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8 Ways to Revamp Your Business Card

From leather to vertical layouts, business cards are getting a new look. Industry insiders weigh in on what's hip--and what's passé.

For a slideshow illustrating some of the trends in business cards mentioned in this article, click here.

In Japan, exchanging business cards is more of a ceremony than a business transaction. When presenting a card, it must be facing upward from the intended recipient's perspective. While in the U.S. we typically accept a business card and stuff it into our pocket, that action is considered offensive in Japan. Instead, the card should be accepted with two hands and studied carefully. Perhaps the Japanese are onto something.

That small 3.5-by-2-inch card can have the power to get you noticed. Often, it's the first impression you make on a potential client. Too much text can be a turn-off. Not enough color and it won't stand out. As a general rule, VistaPrint VP of marketing services, Melissa Crowe, advises customers to keep their cards simple. "Keep the design clean, relay a concise message and utilize the back of the card," she says.

Quick and Creative
VistaPrint is no stranger to the $1.2 billion business card industry. The online graphic-design service counts 10 million small businesses and consumers as clients. To help their customers, a majority of which are entrepreneurs, get results, VistaPrint has teamed up with OfficeMax to roll out VistaPrint's Design and Print Kiosk. In minutes, customers can design, order and print their business cards, brochures or postcards. Staples also recently launched a "Business Cards in Minutes" program, promising customers professional-quality business cards in 30 minutes. The service allows users to print as few as 100 cards at a time, versus the industry-standard minimum of 250.

For small-business owners looking for something with a little more pizzazz, Moo.com's MiniCard is being used in creative and tech circles. And no two are identical: 100 cards come in each pack, and users have the option of making each one different. The front of the cards can be personalized by uploading pictures, portfolio samples, logos or designs, while the back is reserved for contact information, including MySpace names, avatar information or your company's website.

What's New
Of course, some aspects of business cards are industry-specific. What works for a photography studio won't necessarily work for a real-estate agent. That's why it's important to first think about the message you're trying to send. "We're finding more and more business cards are an extension of the brand and the personality of the company," says Rob Schlacter, VP of business services for Staples, Inc. and head of the "Business Cards in Minutes" program.

With that in mind, here are eight of the top trends our experts highlighted to help your company's personality shine through while looking professional:

  1. Incorporate foil accents. These elegant accents can add an artistic flair and make your words "pop" off the cardstock.
  2. Add some color. Crowe says full-color backings are popular right now. Also, depending on your industry, unique, colorful illustrations or images can leave a lasting impression.
  3. Use both sides. The back of the card, which was previously uncharted territory, can be used for more than just contact details. "Include a special offer, highlight your website, insert a calendar or insert an appointment slot," suggests Crowe.
  4. Try hi-tech. Worried you forgot to mention important details in your last meeting with a potential client? Then leave them with a CD. Another up-and-coming way to market your business is the USB business card. Print your contact information on a USB thumb drive and share as many files and images as you want.
  5. Go vertical. If you're looking for a way to stand out, try giving your layout a 90-degree turn. Crowe says she's seen more clients choosing to print vertically instead of the traditional horizontal layout.
  6. Stick with a traditional size. Though our experts recommend experimenting with the layout, they say you should stick with the traditional 3.5-by-2-inch business card dimensions. That way, they fit easily into your client's Rolodex or wallets.
  7. Give your card texture. Hawthorne Leather Goods LLC, which manufactures leather goods under the brand Rawlings Sports Accessories, makes business cards out of authentic Rawlings baseball glove leather. The company says recipients of the cards have an emotional response thanks to the scent and feel of the baseball leather.
  8. Get social. Schlacter says high-school age teens venture into Staples to create social networking cards that include information like Facebook and MySpace links. If your business uses social networking as a marketing tool, consider displaying that information on your cards.

Don't Go There
Following the "less is more" mentality, Crowe warns clients to avoid turning their business card into a novel. "Too much information crammed in a small font size simply won't look good," she says. For photos, select artwork that's relevant to your product, making sure it meets the printing criteria to avoid a pixilated image. Other business card faux pas to steer clear of: using vellum and rounded edges, which were popular a few years ago. Though new trends continue surfacing, Crowe says in many ways business cards are returning to their traditional roots.

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