Sunday, November 14, 2010

The World of Business Cards

I'm designing some business cards for my brother and I really want to give him some ultra-creative eye-catching options and designs. I didn't know too much before, but after some reading and analysis there are so many options out there. If you want some creative cards too here are some options and explanations of what you could have on your cards:
Card material - First things first. What do you want your card to be made out of? Of course you can have regular old paper, but there are a lot of other options as well. You can have plastic, wood, metal, and even food (I've seen cookies, chocolate, and candy). The cost of the material greatly increases after paper though. Plastic may be the next cheapest because they can print on that with a couple of options. Metal is more expensive because they have to use a chemical etching process or even laser cut the metal. Wood may be similar in cost because of the cutting techniques. I think I've seen that they can also use a dye to stain the wood which might make it a little cheaper. Food is a whole other bag, not only is it pricey, but you don't get/want too many cards because of the potential for spoiling.
Metal business card

The paper - There are so many different paper options it is mind boggling. I went to a printer and they showed me some samples and there were literally hundreds of kinds. I think having this many options can be a bit much, but if you take your time you can choose something that is very nice. I've seen and felt silk matte, cotton, suede-like, foil, and what I would call generic card stock. I've also heard of velvet paper but didn't feel it. I definitely suggest asking for paper samples. Not only do you want to feel the surface, but there are also different paper weights and thicknesses. All these factors are very important when considering a business card.
Suede with foil ink.

Printing - In my somewhat limited exposure, I've learned there are several different ways a card can print. If you want high quality printing they generally use an offset printer. I have no clue what that is, but I know it's not laser and it's not inkjet. If you want your cards to be glossy, the industry term for that is UV coating (sometimes they'll refer to it as glossy though). Some printers have full color printing, others charge for the number of colors you use, and others use a screen-printing process (but I haven't seen too many of those).

Spot Gloss/UV - If UV coating adds a glossy look to a business card so then what does spot UV do? This is actually a very cool technique that enables a printer to add a glossy look to certain parts of the card design. You can get spot gloss on visible parts of your card (like a logo or a name) or you can have the gloss added as it's own (say for a background pattern). The latter is typically called blind spot gloss.
Spot-gloss on the beans.
Emboss/Deboss/Letterpress - Embossing is pressing into the card from behind to create a raised element effect. Debossing is the opposite, where a printer will press in from the front to make a depression in the card. Letterpressing is the same as debossing but is typically done on alphanumeric characters where embossing and debossing can be for backgrounds, logos, and other elements of the design. This is an amazing technique and could be quite expensive because in some cases (all maybe) a press would have to be made that is the negative of the shape you want. 
fancy letterpressing

Die-Cut - This is my favorite technique of the bunch. Die-cutting is a technique that allows a printer (or yourself I suppose) to cut out a custom shape for your card. Some die-cutters I've seen work like a press. You place your paper on a die (or under it) and either press down on it or roll it through a press for even pressure. The die gets pushed through the paper and cuts it and on the other side you have your own design. Some printers give you the option for pre-made die-cuts so that you can save money (because they already have the die). Some pre-made designs could be rounded corners, slim cards, or some other non-generic shape. If you opt for your own custom shape, prepare to spend some big bucks (upwards of $100 depending on the shape) but be ready for an ultra-unique design that everyone will oh and ah over.
Die-cut birds
Other Options - There are lots of other techniques to play around with. One such option is foil-stamped inks. I'm not quite sure how this works but the end result is a metallic shine to words or elements that give your card a really big wow factor. Another option is to go with a folded card. You can have elements on the front, back and on the inside. I've also seen people put information on pottery bits, rubber bands, nuts, and a lot more. There is always the do-it-yourself route which may be time consuming but could add a nice flair to your first impression. 

When designing a buiness card (or choosing a designer, I'm available by the way) be creative and have fun. Your business card is your first impression and if it's nothing special the person receiving it will either throw it out or stuff it their wallet never to be seen again. If you have an awesome design not only will you catch eyes, you will probably catch some business. 

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