As chief design examiner for Nexcards, a premier business card printer, literally thousands of designs pass through my desk. I get to see them all from the ridiculous to the sublime. It doesn’t take too long to spot common errors in graphic design—what works and doesn’t work. While grading designs has a subjective element, I can still enumerate three main areas to watch for in your own designs.
1. KISS. You know what that stands for—Keep It Simple Stupid! A designer may be letting his ego run the show if he or she submits arty and overly complicated designs (often with multiple special effects) that don’t translate well to the final product. The designer may be trying to impress rather than communicate. Strive toward clarity and a balance of design elements and open space. This still leaves room for well-place design elements to spice up your design.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that a business card is a small form medium, only 2 inches high and 3.5 inches across. How much gradients, shadowing, wild arcs and crazy circles, non complementary colors and different fonts can one small little business card hold?
2. There’s logic behind the organization of a professionally designed business card. Although there are many layouts, this general font size formula bears repeating:
At the top of the card goes the company name/logo. This should be in a large font, perhaps 14pt-16pt.
Right below this can go a slogan if your company uses one. I like these in quotes or italics or both. Perhaps 12pt -14pt, use your judgment.
A couple lines below should go the employee name and title, “Jonathan Jones” and below “Executive Vice President.” This should be around 12pt to 14pt.
Then all other information should go below, spread left and right in equal columns, the address, phone numbers, social media with optional icon buttons, etc. Here we are down to 10pt-12pt. I really don’t like to use below 10pt on a business card. It may look fine blown up on your computer. But the most common premature re-orders are because the design made the print too small to be easily read. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
3. Pick an appropriate font for your card. For professional firm I would suggest a serif font, one that has those little platforms anchoring the letters. They are more formal and lend a certain weight to the text. Times New Roman is the quintessential serif font. If your firm is less formal, you may want to pick a non-serif font, just pure letters with no adornment. Arial is a common non-serif font.
Then when you have picked your font, stay with that font through your card. Yes, with all those fonts on your computer, the temptation is strong to mix it up. Resist that temptation. Your card will look more professional and cleaner with one well-chosen font.
I would be careful with applying color too liberally too. Unless your business is Rainbow Cleaners, perhaps picking every color of the rainbow is not the best choice to represent your firm. If your company uses a color scheme, two or three complementary colors perhaps, then it’s fin to integrate those into your design. Personally, I like the colors to be in the design elements (shapes, full bleed borders, etc) and the text to be separate and one color. This integrates the text and is less distracting to the reader.
Did I say rule one it to communicate?
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