Monday, March 3, 2014

Design Brief - The Business Card

Business cards. If you're a business owner, an employee, or just have an interesting catchphrase, they are an affordable way for your audience to have your contact information at their fingertips.

If I were to pose the question "what makes a good business card?", with a little bit of thought I'm sure everyone reading could come up with an answer, whether you work with them professionally or not. But if I posed the question "what makes a bad business card?" there would probably be a laundry list of responses all relating back to cards we've seen in the past.

Keeping those horror stories fresh in your minds, and remembering that in some circles I am considered a professional, I'd like to give you all a little rundown of some business card design dos and don'ts:

Keep It Simple
This is a rule that, unless you have a very, very, VERY good reason, trumps all the other rules and is the guiding force behind most of the other helpful hints to follow. The simplicity aspect usually applies to the visual presentation of type and layout, and can apply to the card itself, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with rounded corners or die cuts.

Design For Safety
When it comes to your fonts and images, how you layout your card is important.  Whether you're printing your card using an online company, or providing files to a local printshop, each will have certain guidelines about how close you can put your text and images to the edge so it remains safe when cutting out your cards. While there is a whole other area of consideration when your cards have "bleeds" (images and colours that print to the edge of the card), the core information you do not want to "run off the edge" needs to be a safe distance. Remember that nobody is perfect, paper can sometimes shift in machines, and one printer's safe area may differ from another's.

Choose Your Fonts Wisely
The choice of fonts is a post all by itself, so let's just pull the relevant parts out. First, if your logo already has a font in it, it's a grey area if you can continue that font in the rest of your materials. Some people like to, some don't, but ultimately it may count as a font on your business cards. This key point sets up an important rule - so not use too many fonts. A complimentary font to your logo (a serif and a sans serif, a heavy and a thin, etc.) is really all you need. Remember that a single font like Helvetica comes in a range of sizes, bold, italic, bold italic, thin, heavy... using the one font you have a wide variety of options. In the end, keep your text simple and clean and your cards will look that much more professional.

Pick Appropriate Colours
Colour choice is as important as font choice, and starts off with the same general sets of rules: if you have a logo / brand that uses certain colours, continue these out onto your business cards. This helps give your an overall brand recognition. If you want to use a variety of colours on your cards, again, try to keep it simple and stay to complimentary colours. Don't have your colour scheme fight with anything else: keep your logo standing out, and don't lose your text into the background. Nothing wrong with a simple, white background or a simple one-colour field if your logo or text call for it.

There are many more things that can be discussed here, points regarding your layout and how to properly prepare your file for printing, but a lot of these things are going to resolve themselves by growing a good relationship with your designer. They'll help you choose the best layout, work with you to keep your overall design simple, and often most importantly discuss with you the best way to keep your project cost effect.

Was there anything important you want me to discuss further? Anything I discussed still unclear? Leave a comment and I'll address your points in a future post :)

Thanks for reading!

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