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Business Cards: Sizes and Types

written by: Haley Montgomery•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/10/2012

Is your next desktop publishing project a business card design? The size and format of a business card is essential information. How big is a business card? What if you want the business card to be a different format? How do you make a standard card stand out? This article answers these questions.

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    Business Card Design

    As a designer, one of the desktop publishing projects you will likely be asked to create many times is a business card. It is a common tool in business communications and an important requirement in marketing. It is important for a desktop publisher to understand the appropriate size and format for business cards. This article answers three questions about business card design: (1) How big is a business card? (2) What if I want my business card to be a different format? and (3) How can I make my standard business card stand out?

    Read on to discover some of the basics of business card design, formats and size.

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    How Big Is a Business Card?

    Even with the prevalence of digital communications, business cards are still a vital element in personal and business marketing, and a very common desktop publishing project. Creating an effective business card design can be key in presenting a good image of yourself and your company. Although there are many considerations when determining the design of a business card, the size and format are the key to it's effectiveness. So, you may be asking yourself, "How big is a business card?"

    Despite the many different forms marketing communications like brochures or presentation materials take, the finished size of a business card is almost universally consistent. The standard size for a business card is 3.5" x 2".

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    What If I Want My Business Card to Be a Different Format?

    Because business and personal contacts collect many business cards during networking and marketing opportunities, making your business card stand out is important. Is it beneficial to choose an alternate size or format for your business card? In a word, no. It is tempting to choose different dimensions for a business card design in an effort to make it stand apart from the sea of other cards recipients have. However, the standard 3.5" x 2" size is so universally used that other sizes actually make it more likely to get lost.

    Business accessories like rolodex files, business card sleeves, calendars and planners all include slots for business cards that reflect the standard size—not to mention wallets and business card holders. Producing a business card that is larger or smaller than the standard size makes it difficult for recipients to keep the card handy. And, let's not forget that the chief purpose of a business card is to impart contact information to the recipient. It's unwise for desktop publishers to create business card designs that make it difficult to keep that information handy.

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    How Can I Make My Card Stand Out?

    Even working within the standard business card format, desktop publishers can still create a business card design that stands out by being creative within the traditional format. Utilizing interesting printing techniques is one method for making a business card unique. A simple rounded corner die-cut can add individuality to a business card design, while keeping it within the standard format. In addition, the texture and weight of the paper used for printing can also create a memorable look. Consider other offset printing techniques like embossing, varnishing or metallic inks to add interest to the desktop publishing project.

    In addition to unexpected printing specifications, sometimes the orientation of the card can add interest. Choosing a vertical orientation rather than the typical horizontal format will create a unique look. However, be aware that vertical formats may obscure the card when stored in a wallet, for example.

    If the desktop publishing project requires that the business card design showcase more marketing verbiage than the standard contact information, printing both sides of the card or producing a folded card can be an option. As long as the finished size matches the standard 3.5" x 2" dimensions, the card can work effectively.

    These options show just a few of the ways creative design and printing techniques can enhance a standard business card design and make the desktop publishing project stand out from other cards in the rolodex.