Business Card Design

Business card design for a small business can be very quick, but a little time and thought can pay significant dividends. Shortly before I contracted with a graphics firm for a logo and business card design, I attended a professional conference and came back with a collection of business cards, most of which were poorly designed in one of several ways:

  • The font was too small–anyone who uses reading glasses would need them to read the card.
  • There was nowhere to right notes. On many cards, the back was printed in a dark color or had a design that made it impossible to write notes on the card, such as the question the person needed answered.
  • When I tried to scan them in using an automated scanner, many cards wouldn't correctly OCR due to fonts that were too small, abbreviations that were confused for names and a variety of other problems.

The article that follows describes some of the things to consider when designing your business cards, and is divided into the following sections:

The Front Side

In designing the front of your card, make sure that you use a font that is large enough that people can read the card. Particularly in business-to-business, most decision makers have reached an age when they need reading glasses–don’t force them to pull out glasses to read your card. Make sure to use a font that is readable and which will OCR. Most decision makers won’t have a card scanner, but most sales people at trade shows probably will. If you indicated that you want them to call you by giving the sales rep a card, make it even easier by giving them a card that will OCR.

Finally, make sure to leave white space for writing in notes on the question that you answered or updates to a phone number or email address.

The Back Side

Many cards are blank on the back to allow space for writing notes. If you work internationally, put another language on the back. If not, you can generally use some of this space for other purposes. Consider generating a two-dimensional barcode (QR code) of your contact information, so that anyone with a QR reader on their smartphone can import your card accurately without typing. You might also consider putting a diagram or some other graphic that is part of your elevator pitch.

Make sure to leave space for writing notes.

Generating a Two-Dimensional Barcode (QR Code) of Your Contact Information

If you decide to put a QR code of your contact information or web site on the back of the card, make sure to keep the file small. Many QR code readers will read a .vcf file with contact information, but keep it small. Although the standard for .vcf files allows up to 4K and can include an image, the space on a business card is only big enough to handle a .vcf file that is about 300 characters. Test your QR code on several phones using several different QR code readers; many readers don't support the full .vcf standard, so you will have to experiment to make sure that your QR code will import into contacts correctly.

An example of a small .vcf file follows:

FN:Your Name
ORG:Your Company Name, LLC
ADR:;;P.O. Box 1;Your Town;TX;00000;USA
TEL:(555) 555-5555
TEL;CELL:(555) 555-5555
EMAIL;INTERNET:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

There are a number of online QR code generators, but if you are using Linux, OS X or Cygwin on Windows, the qrencode package will generate QR codes of whatever text string you pass to it. For a contact QR code, you might use

qrencode -o outfile.png < your_name.vcf


With a little thought, you business cards can become a much more useful sales tool.