Small biz how-to : Designing a knock-out business card {Part 2}

Business card design tips:

Your business card is a bit like a PR manager – they can do a fabulous job of introducing you and making you memorable…. or not. {Did you catch Part 1 of “Designing a knock-out business card? It takes a journey through how to choose colours, fonts, images, textures and more so you can figure out how to best convey your business’s style. You can find Part 1 here.}

Today’s post covers the practical aspects – graphic design basics, and the technical stuff you need to know to get the result you’re after. But first up, here’s a bunch more inspiration to get your creative juices flowing (again,they’re all standard size business cards to prove that you’re really only limited by your imagination).


 jan sabich

make your card useful like this one from jan sabich


collage-style from jean ming (front & back)

show off your skills like this collage-style from jean ming (front & back)


 Melody Nieves - pirate-style treasure map

make it fun – pirate-style treasure map from Melody Nieves



add some whimsy and mystery with a bit of scratchie-style


tiny twiggette - letterpress

tiny twiggette – gorgeous in letterpress


show off your surface design portfolio - the beginnings

show off your surface design portfolio – the beginnings


involve your customers - fill in the blank for kim bost

involve your customers – fill in the blank for kim bost



As I mentioned in the last post, the standard size for a business card is around 55mm x 85mm (2″ x 3.5″). These vary a bit from printer to printer, so always check.

Other sizes or shapes can be very attractive and certainly make your card stand out, but they’re usually much more expensive, AND if it won’t fit into a wallet or business cardholder, it’s probably less likely to be kept in a usable spot by your potential customer.



Now, of course you can make your own business cards, especially if you’re involved in the handmade industry. However, if you’re not careful these can very much end up looking home-made and cheap. So unless you’re feeling particularly confident about your abilities, I would avoid them.

There are two other ways to go – if you’re not confident about making the images yourself, you can take your ideas along to your local printer (who usually have in-house designers to put your design ideas into a finished printable format), or you can use one of the many online printing venues (such as MOOSaltprinttinyprints, JukeBox, GotPrint, or google one in your area) who will let you upload your own designs and they print them for you. Most of these also provide you with a downloadable template that you can use in your favourite image editing software,and they will also give you some tips on what to do and what not to do.

When you’re designing your own images to upload you need to also include a small amount (about 3mm) around the outside for bleed. These also vary from printer to printer, so do check.



Letterpress has a wonderful texture as the process results in embossed card which adds a high-end handmade feel. They’re most often handprinted by small workshops, and are therefore much more expensive, and you are also limited to one or two colours. However, good letterpress looks absolutely fabulous and is definitely worth the money if you can afford it.


Digital Printing

When you’re printing from digital files, you need to work at around 300dpi (dots/pixels per inch = about  72 pixels per cm) or higher to ensure a crisp image. So, if you’re designing a card that is 85mm x 55mm plus a 3mm bleed on all edges = 91mm x 61mm, you need to work on a canvas that is around 6550 pixels x 4390 pixels.

In Photoshop, pull out some guides to show you where the bleed area is.  Go into “View/New Guide…” and then enter the positions of your guides (here the guidelines are shown in turquoise). You can go further and add in some more guides for the ‘safe area’ of where to put text so that it doesn’t look squished in a corner.


inserting guidelines in Photoshop

inserting guidelines in Photoshop


It’s important that you also work in CMYK colour, as that’s what the file will be printed in. If you work in RGB colour (which is what is used by monitors), when it gets converted to CMYK for printing some colours can end up looking very murky.


Graphic Design Basics

– Contrast. Use visual contrast to provide focal points in your design. Contrast in size, texture, colour, direction or shape can turn something monotonous into something interesting and beautiful. Don’t get carried away with too much contrast though; it can just end up looking messy.

Contrast is also important so that your contact details are easy to read.

When choosing fonts, the rule of thumb is to use only two fonts on any one document, three if you absolutely must. You can vary the size of the same font to provide interest and hierarchy.

Alignment. Alignment is about building visual relationships on the page or frame; making sure everything in your design relates to something else on the page. If it’s out of alignment, it looks messy and ill-considered. It’s really as simple as making sure all your text is lined up (either centred correctly, or justified to the left or right) – break out some more guidelines to help you with this, or you can use the Alignment tools in Photoshop.

