Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

What should I put on my business card?

with 23 comments

I’ve been following a great NMRT listserv discussion about business cards for MLS students/new professionals. I thought it might be nice to synthesize some of the advice in a blog post, along with offering some thoughts of my own.

Traditionally, print business cards were standalone pieces, designed to provide a glimpse of an individual’s qualifications and contact information. Cards included things like an individual’s name, mailing address, phone number, fax number, office location, etc. However, business cards have undergone major transformation within our increasingly digital era. They now have the potential to provide a gateway to an individual’s full-fledged online persona.

So, what should we put on our print business cards? As a designer, I am a fan of less text. Using visual elements to create an impact is something I am always striving to improve in my own work, and that includes personal branding/identity management. Instead of listing every little detail in lines of uninspiring text (typography is the most difficult design decision for most individuals), I would advocate for the following:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • QR code AND/OR a link leading to a landing page or something like an profile
  • Optional – If you are a student, you may consider including “MLS Candidate, Institution Name, Year of Graduation” next to or beneath your name. This indicates to potential employers and new contacts that you are on the market.

Potential things to include on your landing page: LinkedIn profile (if you don’t have one, go make one now), Twitter (if you tweet professional or pseudo-professionally), email, Skype, e-portfolio, blog, major awards/recognition (Library Journal Mover & Shaker, ALA Spectrum Scholar, ALA Councilor, etc.).

Using a QR code on your business card is a quick and easy way to link smart phone users to your virtual persona. QR codes are becoming more and more popular (I recently spotted one in a Sephora magazine and another one on a table tent in the University dining hall). You can generate a barcode for free as sites like this QR-Code Generator. The only thing to keep in mind is that not everyone has a smart phone (I don’t), and some who do may not have downloaded a barcode scanner. I would recommend including a short link in addition to the QR code for individuals who either don’t have barcode-scanning capacity or who are unfamiliar with QR code technology.

If that seems sparse, don’t worry. White space is one of the most valuable elements designers can have in their toolbox. Consisting of the empty space between and around graphical elements and text, white space provides breathing room and is sometimes referred to as negative space. It gives the viewer’s eye a chance to rest, along with subtle cues regarding intended visual path. Although a business card is small space-wise, visual clues and breathing room are still important. Use remaining space on the card to make some kind of personal statement, through colors (fun, professional, minimalistic), a logo, a quotation, embossing, etc. You can find some great examples on The Business Card Flickr group. Be wary of cramming too much on both sides of the business card – many people like to write notes on the back about where and when they met you, things to follow up on, etc.

Some might argue for including your job title on your business card, but I think if you want to remain flexible, leave it off. You can always include a section on your job/institution on your landing page. Plus, when you purchase business cards (check out sites like VistaPrint and MOO), you usually have to buy them in large quantities. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck with a box of outdated and useless business cards (although there are some fun things you can do with them; check out cards of change). However, you could put a more generic title after your name (one that’s not tied to your business or institution), like “Information Professional”, “Graphic Design Guru” or “Instructional Designer”.

There are lots of other voices out there, some even pondering whether print business cards are dying.What do you think? What’s on your card?


Written by Erin Dorney

February 7, 2011 at 8:39 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Good ideas here! Business cards certainly are changing. I’ve noticed that I come back from conferences with a lot more of my own cards and a lot fewer of other peoples’ than I used to, but I still think they’re useful.

    As a less new (hopefully not old?) professional, my perspective about job title is different. Information about my job and my workplace is the most important thing on my card. Of course, my cards are provided by my employer. For a new librarian who may still be working toward that first professional job, I can see leaving it off.


    February 7, 2011 at 9:20 AM

  2. Great post — thanks for sharing! I’m a current MLS student, and hold a paraprofessional position in a public library. My job doesn’t give me business cards, but I have thought about getting some made for when I attend conferences or professional events. This is very useful info.


    February 7, 2011 at 10:10 AM

  3. I’ve been wondering this myself lately, as I have been asked for a card more than once recently and didn’t have one. Thanks for the resources. For a while I considered trying a digital card using any one of the Apps available, but decided against it since its clear many people still use and prefer paper cards. When I do get around to making mine I will probably opt for something very simple and minimal – name, email address, “Information Professional” and website.

    Two requests – any chance we could see a pic of your card? And would you mind if I reposted this post over at the hacklibschool blog (giving you full credit of course)? This is exactly the type of resource we would love to include in our content. Thanks Erin!

    Micah Vandegrift

    February 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM

  4. @Tara – I see what you mean about your job title – I have a business card from my institution and there is no personalization allowed. It is strictly business – institutional name and logo, my name, job title and department, phone, fax, email address and the mailing address and website of the university. No fun! My post was mainly directed to those considering making their own business cards (either because their institution doesn’t allow personalization like mine or because they are students or looking for employment).

    @LibGirl09 – Glad I could help! I had some business cards as a paraprofessional a few years back but they were very strict (no personalization allowed). Where are you getting your master’s degree from? Best of luck!

    @ Micah – I think with the new business card becoming more of a portal to your online persona, you have an opportunity to showcase some artistic talent and make a statement with your printed card. At ALA last summer I received an absolutely stunning letterpress business card from my friend Jason (of the Dean Files: It always sticks out in my mind. As for your requests – yes, go ahead and report this on the hacklibschool blog, I would love that! As for my own card, I am in the process of re-designing it (my creativity has been rekindled as a result of writing this post) but I will be sure to post it here once I’m finished.


