To remain relevant in their markets, businesses are forced to integrate their time tested systems with a new interactive social mindset created by the boom of the internet and its media outlets. Many professionals find themselves wondering if it’s worth the investment to utilize ageing traditional marketing tools. Furthermore, for those that still believe, online sources for low cost (typically sub-par) printing have diluted the quality of these resources, making many wonder: “Are business cards relevant anymore”?
I’m here to tell you the answer is “yes”. However, only a good business card is worth the effort. Keyword: “good”. A bad card could actually do more harm than good. We will cover the difference between good and bad design later.
The History of Business Cards
The history of business cards goes much further back than your dad’s first sales job. The modern day business card is the product of cultural evolution dating back to the 15th century. The Chinese began using “visiting cards” to introduce themselves when visiting another house. Over the years this practice caught on in other cultures. By the 17th century the French & English adopted “calling cards” for use in polite society to announce oneself.
Soon enough, trade cards became very popular, and everyone was using them to advertise their stores and shops. Naturally cards became a staple in the business community to introduce yourself and your business. Professionals would carry their cards everywhere, touting their latest business venture, or their newest title.
How Business Cards Have Fallen
Years ago, just having a card was a big deal. If you could afford to print 1000 pieces of paper with your name on them, you were a big deal. Then along came the internet and its quick print shops. Since then over 25 million cards are created every day. 90% of them end up in the trash within 1 week. Considering the rise of social media outlets such as Facebook, many have formed the opinion that business cards are a small, if not superfluous, part of their branding and marketing tools. Social media is basically free, so why pay for cards when you can tell someone to find you on Facebook?
Mobile technology has put a lot of pressure on traditional media. Text message advertising, internet ads, CPC and SEO approaches seem trendier. For companies looking to modernize their business, many take print, ie. Business Cards, and replace it with techy, sexy, mobile and internet based campaigns. Technology has changed the zeitgeist of business marketing.
Can Business Cards Still Be Effective?
Years ago, cards would end up in a wallet, rolodex, binder or other reference device. Today these tools are no longer used as much, if at all. They have been replaced by online search, mobile apps and general disregard for traditional print materials.
Focus has shifted from long term reference to immediate impression, but don’t settle for just a one-time impression. Why not go for gold? Business cards can be effective long term tools if they are designed properly. A well designed business card will create a solid impression. Your cards are a marketing tool. Marketing is communication. Your cards can and will communicate for you, both during and after the moment in which you pass them on. Its up to you what they communicate.
What Makes Your Business Cards Effective?
Out of the cards you exchange, the ones remembered are the ones that were industry relevant, high quality & inventive. I remember seeing cards for an environmental consultant. These cards were actually random recycled materials such as used paper & torn cardboard, stamped with their contact information. Now that is an effective card. It not only creates a conversation, it was industry relevant and memorable to the point where I still remember it in detail today. That’s effective marketing. You want effective marketing…I know you do.
Marketing is more than just words on paper. Your business cards should be too. A mechanic may consider a card of metal with a screw driver tip. A tailor may consider a card of linen with a hem line. Cards like this don’t get thrown out, they get talked about. You want your business to be talked about. Its good for your bottom line. Cards that invoke thought are effective communicators. Your cards must do more than just look good, they must be good in every way.
Like I said before, only a good card will be effective. Template cards are not good. They are generic designs that end up in the trash. Studies show that custom, colorful and inventive cards are 10x more likely to be retained. However, cards can be “over designed”. A card that has too much will confuse its reader, and separate you from your intended result. An immediate response of “this is a pretty card” may seem good at the time, but “pretty cards” with too much color, images and wording will confuse its reader and diffuse its effectiveness.
Business Cards are still a very large part of your brand identity and marketing scheme. Don’t sacrifice your cards at the altar of trends. Let your cards separate your business from your competition by setting the trends. Business cards are one of the oldest forms of traditional business communications. Make sure your cards are say what you want them to.
The January issue of The Voice paper featured an article written by RyCOM owner Ryan Rydell. We strongly suggest you go get a copy of the paper yourself. It always contains a lot of great news, views and information useful to all types of business professionals and the community in general.
For those of you that don’t or won’t get a copy, here is the article written by Ryan:
HOW TO THINK “OUTSIDE OF THE BOX”
Creative thinkers such as Graphic Designers have to approach this problem daily. Faced with new marketing needs and diverse assignments, a good designer can and will achieve a solution that others wouldn’t. Its the separation between a designer and a person with a computer program. Creative thinking begets effective solutions.
However, creative thinking isn’t exclusive to the fields of design and writing. Creative thinking is necessary in all aspects of business and personal life. You know this because you hear the cliche from every angle possible: “Think outside the box”. Frankly, its an over used term, mostly because people have failed to truly understand what it means. On the other hand, the phrase has a lot to teach us, and those that do understand its meaning, the “creative thinkers”, utilize this understanding to benefit themselves and their clients. So…what exactly does it mean to think outside the box? Furthermore, what is the box?
WHAT IS THE BOX?
First, a disclaimer: “The box” is not square, it will be different for everyone. Sometimes its a matter of education. Sometimes is a matter of philosophical or religious belief, maybe even personal life experiences. The box isn’t a universal shape applying to all people equally. Realizing this is the first step in know what the box is – for you.
Originally the phrase grew out of the idea of conventional, bland and “square” thinking. Its rooted from somewhere around the 60’s and 70’s when more and more people where challenging the norm. It’s OK to imagine it as a square cardboard box. Cause really, that’s what people end up with when thinking “inside the box”…a bland cardboard box of an idea. In application though, its much more metaphorical than that.
