200808080147職場力-Seven Ways to Make Your Business Card Stand Out

Business cards are a sort of great equalizer in the professional world. Everyone has them, everyone exchanges them, and generally speaking, the less important you are, the more say you have in how yours looks. For creative professionals, especially the legions of us who work for ourselves or in a tiny little studio or consultancy, this makes them exciting -- what our personal or small-business brand lacks in name recognition can be made up in creative expression, at least that's the theory.

While I stand by my earlier statement that a good card isn't worth a damn if you don't back it up with skills, interest and enthusiasm, a well-designed one can turn a brief impression into a lasting one. Unfortunately, with the plethora of cards out there, it can sometimes feel like every good idea's been taken already. Maybe so. On the other hand, some are more taken than others, and every creative professional has a duty to jump into a challenge like this with gusto, whether the results are 100% unique or not.

Based on a much-longer-than-expected search through Google Image and Flickr streams, we've boiled some of the most promising business card strategies down into seven types -- with examples -- for your reference, or at least entertainment. If you've been racking your brain trying to come up with that killer card lately, hope it helps. If you think you've got something better, by all means let us know in the comments section. Everyone else, have fun:

1. Extra Slick
This is probably the default mode for the creative professional who wants to stand out: razor-sharp hyper-modern layout, peculiar but thoughtful color selection, heavy coated stock with multiple textures. If done well, this can be an effective strategy, especially for graphic and industrial designers who are trying to convey a cutting-edge aesthetic and technical know-how. Because the clean, modern card is so popular, though, the bar is set high: if you're not a graphic designer yourself, you'll need to hire one, and all those effects don't come cheap.

Caution: Overdoing it with the colors and textures is a quick and easy way to make an expensive eyesore that conveys loud, bad taste; sort of the business card equivalent of dressing head-to-toe in Diesel.

2. Letterpress

Letterpress printing is a venerable technique in which a plate featuring all the graphics and text is physically cut to order, then mounted into a big mechanical contraption and rammed into thick soft stock, leaving not just ink, but depth on the card's surface. If done right, it can look absolutely gorgeous, and give an unparalleled tactile experience to the holder. While traditionally reserved for old-school stationery and wedding invitations, letterpress is lately finding its way into other personal printed assets, often combining traditional and modern graphic elements. If you've got the cash (a dollar a card is not unusual, plus US$50 or more to cut the plate) and want to communicate both hipness and respect for craft, this could be just the ticket.

Caution: Letterpress doesn't scale very well, so if you hand out a lot of cards, you'll be out a lot of cash.

3. Hand Stamped
Replacing the business card altogether with one or more custom made stamps has several things going for it. For starters, unlike the two previous card types, it's cheap: the stamp itself can cost as little as US$15, and after that the only expenses are inkpads and card blanks -- if you're handy with an X-Acto knife, it could be even cheaper. Stamps give an impression of uniqueness and craft that can be disarming, and they're quite flexible too: you can make a new card out of anything printable, from plain white paper to the backs of photos, bits of wood, coffee cups, people's wrists, whatever. In a more abstract sense, there's something wonderful about reducing the card to its bare essence, kind of a graphic answer to the "People don't want lamps, they want light" conundrum -- people don't want business cards, they want information, and here it is, in its most elemental form.

Caution: Scrapbooking and art supply stores are full of horrible pre-made stamps, so you'll need to invest some real time and effort into coming up with something that doesn't evoke that aesthetic. Unless, you know, that's your thing.

4. Photographic
As many of us also shoot pictures in our spare time, the dearth of photographic cards in the creative fields is a little perplexing, though this is slowly changing with the advent of MOO cards and other web-enabled print services. Perhaps we're put off by the dreadful photo/cards we get in the mail every holiday season from suburban relatives (or maybe that's just me). There's lots of potential in the custom photo card though, provided the image is actually shot with a business card in mind. The sample above is an elegant take: straddling the line between photo and graphic, it's about as far from a cheesy, posed portrait as you can get, it builds brand identity for the creator, and it's thoroughly unique.

Caution: Amateur snapshots that have been run through a bunch of Photoshop filters make for the worst cards ever. Worst. Cards. Ever.

5. Way Too Clever
This fortune cookie "card" would remind us of some of the tragic gimmicks our studio mates came up with when they had more enthusiasm than skill, back in school days -- except that it's fantastic. Sometimes being too clever can come back around and be amazing if only you take it far enough: this guy not only printed up the cards on bits of paper just the right size and weight, but stuffed them into what look like actual fortune cookies, the wrapped them in foil packets. Just goes to show, audacity can still work if you really really mean it.

Caution: Only complaint here -- this is probably the world's easiest business card to lose. Practicalities still count.

6. Extra Wordy
Ever notice what someone does the second you give them your card? They read it. And then they flip it over, to see if there's something on the back that they can read. There's an opportunity here, if you're good with words; those brief moments after the exchange you've got someone's undivided attention. If you can provide something interesting and compelling to read that explains who you are, what you're like, what you're good at or what you're looking for, there's much impact to be made.

Caution: If you're not good with words, have someone else write for you, or stick with name, title and contact info, lest the most lasting impression you leave be the worst.

7. Extra Simple
The anti-card. After getting a few dozen examples of the above, something clean, sparse and to-the-point can wield enormous visual power.


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