The Secret to Designing an Unforgettable Business Card

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Going to industry events can be stressful, especially when you’re hoping to make new business connections. As if finding the right outfit isn’t enough pressure, the whole idea of networking can freak some people out. Let’s say you get past all the small talk and actually meet someone you want to follow up with. The moment of truth comes when you reach into your pocket and hand over your business card. In that moment an impression is made – whether or not it’s memorable comes down to one 3.5″ x 2″ card. As someone who’s seen (and studied) an extensive number of them, I’m sharing the secret to producing an unforgettable business card.


When it comes to first impressions, a business card is like a handshake, nobody likes a wimpy one.

I pay pretty close attention to how people interact with business cards, and the one element everyone notices about a business card is it’s weight. Hand a card over to someone and they almost all do the same thing – the thumb test. That’s when they give the corner of the card a good flick with their thumb –  thwack! Most do it without even looking at the card, while they’re talking. But the sound of that thwack coupled with the feel of the paper makes an impression that’s etched in their subconscious mind. And that impression, positive or negative, is what they to associate with you and your business.

Paper basis weight is the single most important element to producing a memorable business card. There are heavy weight papers available for every budget, and by heavy weight I mean 120# cover or higher. Listen to me people, there is NO GOOD REASON to use a lighter weight paper for your business card – it won’t print better, look better or feel better. And it’s not going to be less expensive. Here’s why – the amount of paper needed to produce a standard run of business cards is minimal.

When I produced mine for Parse & Parcel, I got 750 business cards and it only required 25 full size sheets (that included make ready). And I have to say the first thing people notice about my cards is their heft. I went a bit over the top here and did a custom duplex of 165# cover (white) laminated to 130# cover (black). The total paper costs are minimal, even using the priciest of papers, because you only need a few sheets.

You could right stop here and produce a card better than most businesses – but there’s a few more things that will make your business card a coveted item by customers.


Have you ever noticed the first thing people do when you hand them your business card? No, well lucky for you I study these things. They FEEL it. Pay attention next time you hand your business card over to someone.

The first thing they do is give it the thumb test. That’s where they flick the corner (another reason why paper weight matters) then they run their thumb back and forth across the top of the card. This is when you have a chance to make yet another sensory impression – apply texture to your business card. The simplest and most economical way to achieve this is with paper finish.

Be sure to specify a paper with a tactile finish to it. There are so many options now, not just the conservative linen finish favored by quick printers. I chose the tactile stipple finish for my business cards, it lends a subtle texture without detracting from the design. If you’re not sure what you want, this is where ordering paper samples is a HUGE help. Not only can you feel the different basis weights but experiment with the different finishes available.


Aside from paper finish, another great way to impart tactility is with print techniques. If you’ve been following along you know I love embossing, not only does it make a literal impression it also connotes a sense of luxury and prestige.

However, there are lots of other techniques that can impart tactility, for P&P I chose to letterpress print one side of my business cards with my contact info. I love the old-school look and craft feel of letterpress, plus it fits my branding – but there are many other print techniques that can enhance the feel of your business card like embossing, debossing and die-cutting not to mention coatings like soft-touch.

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While white is always a classic choice when it comes to business card design, don’t be afraid to impart some color. You can do this by using white paper stock and covering it with ink, and it will not break your budget. But why not experiment with a colored paper stock, especially if it matches your brand’s color palette?

Another way to lend some color and visual interest to your business card is with the use of metallics. Of course I love a nice foil stamp (have you seen the infinity foil stamps??), but metallic inks looks great, especially on dark papers.

brand, identity, wayfinding, enviromental graphics for Jeffrey's of Austin


When it comes to brand identity, the business card is definitely the place where I’d focus my attention and budget. I was just at an event yesterday and handed out a bunch of business cards. The moment of truth came when a potential customer sought me out after one of her peers showed her my business card and told her about Parse & Parcel. We chatted for a bit and guess what? Today I got notified she purchased one of our products. I wouldn’t say my business cards were inexpensive to produce but I think it was definitely money well spent.

To learn more about how paper and print production techniques can impact your design – and help your build an amazing portfolio and client roster, join our list.


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