usual design rules apply – try to keep the amount of fonts under 3 to avoid it looking like a ransom note (unless you’re going for that!), keep certain font sizes consistent and break things up into clearly defined areas.  You’ll notice on the examples above the contact details, name and logo are all in different yet clearly defined areas that are easy on the eye, plus the fonts are a consistent size and not mixed.

Try to keep the information down to the necessities – Business name, person’s name, contact information, address, etc.  If you try to squeeze to much information onto the card it’ll look too crowded and be a throw away in most cases.  We’re not printing a novel, only business cards!

It’s also important to keep the branding of the card matching with other promotional material the business has, to create uniformity and a professional brand.

matching design stationery

Image courtesy of Flickr –

Once you’ve done all of that, be prepared for changes from the client – without a doubt you won’t like some of them, but that’s the nature of the design business.  Once it’s all approved you can get the file ready for the printer.

Package and Print!

You may have to check with your printer as to what their preferred file format is, but if they’re worth the money and run quality software and equipment, pdf (an Adobe Reader file) will be best.

You’ll need to make sure the file includes the bleed – so check that your document is bigger than the cut size before sending.  You ‘ll also need to make sure images are at least 300 dpi (unless there’s text in the image – I’d go 450dpi or higher), and check that all objects are converted to CMYK color (and possibly some Pantone colors if it’s part of the print process discussed before hand with your printer – but not RGB color).

A Stack of Business Cards

If possible, ask for a printed proof before going ahead, to make sure you’re happy with the final print.  If the printer is digital they should be able to give you a proof that is almost identical to the final product.  If the printer uses an Offset machine, colors will more than likely be slightly varied, so double check with your printer.

Once that’s been done and you’re happy with the proof, you simply have to give the go ahead and play the waiting game.  It’s only a matter of time before your cards are printed and ready for delivery to the client – assuming the client doesn’t handle the printing process themselves.