If you’ve got a layered image in Photoshop, alignment is simple. In the first image there are three layers plus background. To centre align them with the background, you need to select all layers. Select all your layers by holding the shift key down and clicking on them all.

Then, click on the Move tool in the top left, and then the ‘centre’ icon on the top bar.


biz cARDS - ps ALIGN


To distribute them equally down the page, you need to only select the layers you’re moving, so deselect the background. Then click on the ‘Distribute’ icon in the top bar.


biz cARDS - ps ALIGN2


Alignment can also be used with text to indicate a different level of information. By indenting text from the line above it, we indicate that it’s a different type of information.



This is the explanatory text.


– Hierarchy. Creating a hierarchy in your design is helpful in communicating what is the most important information. We can do this in various ways – through the use of different font styles and sizes (e.g. italic and bold, or all caps), and through Alignment (as above).

When you’re using small fonts though, make sure you don’t go so small that it’s hard to read. Legibility is vital! Don’t make your potential customers work too hard to get your contact information.


RepetitionRepetition of font styles, colours, shapes, etc., creates continuity and cohesiveness. Make it fit with your brand.


Space. DON’T crowd your cardLeave space – it looks better. Less is more.

Space can also be a useful thing for either your customers to write notes on about you and your goods and services, or for you to write a short thank you to your customers.



DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING before printing. Get someone else to proof it too.
It’s embarrassing and/or expensive to find that typo after they’re printed!!!




Have you got a great business card already? Or you’ve got an okay kind of business card but you’re not quite sure what you can do to improve it? I’d love to see! Feel free to hop on over to my Facebook page and post a pic of your card and promote your biz at the same time!

Or have you got a burning question about business card design (or any other kind of graphic design or branding question) pop a comment below and I’ll get you an answer. Your question might just be the one to help another small business too – share the love! 

Julie x

Small biz how-to : Designing a knock-out business card {Part 1}

Business card design:

It’s an exciting thing when you give your card to someone and they say, “That looks great!! Can I have another one to share?” Or they turn to the person next to them and say “Hey, look at this!”

Awesome, huh!?


duct tape and glitter - via

duct tape and glitter – via


Have you kept other people’s business card just because they look great? Get them out and have a think about why that is.

A while ago, I came across this trick to help you figure out some things about effective business card design. Find all the business cards you can and lay them out on the table. Close your eyes for a few seconds and then open them. Guaranteed some of them will grab your attention straight away – pick those ones out and analyse what it is that grabbed you. Colour? Images? Great font or logo? Vertical layout? Texture? What else?


patterns via

patterns via


 rio mas by melisa sceinkman - via

rio mas by melisa sceinkman – via


angela and evan photography - via

angela and evan photography – via


candle belle by alan cheetham - via

candle belle by alan cheetham – via


david and claire wedding invite - via

david and claire wedding invite – via


making lemonade - via

making lemonade – via


jane lindeman - via

jane lindeman – via


thedarlingroom - via

thedarlingroom – via


{Except for the last one, I’ve chosen the above examples for their simplicity and effectiveness on a standard size business card. Click the images for the original source.}


Business card design can be a fabulously effective tool for your business. Or not. Remember ever tossing a boring business card in the bin? Sure you do. You don’t want yours to suffer that fate, do you? So, make it interesting. And remember, your business card is NOT there to show and say everything about who you are; it should be a introduction, a conversation starter. Use them to showcase your work and style. And it DEFINITELY needs to fit with your brand. {Have you got that sorted? Here.}


Your Layout.

– The weight of card makes a big difference to how your business is perceived. Heavier card sends a message of quality; flimsier cards send a message of cheapness. Don’t print your cards on anything much less than 300gsm (grams per square metre) – anything thinner feels like throwaway material.

– The texture of your card can add another level of class – of course there is the standard choice of matt or gloss, but you can also get textured cards, or even letterpress embossed.

Other materials:  If you’re prepared to pay, you can get cards made out of lots of different things, for instance wood, metal or transparent plastics.

