8 Business Card Design Thoughts

Last week, I realized that my new startup, DashboardLabs (DBL), was going to need a little bit of self-promotion. I had back-to-back-to-back networking opportunities between SANG, TEDx, and SMMOC, so I knew I was going to want to build at least a basic business card to hand out. Fortunately, Staples does same-day business card printing (not great card stock, but good enough for rush work) so I set out to engineer a business card.

It occurred to me that I’ve created a lot of business cards over the years, so I decided I’d share a little bit about the assumptions and things I’ve learned in those processes. So that you can see what I came up with this last time around, here’s the picture of the business card that I created and have been handing out:

So how did I end up with this end result, and is it effective? Well, obviously effectiveness is something that I’ll have to wait and see, but I did want to share some of the WHY that went in to this card design (as well as some pointers for business cards in general)…

  1. The size of the type defines the importance of what’s in front of you. In this case, I wanted to make sure that people didn’t miss my name. I’ve got a common name, and it’s short – when I tell it to people, they might not catch it. I wanted to make sure that my name was prominent – even bigger than the company name – in an effort to ensure that during that introduction I could hand them the card and they could quickly glance at it to reinforce who they were talking to.
  2. Color is crucial. I would venture to say that the color of a business card is even more important than the font – because we associate so many things so quickly that I wanted to provide a mental shortcut in brand association. I even inverted the color scheme of the DashboardLabs logo to make the card work. I wanted that bold orange color to be unmistakable – and it’s starting to establish the tone of the business. Dashster, DBL’s upcoming software product, features blue and grey stripes – were I to build a business card for that business, I guarantee it would integrate that color / texture element.
  3. Font matters. From my days in design school at Cal State Long Beach, we covered a lot of ground in the realm of typography – not as much as a pure graphic design (I was in product design), but it was still relevant. Typography in many instances is visually as important as graphics & logos. Notice on this card, the “Lab” icon isn’t as prominent as the letters on the name even. This was intentional. I want the color & font to be the focus of this particular piece. The icon is great online, but in a card it is simply a visual anchor.
  4. The game’s made up and the title doesn’t matter. When dealing with “corporate” america, obviously titles have relevance. In the world of fast-paced entrepreneurship and boot-strapped startups, the title is essentially irrelevant. I chose “jumpstarter” because that’s really how I feel – I’m connecting a few wires to get the engine going. From that point forward, once there’s staff & management layers and division of work; then perhaps title matters. Funny enough, I was having a chat with a lady from SMMOC this morning, and we were joking about how in the tech community, your title isn’t anywhere nearly as important as the order in which you came in the door… Ever met someone who was on the ground floor at eBay? They’ll tell you straight-out: “I was #27 at eBay” or “I was #6 at Foursquare.”
  5. Create numerous connection points. DashboardLabs is a social company – it’s designed to be a firm that features integrative ideas about how to involve social media, content, marketing channels, information, data management, and more. I wanted to make sure that I could engage with people from all sorts of different directions – email, mobile phone (which implies text messages), twitter, facebook, and our website.
  6. Leave out less-important info. I decided to forgo mentioning a few bits of information that almost nobody really needs anymore: Fax number, physical address, office line… Knowing that most of the people who I meet will simply want to get a glimpse of who I am or what our firm is up to, I stuck with just the socially-accessible things that someone might check out while cruising through the cards after a tradeshow or networking event. If they need my fax #, they can visit the website or just text me. Who faxes anymore?
  7. The tagline says what we do. Of course, I’m using the royal “we” right now, but DBL’s tagline is: “Integrative solutions for a social web.” That might not say much to many people, but it’s just enough to make sure people understand we don’t make car dashboards or run a medical laboratory. And for those in the web / social / integration space, our tagline is pretty effective. Typically, it prompts a question (or two): 1. Cool, what does that mean? and 2. Who uses the word “Integrative”? Ultimately my simple-language version goes: “The web works better when it plays together. We make software that makes web services interact in useful ways.”
  8. Let people write on the back! This one might have gone to the top. The back side of a business card is where people take notes, jot down to-do’s, and generally sort out who you are or where you met. Don’t fill it up! A soft watermark is ok, but full-color, fully-loaded cards should leave at least some pure whitespace for a note.
Obviously, the world of business cards, personal marketing collateral, etc., is a personal game. But, I wanted to share some ideas for how I approach the problem. I’d love to hear your thoughts… Is the card effective? Do you have some suggestions that I’ve overlooked? I’d love to hear them.