Keeping Business Cards Simple

When you're looking for business card design ideas, you come across a lot of wild, fantastic concepts: 3-D cards, cards cut out of wood and metal, cards that fold out into mini-brochures – these days, there seems to be no limit to what you can do to get noticed.

Unfortunately, this glut of creative business card design ideas overlooks a simple fact: it's okay to have clean, traditional business cards. That's right. In 2009, anything goes, which means you can be totally extreme, or you can tap the immense commercial appeal of being a plain Jane amongst peacocks.

The key to going plain is to express your quality in a subtle way. No colors, die-cutting, or fancy formatting is required, but you do want to pay attention to:

  • Paper Quality
  • Font Selection
  • Formatting

Paper Quality

When choosing paper, consider factors like the weight, or thickness of the paper. You don't want something too flimsy, nor do you want something too imposing.

Next, consider paper color. Even though you're not going for yellow, or pink with blue marbling, you've still got hundreds of shades of white to choose from. Ivory, for example, bears a hint of yellow, while a Dove or Magnolia shade contain a hint of grey or blue. Since the color ‘white' technically has no hue, in can lend itself to almost any shade in a form so muted that the color is still considered to be white.

Finally, choose the kind of finish you want your business card stock to have. Should it be a dull matte, or a polished gloss? Should it be smooth, or slightly textured?

Generally, you can count on your printer to suggest an ideal paper stock that will meet all your business card printing needs.

Font Selection

The creation of fonts used to be a highly specialized field dominated by a few master designers. However, today, we have thousands of fonts to choose from. A good rule of thumb to apply in the process of font selection is this: Just because there are thousands of wacky fonts, it doesn't mean we should use them.

First of all, say goodbye to all the fonts designed for the web. These are not going to transfer over to great business card print design.

Next, decide if you'd like to use a serif or a sans serif font. While sans serif is considered to have a more modern look, serifs may be ideal for traditional business card printing. Just take care not to go crazy with elaborate gothic lettering, unless it suits your business, and it is a calculated design choice.


The bane of simple business card print design is that inevitable moment when the designer panics and decides their card is too boring. Maybe, we think, it would look great to have our name offset at a saucy angle, or even better, maybe we could spread the information out across the card in some artistic way…

Stop right there! The key to slick, simple formatting is to keep the bulk of pertinent information together so that a logical progression is created. Name and business should be featured prominently, followed by address, phone number, and website, ideally all the same size and positioned in the same area.

Other than making sure the information hierarchy makes sense, you can set your little 3 ½ by 2 inch buddy up best by focusing on the center of the card. Think of it as the heart of your business card print design space, and work out from there, rather than inward. Too much white space at the center of the card does not make for a great design.

By following these guidelines, it's easy to create a simple, tasteful card with all the substance you want and none of the flash. In an era of business card one-upmanship, sometimes the most noticeable card is the one that makes the least noise.

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