My New Self-Designed Business Card

I need a new business card and I’m thinking through what I need to have on it and what the basic look will be. My existing one is a 2007 quick adaptation I did online of a professionally designed card which was originally done about four years ago.

The old card is pictured here.
Des Walsh's old business card

With a few offline events coming up I really do need something more up to date.

I’m taking this opportunity to figure out just what role I see the card as playing in my marketing and what I want the card to communicate about me and what I do.

That process is making me do some serious questioning of the whole business of business cards.

I’m by no stretch of the imagination a graphic designer, but for reasons outlined below I’m casting caution to the winds and designing this card myself, with the help of a couple of basic tools, Microsoft Publisher (part of Microsoft Office) the free, downloadable Irfanview image software and online tools provided by business card printers (details below).

This is a longer post than I’d orginally intended. Its length is partly due to its reflecting over 20 years experience of using a variety of business cards, with at best mixed results. I’m hoping the post might be helpful to someone, sometime, although as it’s about a DIY exercise I’m pretty sure it won’t win me any friends in the business card design game!

Memories of cards past

I’ve had a lot of business cards in my time, first in the public service once I reached a level of seniority where it was deemed appropriate for me to have a card, and then in business. In the public service I think it was a status thing, kind of a right to show off my title once I reached the executive level.

When I started in business, getting a business card was one of the things  you did. And you went to networking functions or meetings and exchanged cards with the other people there. I think the theory was that this was a way to attract business, although as I reflect on that now there is no single instance that springs to mind where I could say my business card did in fact ever play a key role in attracting new business.

That reminds me of the gag I heard a few years ago: “Did you hear about the consultants’ Christmas party? They all had a drink and exchanged business cards.”

I didn’t have or need a business card when I was a school teacher or when I drove a taxi. No point. I believe I needed one as a consultant and coach. I am pretty sure I still need one.

But what kind of card am I going to have? What words and other information will it have on it?

I’ve done some online searching for ideas, with mixed results (some links at the end of this post) and the realization that I have to figure out what will work for me, rather than rely on others’ ideas of what “should” be done. My ideas on that have changed in recent years and in fact my thoughts on the subject are still changing (evolving I hope).

My pre-conceived notions challenged: Bob Burg on the uses of cards

My ideas about business cards and their value for business started to change when I read master networker Bob Burg’s book Endless Referrals. Bob is not big on cards, or at least on how cards often get used.

He certainly doesn’t have time for the way they get used often at networking functions. If you have ever been to a networking breakfast where a person you’ve never met arrives and sprays their cards around the table like a dealer at a casino you will get the idea. Waste of time.

Bob says there are three uses for a business card: 1) you could win something (you know, the fishbowl thing at the local restaurant, or some other “email address catcher” receptacle at an expo); 2) you could get a lead (he is less than enthusiastic about this one); 3) you can get others’ cards. This third reason – to get others’ cards – is, Bob says, the only one that matters. “As far as I’m concerned” he writes “this is the one truly valuable benefit of business cards…”.

Although he is not what you would call an enthusiast, he’s not completely down on the idea of business cards:

Although I make light of business cards, and generally find they are not worth much more than the paper stock on which they are printed, they can have some value when used correctly.

Another challenge: The Case of the Disappearing Cards

I’ve started asking myself and the occasional person who will listen “Why do so many people not have cards any more?”

Because increasingly I’m noticing that people don’t have them, especially people in Internet/social media related business, with the notable exception of people who are in that arena but more in design, advertising and marketing fields.

Is it because business cards are so 20th century, so analog, so uncool? Is it a sign of a quiet revolution against the tide of newsletters, promos, last chance offers, exciting news that flood our email boxes in response to all those cards we’ve given out at breakfasts, in the bowls at expos, at business gatherings?

Or is it because a lot of us feel that we and our contact details are now so findable online that we don’t need the expense and inconvenience of having cards designed and printed and then having to carry them around, against the moment when someone at a function says “Do you have a card?” Or say we meet a business person from Japan.

