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Making a Modern Business Card

Bill Lee Photographer Business card testsFor you cord-cutting, 21st-century modern folk, you may have dispensed with tangible business cards. Today, the world—the people you interact with—is not “connected” enough to rely on sharing contact information paperlessly. Here are some points to consider when building your new business cards.

  • Keep them simple, clean, and attractive
  • Link to extended, dynamic contact information
  • QR codes for easy addition to address-books
  • Printing: home, printers, Moo.

Simply Simplify

The best designs have always been simple and attractive. Now it’s more important than ever to keep things simple; the subtle, extra effort it takes for a business card recipient to discern the important elements of the card make it just a bit less retentive in the reader’s mind—certainly not the function that we want of our contact card. So, look at the information you might have on a business card:

  • Name
  • Title
  • Company name
  • Company motto
  • Phone number
  • Cell phone number
  • Fax number
  • Email address
  • Web address
  • Hours of operation
  • Street address
  • Other cities and countries of operation
  • List of services or products offered
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

… off the top of my head I came up with over 13-types of information that I know some of you have on your business cards—bad-luck, indeed. You will have to decide what you must have on your business card.  Consider that the business card’s primary purpose is to allow someone to easily remember how/why to contact you, later. What is necessary for that?

  1. Name
  2. Context
  3. Contact information

You’ll want to have your name, of course, if even just to make sure they heard you correctly when you introduced yourself (ah, “Bill”, I thought he said “Phil”) and those with lots of silent consonants in our names or names that use all letters of the alphabet. You’ll also need include some context, because, in a stack of business cards, the recipient should know why they need to contact you again. This is the trickiest to keep under control. Since you know your business, you will feel compelled to put all the buzz-words and catch phrases you can think of, expanding into a paragraph of verbiage. Consider whether you can simplify this to your title (“web developer”, “photographer”, “yachtsman”). There is a delicate balance between informing and confusing—keep the words to a useful minimum.

John Gage's business card  (Indecent Proposal)My ideal business card was from the movie Indecent Proposal, where the George Soros-prominent kind-of character, played by Robert Redford, handed out his clean, white business card that simply had is name, centered, on the front of a clean white card… one item, period. Such that we could be so self-assured and established, that our name speaks for itself.

Reducing your contact information is a bit easier. Keep in mind that if someone needs to contact you, they only need one way to do that(!). Do you really, still, have your fax number on your business card—if someone needs to fax you, they will contact you first. Does someone need both an office number and a your mobile number? There is a good chance you can forward one of those numbers to the other, when necessary. I feel pretty comfortable with the following:Bill Lee Photo businesscard

  1. Name
  2. Title
  3. email address
  4. 2 phone numbers

No need for a website address since smart people can infer that from my email address. No need for a street address, since people will visit without contacting me first. I included both phone number and email address contact information because those are two, distinct, common ways in which people may contact me, unsolicited. I included two phone numbers because they are different area codes and there is still a psychological resonance of a familiar area code. Also, the area code implies locale which helps in the absence of a street address. As with “ice-boxes,” few have even seen a Rolodex; people no longer keep business cards, they put your contact info into their electronic address-book.

Modern Contact Presentation

These days, most of us will find that our contact information changes pretty often. The more information we put on our cards, the sooner we  have to get new cards. You can include a web link to complete, detailed contact information. If you have your own web-page, the link can reference your contact information page. Better yet, you can use one of the established online services that contain your profile: Facebook, Linkedin, about.me and others.

Bill_Lee QR Contact Info

You may not want to put that kind of link on your card, but that link can be useful for another element that you might want to include on your card, a QR Code. This will allow people to quickly and easily add your contact information into their smart-phone’s address-book by simply using their phone’s camera to scan the code. Here, too, more information yields a more complex the barcode, making it more difficult to scan. A larger sized barcode is also makes for more reliable scanning. You might be able to include a small QR code on the front of the business card; but there is plenty of room on the back for a larger barcode.

Generating these QR codes is simple; you can use web-page tools such as ones by Delivr and goqr.com. You can choose QR code-types to represent your website, map information, or free-form text, as best suits your needs. Select “Contact Information (aka “vCard”) QR code type to ease the import of your contact information into recipients’ address-books. Once you’ve defined the QR code’s information, download the image and include it in your business card design.

Tip: You can use a use a URL-shortener such as bit.ly or goo.gl instead of a direct link to your online profile information (that I mentioned above). These services count the number of users that use the link. Over time, you can get a rough idea of how many people access that information via those links—a little geek data analysis.  (e.g., instead of about.me/BillLee, I can use goo.gl/j3ezJ).

Make it Real

Once you have a your business card design, you can have it printed. I recommend printing and cutting them out, actual-size, before you do your full-run of printing. Holding them in your hand and seeing the detail and proportions of your design in its final size will allow you to better judge the design.

Once you are satisfied with your design, it is easy to find places to print them, Staples, CostCo, FedEx/Kinkos, etc. If you need a few cards or need them immediately, you can use Avery Clean Edge precut sheets and print them on your own printer. Avery has free templates for Microsoft Word and PhotoShop so that you can layout and align your design to fit their papers. In addition to local printers, you can get great deals on printing by mail-ordering from vendors like VistaPrint or 123Print.

Tip: When printing your own cards on pre-serrated/cut paper, you may have difficulty with the cards separating when printing on the back of the cards, depending on your printer. One trick is to print the back-side of the card first, then the front.

In addition to good local printers, I can recommend moo.com who provides high quality printing on distinctive, heavy card stock. Though a bit pricey compared to the cheaper vendors, they never fail to make an impression on people receiving them.

Did I miss anything? It is probably time for you to update your business cards; I hope these tips help.

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