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What Makes a Business Card ‘Cool?’

cool business card design If you’re someone whose work puts in you in contact with new people on a regular basis, you probably have a substantial supply of business cards. Doubtlessly, you also have a nice collection of business cards from the professionals you meet. Perhaps you’ve encountered one or two that caused you to pause and examine it more closely, thinking “Wow, that’s a cool card!”

It’s an accomplishment when something as common as a business card can hold anyone’s attention for more than a split second. But their purpose is to tell recipients something about the person handing it out. Bright colors, gilded printing, or odd shapes that don’t inform others about what makes you (or the business you represent) worth knowing, is the equivalent of an engine backfiring amidst the usual background noise. Folks notice briefly; then go their merry ways.

A quick Google search for ‘cool business card designs’ will quickly turn up many, many examples of some that aren’t so easily forgotten. For instance, we ran across this list at boredpanda.com. Included are a fitness trainer’s card in the form of an overweight man. A perforation lets you instantly remove his pot belly. Another from a yoga instructor shows a young woman contorting herself. Fingers inserted through holes in this card, creates the illusion her touching the top of her head with the bottom of her feet. A card from a divorce lawyer is perforated to split right down the middle. (The attorney’s contact information is on both sides.)

These examples are very clever, but more importantly, they help reinforce the value of the purveyors’ services. That they get the message across in a unique and entertaining way, also suggests that this is not just another cookie-cutter operation. (Of course, a nifty business card may have been the only innovative thing any of these businesses have ever done, but “so what?” as long as they produce sales leads.)

Now words of caution: clever or ‘cool’ business cards may not be right for your business. Or rather, any unusual element about your business card should match your brand image. Humor isn’t automatically the right tone for every kind of business. Additionally, some companies prefer to stress seriousness and authoritativeness over wit and frivolity. This isn’t to say that sober professions can’t have distinctive business cards. However, a funeral home with a card that lets you lift a casket cover to reveal information, isn’t something you want to give grieving clients.

And no matter how breathtaking the design, a business card must always be functional. First, there’s a reason most cards are sized and shaped as they are. Often when we receive a business card, our shirt or blazer pockets, wallets, or pocketbooks are about the only places that we can easily save them. Otherwise, we’d either have to carry them or look for a trash can. The design must also accommodate the person’s name, contact information, a company name and probably a business tagline or statement about the kind of services or products being offered. Finally, business cards should also complement existing branding in terms of color choices, fonts or use of imagery. That’s a lot of design boxes to check!

Is it worth the effort to attempt a cool business card? Well, it’s probably not a ‘must have’ for your marketing materials. Don’t be pressured, and don’t force anything. Have your attractive, functional and brand-consistent business cards, but keep an open mind. Then, when great idea comes to you—or from an employee, friend or family member—go for it!

Check out some of our other articles about design and business development.

Thinking about Stock Photography Choices

Tampa Bay marketing firmIf you’ve spent any time perusing ads or websites of SMBs (or larger companies that don’t do much consumer advertising), you’ve probably seen identical photographs pop up occasionally.  Those are stock photography images — and for a reasonable fee, they are available for just about anyone’s use.

Overexposure of popular images is the most obvious danger of using stock photography. There have been cases of different companies with the same stock photo seeing their ads placed side-by-side ads in a publication. (Whomever did the layout deserved a good spanking!) By and large, however, the relatively miniscule cost of stock photos versus a professional photoshoot can make the risk worthwhile when budget is a factor.

And actually, the embarrassment of seeing a photo of “your” smiling customer service representative apparently moonlighting for an unseemly industry, isn’t really the worst thing that can happen when it comes to using stock photography.

No, the biggest stock photography danger is having an image that doesn’t work with the message that it’s supposed to convey. This could be due to pictures which are so generic that they carry the visual impact of plain beige walls at the local DMV. Or they could be quite interesting images that are, nevertheless, badly mismatched to the message. Unfortunately, this problem comes from the “off-the-rack” nature of stock photography, so to mitigate such inherent deficiencies, here are a five helpful strategies:

  • Be mindful of your brand image – The message in any marketing communication is more than just the words to be read or heard. It should also express your brand’s most important value proposition—e.g. what makes your company special and most inspires people to do business with you. So when you flesh out the theme for your particular marketing piece with imagery, keep in mind that you’ll want to reinforce a specific, clear message and also complement your brand identity

 

  • Let the message drive the process – Before you start looking for images, you’ll need a concept or theme for your ad, brochure, website, etc.  Basically, this means copy first—or at least you should have some headlines and subheads in hand to substantially narrow the image possibilities. This may seem limiting—mostly because it is—and that’s a good thing. The narrower your imagery focus, the less likely you’ll use the same picture as a thousand other companies; and the better the picture reinforces the copy, the more effective your message will be. And if you can’t find a picture that works with your copy, you can alter the wording or look for a new concept … but don’t force it.