Awkward thought: am I at risk,  if I fall in with a bunch of geeks, of looking like a real doofus if I ask for or produce business cards? Oh the embarrassment!

And what about the planet?

No doubt because I work mostly online, I always seem to have these days more business cards than I need. And the ones I have are now out of date, using a title I no longer use. And with that thing of it being only marginally more expensive to have a thousand printed than five hundred, I hate that moment when, sooner or later, I have to ditch about 600 cards I’ll never have use for again because the information on them is out of date.

Not to mention the speed of change in technology and business

Business cards, it seems to me, used to have a longer life than they are likely to have now. Twitter didn’t exist when the first version of my current card emerged and when I updated it in 2007 it did not occur to me to put my Twitter handle on the card, whereas now I’m doing so with my next card.

I also used then the title “Blogging Evangelist” which I don’t use now, not because I don’t promote blogging for business – I decidedly do – but because it’s not the focus of my business in the way it was back then.

The new card project

Taking all those considerations aboard, I do believe that, for the time being at least, I still need a card. But I’m going with temporary and home-built design, using some basic tools to get a result which I believe will work for me.

These are the principles I’ve applied:

Front of card

  • include photo (a feature of the older and current card commented on positively, many times)
  • my name in a font size easy to read at a glance
  • my preferred contact details: mobile (cell) number | Twitter @ handle | email address
  • primary web/blog address
  • tagline
  • no title (I find using titles triggers pigeonholing)

Back of card

  • what I do in social media – strategy
  • a quote about the importance of strategy
  • room for recipient to jot a note
  • matt finish (current card I had foolishly made gloss – no one could write on it!)

What’s not there

  • other blog/web sites (potentially confusing)
  • landline number (not always at base but usually have mobile)
  • fax number (no discernible usefulness)
  • coaching information (again, potentially confusing – thinking about a separate card)
new business cardnew business card

Design and printing I’ve used Microsoft Publisher for the card design, Irfanview to adjust the picture, Click Business Cards (based in North Sydney, Australia) for the printing.

My intention is to do another version before my next overseas trip, with the international phone number (country code etc). In the US, I’ve found the people at Overnight Prints really helpful: but I had to learn the hard way that “Overnight” was a brand, not a literal promise – it was still speedy by the standards then (and perhaps still) prevailing in Australia and very economical.

Both Click Business Cards and Overnight Prints provide really helpful online tools. With each, you can use one of their templates or use their blank format and upload your own image/text, as I’m doing with the new card.

My new cards will not be certainly not as elegant as the old ones, but I am confident they will be more practical in helping communicate what I do in the social media space.

I quite liked the old black background but it was never part of an overall branding and in fact the card I’m producing now is more aligned with the very plain style of my main web/blog sites.

Some links for stimulating card design ideas (some fairly zany, which could work for some businesses):

I welcome any suggestions as to how, within the parameters I’ve indicated above, I could improve on my new design or comments on how I’m proceeding with this project. As there is no cost other than my time in any re-design, and a fairly modest cost for another print run, I’m quite open to practical suggestions. And anyway I’ll be doing a new run when I’m next planning to travel internationally.

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.

Comments

  1. Victorino says:

    The white color looks cleaner and more corporate. It also signifies trust and integrity. Simplicity of the design plus the quality of subject makes a business card working well.

  2. Great article, some sound advice for me I actually hate having to carry around business cards but you never know when they will be needed, it just such a pity that I could not see what your end result looked like as it did not load correctly. I have to say that I am really loving your blog, it has great information.

  3. Hello,

    Creating a brand is always hard but without a big budget it is even harder. Creating business cards is a great way to do it, you have some nice ideas and points. I have never had alot of my own printed but it isn’t as hard as people think.

    Dan,
    All Monster Games
    .-= GamesMonster´s last blog ..Nudge =-.

