What customers love – and loathe – in a business card

Reading time: 4 minutes

In an increasingly digital age, some might wonder whether business cards were getting a little old school. At the same time, online tools now offer infinite options for designing cards that can virtually sing and dance. But what impact does your business card really have on your success and how do you know if yours is doing the trick?

We asked 2,000 people for their honest views on business cards and making a first impression – the good, the bad and the ugly. Plus, we teamed up with small business owners from our Vista Collective to take a closer look at some unique takes on business card design and usage.

Do business cards still have an impact?

According to our survey, yes, they do. 63% of the people we asked said that having a quality business card helps make a good impression on them. Additionally, 60% would be more likely to use a business that has a unique or memorable card.

So, what makes a quality business card and how do you get noticed in a way that’s positive for your business?

 “When people ask me about my business in person, I have a business card handy so they can have my full details straight away, rather than relying on social media to find me.”

Ashlee, Founder of Ashlee Studio

The art of standing out

It’s all well and good to stand out from the crowd, but you want to be sure it’s for the right reasons and in a way that elevates – rather than undermines – your brand. Here are some valuable insights from our survey and small business customers, on ways to make your business card stand out (or fall down!).

Here are some original approaches that worked well for their owners:

  • Alternative materials: Cotton, wood, etched metal, linen, plastic and indestructible cards were all remembered for their uniqueness.
  • Quirky shapes: Chalkboards for educators, cupcakes for bakers, photo frames for photographers – custom-shaped cards for businesses whose purpose matched their designs were a hit with customers. Simpler, but still memorable, rounded corners and square shaped cards also made an impact.
  • Multi-purpose: USB sticks, magnets, coasters and stickers were seen doubled up as business cards and impressed with their versatility.
  • Special effects: Glow-in-the-dark and thermographic cards earned points for being different, while subtler effects such as gold foil or raised text also got a mention for their uniqueness.

If your business naturally lends itself to a creative approach, it could certainly help you stand out and gain recognition if done well. But, if it doesn’t feel right for your brand, don’t force it. As someone put it, too much effort to get noticed can also create the impression of “trying too hard”.

“Unique” things to avoid

Standing out shouldn’t be for its own sake, and there are certainly ways it can backfire. For example, a survey participant once received a round business card that opened to reveal a joke inside. He did remember it, but only as being “incredibly lame”, while another recalled an overly complex design that was “awful but interesting.” Not quite the desired effects!

Of the 2000 people we surveyed, among the top things they did not want to see on a business card were:

  • a cheesy tagline or pun
  • pictures of unicorns or quirky animals
  • wacky facts about the business owner

It may be tempting to do something original to stand out, but uniqueness should never come at the cost of your brand integrity. Always think about the message you may be sending and check that you’re being authentic, rather than just gimmicky.

So, if being creative can get attention for your business but also comes with risks, what does this mean if you’re stuck for ideas? There’s good news. While people do admire a unique card when done right, our results show that the number one way to ace your business card design is to embrace simplicity.

Simplicity wins

So, what makes an attractive business card? While original, quirky designs can certainly enhance your brand and get you noticed; overall, most people favour a clean, classic card. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have personality. Quality speaks volumes, and by focusing on the finer details, you can create a winning card the simple way.

So, when it comes to the basics of a business card, what do people actually prefer? Well, it’s quite simple:

  • Shape: 72% prefer the standard rectangular shape that fits in a wallet, although comments included “an uncommon shape is advantageous for being noticed and remembered”.
  • Text colour: 54% think black text works best, or “anything that contrasts with the background colour so that it can be read easily”.
  • Font: While the vast majority didn’t favour a particular font, 56% agreed that hard to read fonts should be avoided. Many also commented that the most important thing is that the font matches what the company uses elsewhere.
  • Essential info: When it comes to picking which info to put on your card, there can be a bit of deliberation. Questions like “Should I put my phone number on my business card?” or “Will adding socials make my card look crowded?” are sure to pop up in your mind. However, with the right design, all your info can be laid out in a single card.