 

  • Use search filters – Assuming you’re getting your stock images from one of many online services (Deposit Photos, Shutterstock,  iStockphoto, etc.), how you set your search parameters will greatly affect your ability to find a good image. For example, with or without people, a specific color scheme to match the piece (or your company/logo colors). You can also filter by orientation (horizontal, vertical, square) so that any necessary cropping will be less likely to damage the picture’s visual impact.

 

  • Choose your search key words thoughtfully – Your online search will also require some key words. As a starting point, try to think of a noun to match your target audience. Now throw in a couple of important words from your proposed headline. Next think of a word that could convey a specific benefit or activity associated with the message you’re hoping to convey. Finally throw in a word associated with your brand. Once you do this, you’ll probably get nothing … or nothing useful. But this exercise is still worthwhile in making you cognizant of the parameters you should honor with your key word search. Even as you tweak the word choices, you probably won’t be able to find an image that checks every box. Just make sure not to choose any picture that works in direct opposition to any of the qualities you were originally seeking.

 

  • Get feedback – You’ve looked at the images and headlines together and think you’ve achieved perfect symbiosis for uniformly conveying your message. Now get the opinions of a few people whose marketing judgement you trust. If you ask five people for their opinions, you’ll probably find that two enthusiastically like it, one will say it’s “okay,” another will offer a different concept idea completely, and one won’t get it at all. If so, congratulations, you did alright! Any reaction worse than this, though, you might want to rethink things. Of course, you should take any valid criticisms to heart and make adjustments accordingly.

Unless you have a very robust marketing budget, stock photography will probably be an important element in your marketing materials and online presence. That’s fine. Just as a suit off the rack may not fit as perfectly as a tailored garment, with a little forethought and a critical eye, there’s still no reason you can’t still look very, very good.

Logo Design and Corporate Identity Manuals

Tampa Bay advertising agency, graphic design, web design, brochure design, newsletter design, logo designThe history of graphic design is extensive and can be traced back hundreds of years. For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on graphic design as it was forming during the industrial era, and how the appearance and growth of corporations affected one aspect of graphic design in particular – logos.

Once upon a time, graphic designers were more likely to work full-time for a company for many years, unlike today, where there is an entire workforce of talented freelance designers that complete projects on a contractual basis. At the onset of corporate graphic design, the designer who created a logo, tagline or slogan for his or her company knew how the logo was to be used on all materials. However, it soon became clear that it would be necessary to communicate the proper usage to other people both inside and outside the company. After all, the designer couldn’t work at the company forever, and graphic designers also began to work outside companies as consultants. Thus, the corporate identity manual was born.

The practice of creating the corporate identity manual developed after WWII, as it was around this time that graphic designers began working more frequently as consultants on a contractual basis. The corporate identity manual is often a work of art in and of itself, as the designers showcase the many uses of a company’s logo, its color palette, typography, and proper orientations of the logo and other text. The purpose is to communicate to other designers how to apply the corporate identity, including logo, slogan and tagline, in a variety of formats and also how not to use the pieces in a design. Today, a corporate identity manual will describe both digital and print applications to maintain consistent design across all platforms.

A well-known designer (in the graphic design world at least), Lester Beall, can be credited with some of the earliest corporate identity manuals. He designed the manuals with care, and the books themselves are creations of beauty. Examples of his work for insurance company, Connecticut General, are seen below. The pieces are so appealing that they could be framed and hung on a wall rather than simply be used for their practical purpose. It is in this practicality and simplicity that the beauty of these manuals resides.

logo design corporate identity program

logo corporate identity program

Corporate identity manuals can be quite fascinating and beautiful, existing in the unique space of being both practical guides for other designs, as well as works of design artistry themselves. Check out this list of 50 stunning corporate identity manuals for ideas.

Pinstripe Marketing’s logo design program is built around helping you discover your company’s character, and we can help you create a logo and corporate identity manual that will set the tone for your company’s success. Our creative team consists of listeners and discoverers that have an innate ability to help you achieve your vision. Contact us to tell us more about your company and the logo you envision.