minimalist business card foiled stamped in blue and black

How to Design Impactful Business Cards

June 9, 2020
Nolan Marketti

One of the most common human interactions in the business world is the classic business card exchange. What does your business card say about you when you hand it out?. Have you ever been handed that business card that made you say to yourself, “Damn, they are the real deal”? And on the other end of the spectrum, have a card handed to you that was flimsy, and with no design thought? The weight of the paper, the print techniques, the way it feels. It sends a message about your business and a unique business card goes a long way.

Look at that subtle off white coloring, the tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark.

- American Psycho

The Best Business Cards Leave Good Impressions

The first impression is the most important one. It sets the tone of your business. It gives a preview of your personality, professionalism, and quality of your business. I’ve even had clients tell me that they picked up a new client without even knowing them. Simply because they saw their card and were so impressed, they called them right away.

So, as a business owner how can you set this tone?

This may sound simple enough, but it hardly ever is. Picking a vendor who has the skillset, knowledge, and precision to execute your vision correctly will make all the difference. Avoid online printers such as VistaPrint and Moo if you can. While more often than not they are cost effective, they will never outperform the service and care you will get with a professional print shop in your area. If your budget doesn’t allow it, Moo and PrimoCards are your best bet. I’ve used them in the past for a variety of print jobs and they came out pleasing.

Pro Tip! If you use Moo, be wary of using a solid color on one side. Especially dark colors like black. I’ve found in the past it will smear and rub very easily due to digital printing.

Pick the Right Paper

There’s also an ocean of brands to navigate. Some notable quality brands include:

  1. Reich
  2. Neenah Paper
  3. Mohawk Paper
  4. French Paper — Fun fact; French has been powered by fully renewable hydroelectric generators installed in 1922.
  5. Cougar
Neenah Papers

It’s all in the Technique

This is where design comes into play. If you’re a designer, it’s important to take in consideration how the design will translate onto the card. If you’re a business, a designer should educate and provide guidance on translating the vision of your brand into print.

Foil Stamping Business Cards

This is the “oooh….ahhh” of printing. It’s hands down my favorite technique to use because it leaves a “stand above the rest” impression. Foil stamping is the process of a metal die that is cut in the shape of your design and pressed into a special film-backed material. The foil then releases onto the paper with a combination of heat and pressure. If you’re a high-end brand, or you want to make the highest of impressions, go with foil. Let er’ shine.

brittish american foiled stamped on neenah grey paper
Paper: Neenah Classic Crest Antique Grey | Weight: 80C Duplexed to 160 | Foil: API 1842g Stone | Designed By: KNOED

Let er’ press Business Cards

Letterpress was invented in the mid-15th century by Johannes Gutenberg and lives on to this day. Letterpress is beautiful to the eye and has a wonderful tactile sensation. This process takes a plate and impresses inks onto (typically) thicker sheets of paper. When using letterpress it’s even more important to consider the paper choice for the project.

plot 1 black and white embossed business cards
Paper: French Dur-O-Tone Steel Grey + Construction Grout Gray. | Designed By: ITAL/C

portland psychic school embossed graduation certificates
100C Duplexed to 200C | Blind + Black InkWeight: French PopTone Orange Fizz | Paper:

Embossing + Debossing Business Cards

This effect is usually used in tandem with foil stamp and/or offset. What’s unique about this process is its ability to create three-dimensional designs. Embossing produces a raised image, while debossing produces a depressed image. Again, heat and pressure combine to reshape the paper and create the image. Their is several variations of this technique.

  1. Single Level — Only one level of raised paper
  2. Multi-Level /Sculpted— This is used for detail. Multi-level brings multiple layers to the final piece and is great for detail.
  3. Beveled — A single level, with beveled edges. Not straight.

mcquades black business cards debossed and embossed

vibrant brief embossed business cards in green yellow orange and white
Paper: 130 lb Mowhalk Uncoated card, Neon 130 lb card | Design By: Brief Studio

Print is Not Dead

Technology is growing, and with our obsession with digital products and tech it’s clear that many things are going digital. However, print is alive and well. Nothing will ever surpass the tactility of print and the emotion it can convey whether it be a business card, a coffee table book or that special annual report. And if there’s one thing that won’t ever change in business, it’s relationships, and every business relationship begins at the first handshake and “Here’s my card”.

Nolan Marketti

Nolan is a Brand Expert and Creative director who has experience working with brands including The United Nations Foundation, IBM Red Bull Racing, Samsung, and Nike. His work has been featured in both highly recognized online magazines and printed in books.