Business cards might seem like simple things, but with a format so tried and trusted, there are always those people who will try to stand out from the crowd and create something a little...different.
Sometimes they succeed making an impact above and beyond normal expectations, other times, these expressions of innovation and creativity fails miserably.
These are my favourite “bad” business cards I’ve received over the years, starting with the ones that are only a little unusual, and leading up to the one and only card I’ve ever received which I had to abandon for fear of the consequences of being caught with it.
You have been warned.
Like that guy who is so tall it hurts your neck to talk to him at parties, the lanky business card is the misshapen offspring of a normal card which causes me to want to tear a bit off so it can fit correctly into my wallet (hopefully not the bit with your name).
The lanky one is always the first business card to be used as a toothpick, and so has a greater chance of being cleaned up by waiters at the after-conference dinner party than resulting in a LinkedIn profile view.
Some branding is dark - I get that. Especially if you are a fan of Cannibal Corpse (playing Dublin in March 2018 if you are so inclined) and you want darkness to be your personal branding.
But here’s an important thing.
In the debaucherous drink filled dens of post networking sin, there could be a dozen interesting conversations in a night, I might not have caught your name in the first place and depending on how late the night goes, I might have wiped out those brain cells anyway.
So instead, what I do is sneak off to the bathroom and rather than playing with my phone, I write something that will help me remember you the next day and mark you as worth following up with.
Maybe it’s that you like pineapples on pizza (good thing).
Maybe it’s that you actually like flat design (bad thing).
Either way, I’ll add a quick mnemonic and remind myself where to take up the conversation. And get this.
If I can’t write a quick note on your card (because it’s black) about why you are important to follow up with - when I come to review cards a month later, I might just forget why we wanted to do business together.
Man, I can’t even find a decent stock image for this one. Just don’t do it - ever, or there will be nothing puzzling about the fact that I never contact you.
There are three fatal flaws with hexagon shaped business cards.
The first is - they are pointy. Maybe it is just this particular card I got, but I felt I couldn’t hold it without impaling myself in that soft squishy spot between my thumb and index finger. It’s like it had a will all of it’s own to keep digging in.
The second is - they don’t stack well with others. They don’t fit nicely into my wallet. Is that really an aspect of your personality you want to communicate with me? Call me grumpy, call me judgemental, call yourself creative, it doesn’t really matter - I want my business card haul to stack nicely for later review, and the one that sticks out painfully is going on the bottom.
The third and final reason is by far and away the most important however - they are simply too much like frisbees. I derive too much pleasure seeing how far I can spin them across a room.
That’s not good for post event follow up likelihood.
It was fashionable for a time to include a QR code on your business card to an online resumé or LinkedIn profile. But to understand this card requires that you first indulge me for a sentence or two while I set the scene....
Could you please forget for a minute that it was effectively impossible to have a good looking business card that somehow still happens to have a large alternating black and white square taking up half the card...
And also, please, if you can spare your patience for a short moment, try to ignore the fact that some people tried to fix this problem by making the QR code smaller or harmonising the colours, ensuring that scanning them didn’t actually work most of the time….
And, finally - If you can give me one microsecond more, please consider that most people review business cards when they get back to their desk, meaning they’ll almost definitely be looking at them on their laptop or desktop machine…
When one particular designer I met confidently decided that design minimalism was worth any cost, and gave me a card that contained only the QR code - no name, no title, no company, no email address or anything else...I very quickly never remembered him again.
I sometimes wonder how he is doing now.
My most memorable, if least useful business card came at a startup meetup, where a lady, working on a health/beauty product offered her very unique take on a business card.
She brought forth a small metal box, and from it took a printed, material ribbon, upon which she had sprayed the pungently scented perfume from one of her products.
Memorable? Yes, totally.
Would I risk putting a strongly scented ribbon with a lady’s name and number on it in my wallet to be discovered by wife and daughter when I got home?
Not so much.
That business card was quietly left in a corner, never leaving the event. The strength of the scent left me terrified that even handling it for that brief moment would result in me being outed.
Thankfully it didn’t - on that occasion.
Sometimes making that all important business introduction involves keeping things a little less...creative.
Somewhere deep in that dark recesses of my mind, many of these stories had lurked for aeons, and only popped out when I had a fun filled (also beer filled) after-party conversation at the recent UXDX17 conference, where I promised to write up this article for some people who’s business cards I now can follow up with.
Of course, if you are looking for a company that does really great business cards, I’d totally recommend printing.ie - a family business that produces stunning high quality cards who I’m lucky to have worked with in my first real creative role after college all of about 15 years ago.
Now back to my day job :)