Your business card makes an impression. In many cases, your business card is the one physical representation of you that is left with that potential client or networking connection. It is also likely that you are not going to be the only business card that was given to that person. So, how important is it for your business card to stand out, communicate clearly and evoke confidence in your product or service? Very.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be taking a look at some business cards to help determine where an unwanted impression is coming from. To be as helpful as possible, I am using live examples of business cards that I have received over the past few weeks while out networking with other business owners. I have recreated their business cards digitally, changing personal information, so that you can get an actual idea of what people are using to represent themselves.
While I enjoy critiquing things, I also like creating, so I will be taking each business card and recreating them. Think of it as a home makeover, but for business cards. I will first focus on what is going wrong with each of these business cards, then I will focus on the changes to help these business owners communicate better and accomplish more. I hope you find it helpful.
Let’s start with the first card right now…
This business card was given to me at an after hours networking event. Let's take a look at some of what makes this card communicate unwanted messages for the owner.
THEME: There is no mistaking a theme in this owner's card. I have no problem with themes. They let others know what you value and what is important to you. A clear theme can help evoke emotion and help you connect to a particular group of people. This theme is a little overbearing though. Listing out the words to The Pledge of Allegiance, The National Anthem and America, the Beautiful feels a little pushy. Are you putting that on there because you think I don't know them? Do you think I should know them? Is knowing them what you think being patriotic means? Will you treat me different if I don't care about your theme? This is a business card, not an informational pamphlet. Everything on your card should be inviting people to know more about you and the product or service that you offer. Personal beliefs can influence how you do business, but should not alienate potential customers if they do not share those beliefs. Your theme should also not be more of a focus than what you actually do.
LOGO: For about 60% of small businesses, their logo is already established and is not part of a business card makeover. In the case of this business owner, I would strongly suggest a new logo. The red circular emblem is hard to read and communicates it's patriotism more clearly then it communicates what he does. This is a problem. I handed this card to 4 different people that I know and asked them to identify what type of business it represented. All of them struggled to answer this question quickly. This logo has so many small pieces to it and creates a struggle for your eyes to locate one of the most important pieces of information, the companies name. Naming the 5 branches of the military in the logo is also a little confusing as there does not seem to be any clear connection between the military and the business.
FRONT: The flag image is clearly a cropped image but it is not centered on the card appropriately. It is closer to the left side of the card then it is the right. If you are in the printing industry and a graphic on your business card is not centered, that's a problem. If I am your potential customer, do you think I am going to trust you to center my print job if you don't center your own business card? The cropped American flag is an awkward size. It's just a little over 50% down the front of the card. It also leaves an awkward amount of space for the owners name, phone and email. The image is also too close to the edge of the card. The owners name was done in a special font with an outline that seems a little playful compared to the seriousness of how the logo feels like an official emblem. The phone and email are in the same special font, but in plain black and do not seem to be aligned with anything.
BACK: As previously mentioned, this information is confusing as it does not related to the product or service. This information is connected to the overall theme of the business. The block of text is to close to the edge of the card. Two of the blocks of text leave one or two words on the last line of the paragraph. In design, we call these widows. They are visually confusing and feel awkward to the balance of the text.
Now, my favorite part. Let's recreate this business card for impact.
THEME: The theme was patriotism and I wanted to make sure I honored that. Theme is often accomplished by color and images. I used the traditional red, white and blue of the American flag. I also enlarged the logo to take up half of the card to make sure it was clear and easily seen. I included the American flag as it was a staple of the old business card. To break up the white space in the background, I used a very light text to list out the 5 branches from the original card. This card continues to have a very patriotic theme, while making sure the focal point is the business itself.
LOGO: The new logo continues the patriotic theme with the eagle, the colors, an emblem feel as well as the banners above and below the eagle. This is about as busy of a logo as I would create, but it speaks to the owners original vision while putting the business first. The name of the company is more clearly seen and there is no competing text in the logo. The shield is the center point for this logo so I added ink icons on it to further drive home that this is about the business first.
FRONT: The owner had very little information on his business card. When you don't have much to put on a business card, but you don't want a minimalist feel to your card, you can use icons and other features like lines to break up space. On the original card, the owner did not have his title. Adding a title takes up more space. I added icons for the phone number and for the email address. This takes up more space, but also helps people quickly locate and identify ways to contact you. When you need to take up space and you have a busier logo, make it big. I also repeated the company name under the American flag in order to make sure it would be seen quickly. Someone should be able to know what you do in less than 10 seconds of looking at your card.
BACK: I decided to use the back of the card to create a link between the theme and the business while also creating a clear statement piece to the card. By using the bold colors of red and blue, with large white text, this side of the card catches the eye and makes an impact. "Proud to serve our country" lets people know that the owner was in the service. "Proud to serve our clients" lets people know that the owner approaches business with the same honor, courage and determination that he served our country with. Help people connect your theme with your business for maximum impact.