Create the perfect business card

Egotistical, gimmicky and grim. That is the description of millions of business cards creating a bad impression to prospective clients according to research from Lancaster University and print group The Entwistle Group. What does your card say about you and your business?

Most bosses choose terrible designs without paying a second thought to who they are trying to impress, believes Professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University Management School. ‘Business cards should be the central part of a company’s marketing material.

’It doesn’t matter what you are trying to prove – whether you are innovative, conservative, humorous or deadly serious – your card is an ideal opportunity to prove that and leave an impression,’ he continues. ‘But while some cards are clever and stylish, others are egotistical, gimmicky or just plain dull.’

’Your card might be your only chance to impress your ideal client. Just think of how much business you could lose by getting that wrong,’ urges Entwistle director Roy Gronow.

Below are a few elements of a business card and what Professor Cooper believes it could be telling potential clients about you.

Photograph of yourself

If you have a picture of yourself on your card, you run the risk of looking egotistical. It can be done and made to look good, and some cards use a photograph very well, but some are very unimaginative.

Photograph of something else

Some cards have a photograph of something which is not particularly linked to the career they are in, and can draw you in. By thinking about the link between the photograph and the person, you are more likely to remember their card. They have made an impression. Alternatively, a crass link or a clichéd photograph could say all the wrong things, so you need to be careful.


There is nothing wrong with using the colour black, as a rule, but people should be very careful. It is a negative colour, so if you work in an industry that is perceived to be negative in some way – tobacco, alcohol or gambling, for example – you want your card to look positive.

Bright colours

Like using black, some people will find that using bright colours suits the message they are trying to convey. But when you use a colour such as bright pink or yellow, there is no subtlety involved. If you are a certain generation, or you are aiming at young people, it might look bright and vibrant. Other than that, you run the risk of looking tacky.

Sleeve or cover

Some business cards are more than just cards these days. Some are presented in their own wallet or sleeve and look very classy. Provided it is done well, this can create a real image – that you are thinking outside the box or that you can break the mould. It could say that you are discreet or that your card is worth looking after.

CD-Rom cards

Some cards these days even come with their own tiny computer disk and in many ways, it doesn’t matter what – if anything – is saved on them. Most people will never have the time to find out but will assume that you have saved all manner of details about yourself on the disk.

It tells them you are technically literate and up-to-date. The risk is, as technology moves on, and disks actually becomes yesterday’s medium, the CD Rom says you are actually behind the times, or out of date.


Printing has moved on so much in recent years that cards no longer have to be printed on card. Printing on frosted plastic, for example, can look attractive and stand out from other cards. It can make you think that the person is pretty innovative, regardless of what industry they are in.

Related: Business cards and first impressions

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