    February 7, 2011 at 2:28 PM

  5. I would add something to this – if you have a professional card, give that to people, as well as a more personal card. I would also suggest that folks get theirs done in a manner that suits them. This meant for me a letterpressed card (Firefly Press does some mind-blowingly amazing work) thanks for the shout-out on that!

    I’ll say that tailoring your card to what you want to do is great – something professional, but different and creative was just the ticket for me as an art librarian. I love the physical card, but a great alternative I have found is My Name is E. Here’s my card on there:

    So there’s my ramblings on that. Ha.

    Jason W. Dean

    February 7, 2011 at 7:38 PM

  6. Excellent post. My employer doesn’t provide me with business cards (I’m in a paraprofessional position), so I had my own made on etsy about a year ago. I chose to list “information professional” under my name. I’m job-hunting and I don’t want to be limited to traditional library positions, ‘information professional’ seemed broad enough. I also have my location, cell phone number, e-mail and website. I like the idea of having a landing page with all pertinent links; I’ll have to do that the next time I have some printed up.


    February 8, 2011 at 8:40 AM

  7. @Erin – I’m in my second semester at The Catholic University of America.


    February 8, 2011 at 10:13 AM

  8. I was going to mention the cards I designed for Jason however; I see that was already done. 🙂

    I think having some sort of contact card is an excellent idea. The idea is that the card should give insight into what you do, whatever that may be. If you are a graphics person, let the graphics speak for themselves with you name and simple contact info. If you are a writer, perhaps a quote. If you are a mathematician, how about an equation. Scientist, have you CV with labs you have worked in listed. Etc, etc.

    Jen Dean

    February 8, 2011 at 9:04 PM

  9. […] and it was extremely cheap. What should you put on them? See Erin Dorney’s extremely helpful post. You need to make your own networking opportunities, so don’t wait for a librarian to talk to […]

  10. This is an extraordinarily helpful post (especially for someone with an MLS but no professional job, like me!)–thanks for sharing your advice!

    Megan H.

    February 9, 2011 at 10:25 AM

  11. Ok, just a thought – two sided card, one side is just your name and a good email address, and the back is a QR code linking you a website where your CV is.

    Jason W. Dean

    February 11, 2011 at 10:02 AM

  12. When I was in library school I had a two-sided card made. The front had my name and a design that matched my website, the back had my contact info and a picture of me. It might seem weird to put your picture on a card, but I gave most of them out at conference. If you’re like me, you come home from conference with dozens of business cards and try to remember why you have them. I started writing “bald guy with bow tie” or “25ish, red glasses, awesome necklace” on the back of each of mine right after walking away from the person. So, I thought that having a picture of me on the back would help people remember who I was and possibly want to hire me.

    I ordered mine through Moo – – and the quality was fantastic.

    Oh, and I ended up with a job. 🙂


    February 13, 2011 at 10:40 PM

  13. A picture is a great idea! I wish everyone did that.


    February 14, 2011 at 1:39 AM

  14. @ Jason – ooo thanks for the heads up about

    @ Julia – I never thought about checking Etsy for personalized business cards… what a great idea.

    @ LibGirl09 – Best of luck, let me know if there is anything I can do to help and be sure to check out if you haven’t already.

    @ Jen – I looove the cards you designed for Jason 🙂 I also love the idea of an equation for a mathematician – particularly something large, in a beautiful font.

    @ Megan – Thanks for the comment! Good luck on the job search.

    @ lea – Wow, picture! What a great idea – it would be SO helpful! I know it’s sometimes weird when you take a business card back home after a conference and look the person up online and there winds up being more than one person with that name (on FB, Twitter, etc). A photo would clear that right up and help to make more visual connections… thanks for the comment!


    February 14, 2011 at 2:02 AM

  15. When I was in library school, I got business cards and made the mistake of putting “anticipated graduation date” since it became outdated after graduating. My current two-sided business card shows my B.S. and M.S., LinkedIn URL, email address and professional interests. I ordered a bunch from VistaPrint. Now I’m debating about getting new business cards as I keep coming across great business card ideas and suggestions. I know a colleague who makes her own and prints a few cards at a time, so she can change her card design whenever. ~Lisa


    February 18, 2011 at 4:29 PM

  16. […] Erin Dorney’s excellent blog post. Here are pictures of my business card from last year and Annie’s business card. I went to […]

  17. These sound like great suggestions. I would have never thought to put a picture on a business card, but it makes sense if you collect a lot at a conference and need to remember someone.

    Evelyn N. Alfred

    January 9, 2012 at 12:13 PM

  18. @ Thanks Evelyn! Ditto about the picture – I never thought about it before lea shared the suggestion. Makes sense though 🙂

    Erin Dorney

    January 9, 2012 at 12:37 PM

  19. Your Business card tips are very useful! As a recent Graduate with a MSLIS I am in the process of creating my business cards and came across your blog. Thanks again!


    November 2, 2012 at 11:52 AM

  20. Reblogged this on LILABRARY.


    February 28, 2013 at 3:08 AM

  21. […] idea to put a picture on my card after the combination of a) The comments in Erin Dorney’s helpful post about business cards for library school students, and b) Coming home from conferences with stacks […]

  22. […] and particularly if you don’t have any other online resume or web/blogging presence. In her post about business cards, Erin Dorney suggests including a QR code that links to your blog/website/LinkedIn […]

  23. […] and particularly if you don’t have any other online resume or web/blogging presence. In her post about business cards, Erin Dorney suggests including a QR code that links to your blog/website/LinkedIn […]

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