The Little Card That Couldn’t

by Brett Hallonquist

I have in my hand (you obviously can’t see it – lucky you), possibly the worst business card I have ever seen. I wish I could show it to you. It’s really, really hideous. Someone actually gave this thing to me soliciting his business!? I look at this little card, that supposedly represents him and his company, and wonder, “how could someone ever want to hand out a card like this? This looks awful. I’m thinking if the card is this bad, they obviously don’t care and their business must be just as bad.” I shoved it away in my Rolodex – gone forever.

OK. So I’m being a bit hard on a boring little three-by-two-and-a-half-inch piece of card stock, right? Well, yeah I’m being hard. I should be. Admittedly, as a designer, I look at cards with a bit more of a discerning eye than most. But I have a Rolodex full of these plain-jane worthless cards. C’mon, you know the ones… monster gnarly logos, hideous color, nasty clip art, bad typesetting, cluttered, busy, forgettable, jarring.. must I go on!? You don’t need a trained designer’s eye to tell a good card from a bad card. I guarantee any one of you reading this, whether it be obvious or more from your subconscious, can pinpoint a crappy card. Why do these cards exist?? I just don’t understand why, much less HOW, someone can do business with an ineffective, poorly designed business card. It’s like a big zit on your nose that won’t go away, that everyone notices, yet nobody says a word.

You should be proud and confident with your business card. Your card is one of the best and most cost-effective marketing tools in your arsenal – fitting conveniently in your wallet ready to hand out at any time. Think about it: Besides a solid, confident handshake, your business card is the first thing you exchange when you meet someone professionally. That little card, a card that visually says who you are and what you represent, goes back to your prospective client’s office and is accessed constantly. During that brief moment when he comes across your card, that card, basically, is you. That little workhorse selling you and your business could have a shelf life of many years and be glanced at hundreds of times. How many marketing pieces get that many looks? That’s a lot of responsibility for a little card. It should rock!

Still not convinced on the importance of Mr. Business Card? A great card versus an ugly forgettable card could cost you thousands of dollars – maybe more. Let’s say I need to hire a printer to print a gorgeous 16-page brochure I’ve spent a lot of time designing and now need to have it printed perfectly. Digging through my Rolex, I come across two business cards from different printers – one beautiful, the other embarrassingly ugly. I obviously want to hire the printer that would do the best job possible. One that is reliable, reputable, professional and will get the job done right. Mmmmmmm…..? Based solely on looking at the cards in front of me, I’d most likely be more enticed to go with the printer that appears to care about their business providing a professional, well-designed card. My perception is that they would do a better job and they get the job. Now that might not be true… the printer with the ugly card might do a fabulous job – but the card doesn’t evoke that. What a shame.  Big job lost all because of small piece of ill-conceived design on cardstock.

You think I’m being too critical? In Japan, they have entire rituals of proper business card exchange. There are etiquette do’s and do not’s of how one gives, receives, examines and keeps one’s card. Ask yourself, “Do I want someone staring favorably at my card for 30 seconds?” Your answer should be an emphatic “Yes!” We should all have well-designed business cards. Cards that we want people to examine, admire and remember.

Make your card stand out. Get a great logo, use color, well-set fonts, odd sizing. Make it memorable and instantly recognizable for viewers when they’re thumbing through their card file – nobody likes to get lost. If you don’t have the talents to accomplish this yourself, then hire a skilled designer. The last thing you want is for someone to look at your card, state that it’s possibly the worst card ever, file it away, and proceed to write an article about how nasty it is…