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Avoid These Five Designer Business Card Sins

by Shane Mehling
art & design, featured

As a designer, one of the easiest ways to let a new potential client know that you have a sharp eye, good taste and the ability to execute good design is to finish your conversation by whipping out a stellar business card. But if you have been looking for some inspiration when it comes to creating your own creative card, then you probably wound up on a few of those lists on the internet. There are two issues, then, you have possibly run into:

1. An overwhelming sense of despair that you will never make a card this cool.

2. The belief that a cool card solves all your problems (this is called the American Psycho fallacy)

First off, you can definitely come up with a cool card (just check out this class). There is no doubt with a little work you can create the card that reflects your creativity and taste. but you have to make sure that this cool card also doesn’t succumb to one of the multiple business card sins. Here are five that you should be avoiding at all costs (plus some examples of awesome cards printed by our friends at Mama’s Sauce to soften the blow):

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1. Make it Unreadable

The immediate, eye-popping look of the card is something you’re going to want to focus on to make a good first impression. But if the person you hand it to is going to have to decipher the card to see something as simple as your contact info, then it is a complete waste of time. Remember, even if your text is handwritten an incredible, ornate script, this is an advertisement for you. And if a prospective client needs to decipher the ad whatsoever then there’s a good chance they’ll worry you may also be inscrutable and require too much energy.  

What’s on press… Screen print, letterpress, & edge painting mix it up on this card designed by @jvankriedt for @fifty_fiftycocktailco Printed on @neenahpaper Epic Black & @colorplanpapers Pale Gray You treat each piece like a mini work of art, which is refreshing when a designer is proud of their work. – @jvankriedt

A photo posted by Mama’s Sauce (@mamassauce) on

2. Make it Wallet Incompatible

The infamous “It doesn’t fit in a rolodex because it doesn’t belong in a rolodex” video is enough of an explanation why your card should be practical in some sort of way. If a client is associating you with your card, then you need to make sure it doesn’t become a burden to carry for the person you hand it to. Slick is always a plus, but don’t sacrifice ease.

What’s on press… 2/1 Screen Print and Letterpress @acmebrandstudio business cards printed on @frenchpaperco Pure White. Halftones are useful when trying to create the appearance of a gradation of color within your prints. This is a great way to provide color variance and shading whie still printing a color that is 100% of a pantone value. Check out our bio link for more pics, and to learn more about the print, process, and client. #screenprint #halftones #ACME

A photo posted by Mama’s Sauce (@mamassauce) on

3. Too Much of a Novelty

Everyone wants their business card to be “unthrowawayable” for some reason or another, but it is very easy to fall into a trap where the idea is so cute that it overshadows your work. You want to look creative, not kitschy or unserious. And let’s not even talk about desperately trendy ideas like QR codes that will make your card seem out of date immediately.

What’s on press… 1/1 letterpress and foil card for @thelightphone and printed on @neenahpaper Solar White. Check out our bio link for more pics, and to learn more about the print, process and client. #letterpress #foil

A photo posted by Mama’s Sauce (@mamassauce) on

4. Keep the Wrong Contacts

So you love the card, couldn’t imagine it being any more perfect… except you lost your phone and now the number isn’t correct anymore on the 500 cards you have left. Do you spend a weekend fixing them with White-Out and a pen? Do you hand it over and then explain to each person that they need to disregard some of the info? Sorry, but unless you truly can’t afford it, you need to make the best first impression you can — eat the cost and get updated ones.

We couldn’t resist showing both sides of this beautiful card for @chambermagic designed by @spencercharles on @neenahpaper epic black & @frenchpaperco electric red. #ThatTypeTho #MiraclesUpClose

A photo posted by Mama’s Sauce (@mamassauce) on

5. Have Someone Else Design It

For people who aren’t designers, this is obviously a necessity, but if you are pitching your own design skills then you have to make sure that people are seeing what you’re capable of when that card hits their hand. Like with anything else, you should definitely be asking other people what they think of your card approach. But if it doesn’t show your sharp eye, good taste and ability to execute your ideas, then maybe having a business card at all is being a little premature.

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Shane Mehling

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.