Should Designers’ Business Cards Be Designed?

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Should designers’ business cards be “designed?”

I’m frequently asked this question by design students, and cut short by the paradox. In today’s digital age, designers have a plethora of ways to get their names out into the world: personal websites, design blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The idea of the business card has certainly become a bit antiquated, despite its significance. When I meet a designer for the first time—particularly a student, a junior designer, or an interviewee—leaving with a business card is a great token of memorability. In fact, the more personal the cards are, the more engaged I am, and the more likely I am to check out their work. But should they be “designed?”

In Ellen Lupton’s book D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself, she introduces ideas for business cards which can be done with readily available typography in Microsoft Word. This is spectacular way to polarize young designers and their beliefs about design, typography and computer programs. After all, it’s much easier to learn to use InDesign and Photoshop than it is to learn how to set elegant typography or, dare I say, come up with an actual idea. She went on to explain that business cards act as a portrait of oneself, and I could not agree more.

My cards become an extension of who I am, which ultimately embodies my spirit as a designer. And that’s difficult to accomplish, which is why I think some designers, especially students, fall back on unneeded die cuts, heaps of embossing, or oversized cards. Unless I have an awesome idea, or I’m a specialist in hand-lettering and/or illustration, focusing on making them cleverly simple is a challenge in and of itself. I can still create cards that feel like “me” without making them labored.

Below are some of my personal favorites; an eclectic collection of cards that are participatory, wildly flamboyant, highly conceptual, ridiculously tasty, or just plain funny. All are smart, all are beautiful, and all are supreme examples of what a designer can do when they turn up (or down) the volume. Unless you can rock them like this, I’d be careful with any embellishments.

Paul Sahre‘s studio sits above a Dunkin’ Donuts. (Thanks to Paul for sending this image!)

Kim Bost asks us to participate.

Jessica Hische flexes her typographic talent.

William Morrisey shows us that what comes around, goes around.

Jennifer Daniel is a “Unicorn Groomer.”

Justina Chang (who’s still a student!) accumulates “Bunny Power.”

These are Derrick and Wei Lee’s cards for Mother Design. Not their personal cards, but hey, nothing could be more personal than Mom.

What do you think? Should designers’ cards be designed? Do you relish in the fun tricks, die cuts, and lenticulars, or should we just keep it simple and straightforward? Have any examples of your favorites? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

In the end, perhaps simplicity will always do a designer good. Check out Paul Rand’s card.