– Special sizes and cuts:  A standard business card size is 84mm x 55mm (3.5″ x 2″). You can really make your card stand out by making it an unusual shape or size, but that will add to the cost. Simple rounded corners on a standard size card don’t usually cost much, but I’ve also seen circular ones from a smallgoods store that look like a slice of salami, and one from a furniture maker that folds out into a miniature chair. Another trade-off to consider is that it’s harder for your customer to carry or keep if they have a standard business card holder (although, is your ideal customer likely to have one of those things?).

– Readability is important. Overly fancy or stylised fonts, or even something that is too small…. don’t use’em. You want to communicate clearly.

Images: Especially useful if you’re a photographer, artist or a maker. Great images of your work can act like a sneak peek into your portfolio. Cover one side of your card to serve as the main ‘face’, and print your details on the other side.

Borders: Don’t use a layout with a border; even a tiny shift in alignment of the cutters at the printer will result in lopsided borders (which is why when you’re designing a card, they usually allow a ‘bleed’ area of around 3mm).


It’s For More Than Just Your Contact Details.

If you make your card useful, people are more likely to hang onto it too. Include a discount code towards the next purchase, include a map, a ruler, or handy reference info that is relevant to your work.When you make your card useful AND pretty, you send a message about your business as a provider of useful stuff.


What to Put On Your Card.

It’s so easy to connect with people once you have a website. And when you overload your business card with too much text it looks messy and yuk. So keep it simple, and remember that “Less is More” (my fave quote from one of my fave architects).

Absolutely essential:
– business name.
– website (preferably just the one – don’t confuse people).
– contact details eg email addy.

– business tag line or description (if you think it’s necessary to explain what your business is about).
– an image of your work.
– further contact details if it’s appropriate – a street address, phone number, your name, your job title.

Probably not: {because don’t clutter your card with unnecessary information.}
– social media. It’s not what your business card is for; if people want to connect with you, they’ll find the info when they go to your website.
– multiple web addresses. don’t confuse people. One, or two at the most.





So get designing!! In Part 2 of this post, I will go through some basics of graphic design so that you get a REALLY fab looking card, and some of the technical stuff of printing so that you get exactly the result you want.

See you then!!
Julie x


Surface design : Tim Colmant

When I asked graphic designer and pattern maker Tim Colmant where his inspiration came from, he replied “The Memphis movement, past, present and future.” And so it is.  Flat colours in brights and pastels, meandering lines, dots and chunky shapes cover his surfaces – a whimsical hybrid of tiger tails, worms, eyes and fold-out books, floating on backgrounds of rivers, sky and stars. And sometimes taken one step further with pleasure-inducing animated gifs.


tim colmant

tim colmant


The Memphis Group was an Italian collective in the 1980s, best know for their rebellious approach to furniture design and the decorative arts. Led by respected architect Ettore Sottsass, their work was deliberately kitsch, often using stripped-down historical forms, reinventing them in gaudy colours and new materials such as plexiglass, neon lights and glitter finishes, and Nathalie du Pasquier was responsible for many of the patterns decorating surfaces; a mix of jagged geometrics, leopardskin and tortoiseshell.


tim colmant

tim colmant


Tim is a long-time lover of pattern, but only started experimenting with it himself recently. Based in Gent, Belgium, he has always worked as a graphic designer and only started in illustration and pattern design about a year and a half ago after he discovered du Pasquier’s work.  “Now I really enjoy doing pattern, it’s a blend of abstraction, chaos, composition and repetition.”


tim colmant

tim colmant


tim colmant

tim colmant


Pattern and drawing have been a thing for him ever since he was small. “I know that I was drawing a lot like most of the children from my generation, and my mother still has some of them (Big Ups Mum!). I also made and decorated a totem when I was a little child in school.”

Now, armed with nothing fancier than a computer, a digital tablet and a mug of tea Tim has managed to get his work out in to world and has an impressive list of clients, including  Bloomberg and Wrap Magazine. He feels very lucky to be doing something he loves as work. “Every time I receive mail of people telling me they like my work, my work makes them happy or people want to work with me I’m happy.”


tim colmant

tim colmant


tim colmant

tim colmant


His best piece of advice “I know it will sounds really cheesy but HAVE FUN & WORK HARD. And never forget about that, if you have fun, people will see this, feel it.”

You can find more of Tim’s work on his tumblr and his Facebook page.

tim's totem

tim’s totem