The Business of Business Cards

With Blogher ’11 coming up in a few short weeks (holy crap!) I’ve been doing a lot of designing business cards. For other people. Even though my current cards are printed via my crappy hp printer and look like hell.
Yesterday, I saw this graphic featuring an amazing quote from American Psycho (the movie, which is almost as disturbing as the book, fyi), and it reminded me that I need to get my butt in gear designing my own cards too.

designing-amer-psycho(I totally forgot where I snagged this from… anyone?)

Anyways, if you haven’t seen this scene, it basically mocks the corporate bigwigs and their obsession with appearance via their business cards (which, incidentally, look almost identical).

When I first officially forayed into the working world 13 months ago, I begrudgingly printed business cards, thinking that they’d go the way of the fax and become obsolete sooner than later. Since then, well, business cards have proved they’re still here to stay. Why wouldn’t people want to go totally digital for their business cards? I’ve been thinking on that, and I think I’ve come up with an answer:

It creates a true “first impression.”

With digital, all you get is a little cell-phone bump and suddenly they’re in your address book. A bit anti-climatic, no?

Business cards, on the other hand, are a full-on sensory experience. When done well, they have some heft to them, are smooth from a glossy coating or more rough from a matte finish. They might be raised from spot gloss or indented from (my love) letterpress. Sometimes they’re watercolored, or have painted edges (le sigh).

The tactile impressions made by your business cards can impress a lot more on your new acquaintance (and potential client) than what you’d expect. Cheaply made or flimsy cards give the impression that you don’t care about your brand or that you’re, well, cheap. Poorly designed or flat out ugly cards can demonstrate that your visual aesthetics aren’t up to par (which is not a good thing if you want any sort of creative jobs). Typos, lame wording, or over-the-top titles can show that you either don’t know wtf you’re talking about or that you’re a pompous ass.

Moral of the story? It’s twofold. One, you get what you pay for. As a super awesome designer told me a couple weeks ago, if people come to you wanting a Ferrari but only willing to pay for a Honda, they’re not going to get that Ferrari… regardless of how much they want it. That’s why I don’t charge $5 for business cards… because you’d be getting $5 work (and that’s not worth much in my book). And two, put some thought into how you brand yourself/your business– I know it sounds hokey, but the first impression you give someone via your website, your twitter, or your business card truly sticks with them… and if your business card makes them think you’re cheap, uncaring, or plain ole lazy, that’s not a very good impression!

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