  4. Thanks Zenab

    I know I’m not a designer,but read this post and tell me what you think http://www.thinkinghomebusiness.com/2009/07/26/sunday-markets-going-bananas/

  5. Hi,
    Des

    Yah to make our own identity is quite difficult bec use we need to give right information abt wht we do and i think to show our picture on it is a good idea and aslo a good start of communicating bec someone can know us more properly.
    yah as a designeri think u need some layout modification but rest is fine.

    Thanks

    Zenab

    .-= Zenab´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  6. I share those concerns about just using your own name or only your Twitter ID. Some of the people I work with are from outside the community of the highly connected. As long as we attend in person events, we’ll need some way to share info. Lots of technological solutions have been tried over the past few years: Poken, cell phones, Palm Pilots, and more. Paper still works most universally.

    After BlogWorld Expo last year, I distilled a few of my ideas for what makes a great business card:
    http://www.smallbizsurvival.com/2008/10/ideas-for-great-business-cards.html

    I think you’re already focused on the right question: what do I want these cards to do? What is their function?

    Becky McCrays last blog post..Small town economic development idea

  7. @Michael
    Interesting idea, just the Twitter handle on a card. My response at your blog post.

  8. @ John
    I value the comment. At least one challenge with that is the fact that the black background card is not congruent with my online presence. At the risk of sounding more like a marketer than I really am, I’m endeavouring to get some brand image consistency and I really don’t want a blog with a black background, or for that matter even a banner header with a black background. And with the new photo I can still achieve the “face to the name” objective.

  9. @Emily
    Thanks for the clarification. Makes good sense.

    @Becky
    Well, Becky, I think it’s cute. Question is, will the person concerned think it’s cute enough to follow through? I would not be inclined to test it, if only because I would not be there to explain whatever the person noticed when they did the search. If I used the Google system, even though I have the clear majority of positions for my name on the first page of Google, I would have to cope with someone confusing me with my namesake the Canadian playwright or the unfortunate man who went missing in the city of Limerick in Ireland many moons ago, or for that matter a new contender, the Herbalife guy who popped up on the new Bing search engine the other day. Then there is another guy in China… Why confuse people? I suppose I could put on the card (Hint: not the Herbalife guy, not the playwright and not the missing Irishman) 🙂

  10. What do you think of the people using “Google Me” cards, or cards with only their name, and expecting you to find them from that? They seem to be coming into fashion.

    Becky McCrays last blog post..Promotional Items for your Small Town Business

  11. Des, Adding color can be done in many different ways. It doesn’t necessarily mean a solid colored background. It could mean some or all of your type is in color, it could mean your tagline is in color, or a border around your photo is in color, or one area of the card is in color. Even a small element of color can radically change a design.

    Emily Bracketts last blog post..Do-It-Yourself Business Cards, or Hire a Pro?

  12. @Victorino Thanks, Vic, I appreciate the comment. And I like the way you share on your blog your ideas and experiences about business.

    @Emily
    I’m not sure whether you mean that there should be more color, say in the text, or that the white background doesn’t work. If the former, I guess I could do something with the text and will look at that. If the latter, I have to report that I’ve just flicked through a whole bunch of cards and found quite a few which would not be likely to skimp on design, e.g. IBM, Deloitte, with white backgrounds. Thanks for the other suggestions. Much appreciated!

  13. Des, I think the black type on white card is lacking distinction. It looks a bit like a default layout that is given by many quick print shops and online sources. Color would be a big improvement. A few other quick thoughts: 1) you can see how the designer card tried to make something distinct out of your tagline, might want to try that 2) I would base align your tagline and your email address.

    BTW, check out my recent blog post about DIY business cards: http://www.visiblelogic.com/blog/index.php/2009/06/do-it-yourself-business-cards-or-hire-a-pro/

    Emily Bracketts last blog post..Do-It-Yourself Business Cards, or Hire a Pro?

