Is Your Business Card Failing a Test?

I’m currently redesigning my business card, because I’ve always hated the one I have. During my entire career I’ve had only one or two cards that I thought were really well-executed, but I’m picky. And the next one will blow them all away to atone for past mediocre cards. I’ve been handed a lot of business cards over the years, and it’s a regular occurrence that you can size up the business right away by the card you are presented. And sometimes it’s a pass/fail test. Consider what some of the cards you’ve been handed might say:

  • Light stock, rough edges: Office Depot template meets home inkjet printer. Not a serious contender.
  • Highly original logo, quality design; cheap stock, maybe even the Office Depot template again. Hired a good designer, cheaped out when it came to execution.
  • Black-on-white, 60-lb, corporate identity only, individual’s name written on in ball-point pen. Company won’t spring for individual business cards. Cheap. And will this person be here next week?
  • Uninspiring conservative logo for Fortune-500 company with basic contact info. Conservative company, corporate design, no colouring outside the lines.
  • Any card with an email address belonging to a local ISP or Didn’t give much thought to branding.
  • Any card with a MySpace site or an email address Either they’re a musician or they started the business with no money down. Or both. Will they be around after the weekend?
  • Average card with 60- or 80-lb stock, fonts slightly too large and near the edge of the card, ink slightly smudged. Designed at home, digitally printed… possibly inkjet.
  • Card is printed on unusual media (plastic, metal), and is die-cut or unusually sized (other than standard international size). Here’s someone trying to stand out, and it probably works. You’re thinking “unique.”
  • Striking design that makes you look at it for an extra second or two, and turn it over. Somebody cares about the design and the way the card reflects their brand. Actually paid a designer.
  • Heavy stock (100- 110-lb or more), multiple colours but not necessarily full-colour. Somebody paid for offset printing. Nice.

I’ve been slowly developing my corporate identity, which is largely why the present iteration of my business card is crap. It’s better crap than many cards I’m presented with, but it doesn’t stand out or reflect my identity very well. I admit it, it was just a stand-in to put off doing it right. But now I’m redesigning, doing it right, and have been working through iterations and prototypes for a couple of months already. I was already shopping the printing when I saw the viral video from Joel Bauer, segment clipped from the half-hour documentary, The Pitch, Poker & the Public. Mr. Bauer is larger-than-life, and while I’m not endorsing the products on his website, he’s on the money when it comes to presenting a memorable business card.

You see, it’s never just a business card, especially if Marshall McLuhan was right. It’s the representation of you and of your business that people are first presented with, and it’s the one you leave behind. It counts for much more than people realize. If you present a card that’s below average, you just failed a test you obviously didn’t know was being given. If you present an average one, you’re a member of the herd. Your card must be worth holding onto. Present something stunning and memorable, well, that’s worth a callback, isn’t it?