10 thoughts on business card design

I’ve just come back from a two week business development campaign with a client where I collected about 100 business cards through one-to-one meetings and event attendance. I then went back to my office and spent 10 minutes scanning every card to upload into my contact list and the organisation’s CRM system. I then spent another hour or so verifying the information was allocated to the right field (eg. mobile number in the mobile number field) and ensuring any mistakes were corrected.

When I first started working, all business cards ended up in Rolodexes – and the fax machine had its own operator. Today it’s very different – I normally scan and destroy a business card within 24 hours of receiving it.

So in the age of smart phones, ubiquitous wireless internet and CRM in the cloud – I have found myself asking “do business cards still matter, and has their information and design need to be changed?” While scanning and fixing up the business cards, a number of thoughts flitted through my head about “good” and bad” business card design. So time to share…

1. Putting half your contact details on the front and half on the back is irritating as it means the card has to be scanned twice. I don’t care what your corporate image people say – I’m your customer not them.

2. Putting your details in more than one plane wreaks havoc with the scanner. Put your details either landscape or portrait. Not diagonals and certainly not both.

3. Paying a premium for a funky shape or rounded edges is a waste of money as I am going to rip up your business card within 24 hours – not save it and sleep with it under my pillow.

4. The scanner doesn’t like tiny business cards the size of my thumb. I don’t like them either as the text is normally tiny and difficult to read when I have to enter it manually.

5. Funky colour combinations such as green on purple are difficult for the scanner to read, which means I need to retype the details (getting more cross now).

6. Poor contrast between the letters and the background (eg. feint grey on white) is difficult to scan. I then have to retype while squinting.

7. Only having your company name in a logo means that I will have to type it in.

8. Raised text or logo increases the chance the business card may get skewed as it passes through the scanner, meaning more retyping.

9. Exotic and flowery fonts don’t OCR at all well, or for that matter read well. Massively irritating.

10. If you do international business, write your number as +61 3 9014 9600 not
+61 (0)3 9014 9600 as the scanner picks up the (0) and automatically puts it into the system. When the (0) gets synced to my phone the number doesn’t actually work.

Because we (people I met) don’t have standards and simple process for exchanging information electronically, business cards are still critically important. I think that will change in the future but for today, designers need to recognise that every business card is going to end up in electronic form and they can either facilitate that process, or ignore it. Great business card design lasts a couple of seconds, but irritation can last a lifetime.

Are your details going to end up in someone else’s contact list, and if so, how are you helping that process?

To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.

Brendan Lewis is a serial technology entrepreneur having founded: Ideas Lighting, Carradale Media, Edion, Verve IT, The Churchill Club, Flinders Pacific and L2i Technology Advisory. He has set up businesses for others in Romania, Indonesia and Vietnam. Qualified in IT and Accounting, he has also spent time running an Advertising agency and as a Cavalry Officer with the Australian Army Reserve.


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