According to our respondents, the following details should be added to a business card: name, company, email, mobile number, job title, website and social handles. To take it a notch higher, you can even add a QR code on the backside of your card that links to your socials or office’s GPS location.

“I decided to keep the design of my cards simple and to showcase my business logo, keeping the colour palette consistent with it. The card contains the basic information of my business; email, website and Instagram.”

Chloe, founder of EMI Creations

Quality check

When it comes to your cards content, be sure to proofread every word – especially on such a small item, typos show a lack of care which you don’t want to be associated with your brand. Also, keep a critical eye and apply a “less is more” approach to make sure there isn’t too much going on visually. Here’s what shouldn’t be on a business card and things to avoid in your design, according to our survey:

  • Typos or misspellings: 59.2%
  • Text that’s too small to read: 54.25%
  • Too much clutter: 54.05%
  • A poor colour scheme: 40.3%
  • Clip art images: 30.6%

And here’s what our respondents loved…

  • Logo: 24% of survey participants mentioned that they value a unique logo on a business card. If you have a logo you’re proud of, use it – it’ll help set you apart.
  • Designer look: 22% appreciate a card that looks created by a designer, but that doesn’t mean you have to hire one. Just try to keep things clean and minimal for a professional look and browse examples of designs online as a point of comparison. Also, remember to avoid that clip art!
  • Colours: What is the best colour for a business card? Well, for your business card, just make sure to align it to your brand’s central theme. The choice of colour should be such that your details are perfectly legible, but at the same time, the background is also not too dull.
  • Social media: 2 in 5 business owners we spoke to are using business cards differently than before. 76% of the respondents reported linking customers to digital channels and driving traffic to social media as one of the top goals behind using business cards.

“Each of our cards has a QR code generator that leads our clients to @ruthfattalhautecouture where they can view our designs and wedding dress collections. We pop them in goodie bags and bridal boxes.”

Ruth, owner of Ruth Fattal Haute Couture

Brand vs bland

A simple business card doesn’t have to be bland. Just make sure it represents your brand by matching it with your other marketing materials, signage or website and showcasing your logo to highlight your unique identity. By providing only the most important info, simplicity also shows that you value the customer’s time and attention. If you do want to add something extra, consider selecting just one simple effect – such as a spot gloss or special paper stock – to give your card a subtle lift without feeling over the top.

“The concept for our business cards started with simplicity and geometry. Evolving from the concept of our hallmark logo, we used a black and white palette and textured card to complement our illustration pieces.”

Lauren & Adam, founders of ODD Studio

Often your business card is a follow-up to the first impression you’ve already made in person. And even when they’re on display for customers you’ve yet to meet, your card essentially serves as a representation of you. So, create something that feels true to you and your brand – and hand it out with confidence.

First impressions and quality connections

We all know that first impressions count – and remember, 63% of people say a quality business card helps leave a good one. But what else goes into leaving a lasting impression?  

We asked our survey participants and Vista community to share some insights:

  • When meeting someone for the first time, these are the things people observe in the first few moments:  smile, clothes, hair, voice, general body language, handshake, smell, shoes. Many also specifically mentioned teeth, so don’t forget to floss!
  • 52% of business owners hand out less business cards these days, but when they do, a high-quality paper or finish is key to standing out and making them feel confident.
  • Cards that were crumpled didn’t leave a good impression – so make sure you have a business card holder or thicker, crease-resistant stock.
  • Hand over your card with purpose. Networking events can be filled with lots of faces; spamming people with your card can feel disingenuous and unmemorable.
  • Think beyond the handshake. Not all impressions can be made face to face. Popping a business card in packages, portfolios, or on invoices is a great way to be remembered after an online interaction.

“I saw a linen business card at an event and was inspired by that! I love the simplistic look, rounded edges and texture. I created my own and feel proud to hand my card out at events.”

Taylah, founder of Madebytaylahrose