Business Cards

By Stephanie Whittaker (Special to The Gazette)

What does your business card say about you? Does it tell the world that you’re a swashbuckling entrepreneur with a cutting-edge company? Does it say you’re a solid, reliable professional known for your integrity? Or does it convey how creative and hip you are?

They may be small but business cards can communicate all of the above through their design. That’s why the smart careerist uses her business card as an ambassador.

“A business card tells a story,” says Eva Kutyla, a graphic designer and the art director of E.A.C.H. New Design in St. Laurent. “The business card is the branding of a company and your first visual impression of it. It creates a character for you and your company.”

And like every other communications tool, business cards change according to trends in design.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of simple, refined cards,” says Kutyla. “Many are grey and charcoal, colours that have taken over black because it’s a more sophisticated look. This is the Japanese influence on the whole design industry. The look is now Zen, minimalist. When you see that clean, minimalist look on a business card, the impression it conveys is that the company is following design trends. It’s a leader and it’s mainstream.”

Henry Roth, owner of Core Business Centre on Monkland Blvd. in N.D.G., has also noticed a few changes in the kinds of business cards his clients are ordering.

”People are using more colour on their cards to make an impression,” he said. “We’re finding that people who are computer literate and have good printers are doing their own cards but they don’t always get a totally professional look because they can’t do raised lettering and the margins and edges are not always perfect.”

One of the challenges of creating a business card these days is the volume of information that should be included. In addition to listing a landline phone number, contemporary business cards are also likely to include a cell phone number, a fax number, an e-mail address and a website address. “I’ve seen as many as six phone numbers on a single card,” says Roth.

A trend that is common in Quebec, he says, is to print on both sides of a card, one side in English, the other in French. “We think double-sided cards are a bad idea,” says Roth. “People don’t look at the other side of the card and it costs twice as much to do. You really don’t need to repeat all the information.”

Instances in which a double-sided card is useful, says Kutyla, is for businesses that have several locations. The back side of the card is the best spot to list them, she says.

The look of a business card is generally determined by your profession or industry, says Roth. “We do a lot of cards for lawyers. They want a plain, staid look that conveys a conservative professional image. In fact, all the professionals I deal with choose black type on a plain, white card.”

By contrast, people in creative occupations “want to convey an artistic sense of themselves with colour and pictures,” he said.

Sometimes, Roth finds himself talking a client out of buying business cards that “are too busy, too colourful or too ordinary. And some people want really expensive cards and we talk them out of that because of their market.”

One piece of advice he offers his clients is to design business cards that are a component of their overall business communication tools. “The look should be consistent with other communication tools, such as letterhead and brochures. It’s jarring to see inconsistencies,” he said.

Another trend Roth has observed is a conservative approach to sharing personal information on the card among women who run home-based businesses. “More and more are leaving their addresses off their business cards. Instead, they use mailboxes at our store. I’ve had a couple of women say that they were stalked by men after giving them their business cards that included their home addresses. We counsel women not to include that information.”

Eva Kutyla says it’s a challenge not to clutter a card with words. “It needs to be cohesive and understandable,” she said. “The logo should be predominant and not diminished by the words. The logo needs its breathing space because it’s part of the identity of a company.”

One trend she’s observed is information wrapped around the perimetre of a business card, forcing the viewer to rotate it while reading. Kutyla advises her clients not to rotate phone numbers and e-mail addresses, which are key pieces of information. “And keep in mind that e-mail addresses are top priorities right now, even more important than phone numbers.”

Some careerists ask for cards that are read vertically rather than horizontally, which allows them to stack information, says Roth. Ideally, he adds, a card should be symmetrical and balanced.

Careerists and entrepreneurs are not the only people who should have business cards. New graduates who are emerging onto the job market should also have them, says Iris Unger, executive director of Youth Employment Services.

”A business card should reflect the job you’re looking for,” she said. “We had a graphic artist who had set up a company come to us for career counselling and she had cut the name of her company out of the card. There was a hole in the shape of the company name. Another man had information on his card that said he was looking for informational interviews “in the following fields.”

Y.E.S. counsellors advise their clients to list e-mail addresses that they’ll have in the long term. “For instance, you shouldn’t use your school address and you should never use a cutesy e-mail address,” she said. “A well-designed card shows you’ve thought about it and you’re serious about your job search.”

It’s essential to remember who will be receiving the card, says Henry Roth. “Think of your market and think of the image you’re trying to convey,” he said.

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