What should I put on my business card?
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:
- Email address
- QR code AND/OR a link leading to a landing page or something like an about.me 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?