  14. Hi Desh,

    I like your new business card. It’s clean and neat. The white color makes it looks like a corporate one. That’s a well principled created business card. Our business card reflects our persona, so we better make it right.
    Thanks for the tips and concepts.

    Vics last blog post..Restaurant business tips: How to attract customers and keep them coming back

  15. Thanks Lawrence
    Yes, “standoutability” is good and I can see that a good designer could help me with that. What has become more clear to me in thinking this through is that we each need to think through what we want to achieve, what we don’t want etc, before briefing a designer. The black background card design which I’ve had now as I say for several years was sprung on me by an anonymous designer briefed by a printing broker friend: you pays your money you takes your chances kind of thing. In the attention-grabbing stakes the SBS cards post which Gavin links to above is about one of the most intersting approaches I’ve seen.

  16. After losing this comment once, I put it in a blog post at:

    http://mrees.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/twitter-handle-as-business-card/

  17. John Duncan says:

    Your black card is wonderfully simple/minimalist. Why not just tweak it a little? Rounded instead of sharp corners framing the image.
    Softer font, squatter/more rounded. I liked the colour contrast (photo backdrop v. black card).
    I see role of business card these days as aide memoire prior to being put into someone’s email/cellphonecontact list. Photo puts face to name.

  18. Des,

    I second David’s comments about the weighting across the card (centre alignment) and colour balance.

    You are right in that the new card won’t be as elegant. The one question I’m left with is what makes your business card unique in comparison to all the others out there. When associates and potential clients go through their card decks, what will make yours stand out and grab them as the person they need to talk to?

    You can retain uniqueness within a design or layout without the need for overt elegance, even with a business card.

    Lawrence Meckans last blog post..More Joomla business processes

  19. Thanks David
    You’re absolutely right. Don’t know what got into me with the centre aligning! I appreciate your endorsement of my ditching the black.

  20. Huge improvement, Des. I don’t think the heavy black from before was doing you any favours at all.

    In terms of the layout, I find centrally-aligned text to look odd, and think that if you left-justify your front-side information (as you do on the reverse), it will appear more aesthetically pleasing.

    Good luck.

    David Aireys last blog post..Measuring the success, and failure, of branding

  21. @ Ricardo
    I’ve avoided the 2 card solution for a while now, but I feel it might be a practical move for me in the near future.
    @ Gavin
    Not sure I’m ready for the Poken. Fan of Hugh McLeod – not confident about that for the bizoids I talk to (too much explanation). Fascinating cards from SBS – great story.
    @ Peta
    I’m getting educated tonight – Pokens from Gav and now QR code, which I confess is new to me. I have now generated QR codes for this blog and for deswalsh.com Idea of putting one on the card sounds worth considering.

  22. How about a qrcode so recipients can scan it with their phones and surf to your website? Very popular in Japan I have heard.

    Petas last blog post..splashurl now has qrcode generator

  23. I have started carrying a Poken with me – which means all my social networking data is available on demand. But, of course, it requires other Poken users before it can work!

    I have a blogging card which uses a Hugh McLeod picture on the front. You can get them from StreetCards.com. But I do like the cards that SBS have. I wrote about them here:
    http://www.servantofchaos.com/2009/02/whats-your-story-morning-glory.html

    A card with a story about you. What’s not to like?

    Gavin Heatons last blog post..Kill Your Website Mark II

  24. Finding the right design for your business cards is pretty stressful (at least it has been for me)…

    How do I best communicate who I am, what I do and how I do it? Am I displaying too much? Too little?

    I have two sets of cards: 1. my cards with the real estate tomato, 2. my personal cards that contain my name, number and title on the front and then my web address ricardobueno(dot)com on the back. That web address is meant to serve as a hub for all of my work around the web.

    Like you, my card design will always be an evolving thing but for now, I think it works…

    Ricardo Buenos last blog post..Heading to WordCamp San Francisco

Trackbacks

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