Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant

man and woman in hallwayA long time ago, I ran a franchise copy shop in Philadelphia, located between the University of Pennsylvania, Warton Business School and Drexel University. As they say, business is all “location, location, location.” As a result, there were two types of work we did more than anything else: resumes and business cards. When you and your staff spend your life proofing, writing and editing resumes and business cards, you learn about good and bad designs and effectiveness.

Even to this day I find myself looking at business cards and resumes and thinking about what works well and what does not. Here are a few tips about mistakes to avoid when designing business cards.

  • Illegible text. This seems obvious but all too often business cards are created that are difficult to read because the fonts are too small or they are printed in colors that make it difficult to read.
  • Cheap paper. Business cards reflect the organization as well as the person. What do you think when you get a business card on cheap and flimsy paper?
  • Business cards done on a laser printer. While “do-it-yourself” or “home-made” business cards are cheap and fast to make, most in our industry  will see the uneven edges, paper stock, poor trimming, and laser or inkjet print quality.  Some people would say that it could look like you were fired yesterday and have not had time to make professional cards.
  • Unusual shapes/sizes. There are those who will may describe the advantages of having your business card stand out. But there are practical issues when your oversized business card does not fit into a card holder or has to be folded by the recipient to fit into their purse or wallet.
  • Too much information or clutter. Business cards are not resumes. Including too much information distracts from the purpose.
  • Your picture. While you may think having your picture on your card is “cool,” others may not. Unless you’re a real estate agent or working for Kodak there’s no need for your picture.
  • Weird substrates such as plastic or metal. Again some might say you want to stand out. But many people, including myself, want to write notes on business cards. If I can’t, then I don’t know why I took it.
  • Too many fonts. As a graphic arts professional we should recognize that ransom note typography is unprofessional.
  • Business cards with a printer’s logo on the back. Some printing companies will print cards for a discounted price, if you allow them to put their logo or tagline on the back. Some people will wonder if you’re affiliated with that company.
  • Poor or low-quality images. Again what does that say about the company or person?
  • Don’t limit information. As long as you don’t create clutter include email address, blogs and social media links. It may help create the impression or reinforce the message that you are a “thought leader”.
  • Giving out multiple business cards. Because of the economy there are many people working several jobs. However, handing out multiple business cards that describe multiple jobs often confuses people more than clarifying what you do.

Howard Fenton is a Consultant and Business Advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity through workflow management, adding and integrating new digital services, and adding value through customer research. He is a paid contributor to this blog.