“The box” is what limits your thinking to your own understanding. “The box” is approaching problems the same way you always have. “The box” will make you want to think stereo-typically with a closed mind (without you even knowing it) – and with more automation than imagination. In simple terms, “the box” is everything that is typical, normal, simple and obvious. The box is bad.
WHAT IS OUTSIDE THE BOX?
A round earth, gravity, electricity, the telephone, the Internet…At one point all of these were outside the box thoughts. Ideas otherwise thought impossible, crazy and weird. We know that bland is inside the box, therefore we can assume that bold is outside the box. A mold breaking thought is almost always a creative one made by an “outside the box” thinker. Thinking inside the box is an easy way of being, in sorts, obtuse and naive to the intricate world around us. Thinking outside the box is the acceptance that anything is possible with an open mind. That there is more to the world than what we see and understand.
When you are able to think without preconceptions, full of imagination and creativity… forgetting what you “know”…that is when you are “outside the box”. Children have the easiest time thinking this way. They have little imprinted knowledge to rely on for automatic thinking. They are a sponge ready for all sorts of information. They are free thinkers not worried about how others will accept their ideas. Children just keep rolling their imagination without hesitation. They are outside of the box.
GETTING OUTSIDE THE BOX.
We all wake up everyday inside the box. We’ve been put there by many things. None of them worse than the next. All of them limiting us to bland. No one likes bland. Bland is “The Box”, and “The Box” is bad. It takes a conscious effort to break that mold. It can be done. To do this, you must accept that you don’t know everything, that you haven’t thought of everything, that someone else is better than you and that you have much room to grow. A humble mind is the most open.
Many people say that creative exercises get them outside the box. Reading backwards, drawing abstractly, observing mechanical devices, etc… Others say that music changes their perspective. Who knows, maybe food will do it for you. Whatever it is that triggers the switch, you will know its been triggered when you stop using conventional tools for creative results. If you want new ideas, new discovery, creative problem solving techniques, than you must learn to use non conventional tools. Approaching a problem from a childish perspective is a great way to free your mind. Thinking of how a solution will effect people outside of your circle will create a new perspective as well. With creative thinking, the sky is not the limit…you are.
To obtain a new perspective…a creative
Most clients consider graphic designers to be magicians who can come up with creative ideas with a swish of their wands. The “non client” sees it the other way. No matter what people think…coming up with an original design idea isn’t magic that can be whipped up in a matter of seconds. It entails an entire and elaborative procedure of transporting the idea from the designer’s brain to its final end-result.
One of the hardest parts for a graphic designer is to explain their creative process to project managers that otherwise seem to downplay the skills and necessity of the designer. Even though designers go through the entire process, still they cannot put in words the feelings attached with the entire endeavor. So how does a creative design idea reach to its final destination? Today, we analyze the different stages through which a graphic designer goes in order to develop a brilliant design idea.
1 – Learning & Training
The conception of a design idea starts with a deep learning and understanding of the fundamentals of design. Creative thinking is backed by a firm groundwork of knowledge and wisdom regarding design trends and market specific consumer patterns. Although this is not a necessary condition for achieving general creativity, with a solid background of the field, you will know how to convert ideas into reality.
Training is essential in learning how to do things properly. Regardless of whether a designer designs by hand or uses some design software, they must be fully trained in operating those resources so they don’t hinder the creative process of generating the design. Being a graphic designer, training is crucial in effectively delivering the concepts to their final stage.
This is where professionals take their first lead over what I call the “garage designer”. Just knowing how to operate a program doesn’t make you a designer…neither does a degree or certificate. Good design… professional design takes a foundation of learned and applied skill and knowledge in all aspects of the assignment at hand.
2 – Investigation
Before you can even conceive an idea, you must gain sufficient information of the client’s business. A graphic designer’s worst mistake is to jump straight to the designing stage. “Garage Designers” do this all the time and in so they fail to create a design that cooperates with the clients mission. This stage is crucial (good designers do it every time) in yielding factual and relevant ideas. The client has a goal attached to every assignment. That goal must be communicated to the designer through an enlightenment of the current missions and positions of the client. Sometimes a client will provide a design brief…usually not…and so the burden falls onto the designer to conduct a full-throttle investigation of the relevant things required in the design process.
3 – Ideation
After filling your mind with sufficient data and information related to the subject, you will now encounter the phase where several small but creative revelations pop into your head that you can utilize in your design. In this stage, the idea is not fully hatched and needs to be incubated in order to emerge. The designers note down all the tiny bits and pieces of thoughts and inspiration that come in their mind. Its basically the “brain storming” phase where all the ideas pop out.
After these ideas have populated the graphic designer is finally in the stage to produce a creative idea. I call this stage IDEATION (Idea + Generation). This is where designers filter out the small bits and pieces of creativity and convert it into a proper graphic design idea. This process involves analyzing all the possible designs and eliminating each one at a time until you are left with the best one. Survival of the fittest.
4 – Execution
The creative process isn’t over just yet. One of the common misconceptions in graphic designing isthat creative process terminates once the idea has been generated. Without proper execution, you creative ideas are bound to fail and your strenuous labor will go down the drain. The execution phase involves converting the sketches into digital format, adding colors, effects and final testing on various mediums.
This is where all of the previous steps start to show their fruit. This stage is where REAL graphic designers steal the show away from those “garage designers”. While executing the design one may have to reevaluate the entire design. Maybe the mission has changed, or the client ads another variable to the mix. Without the experience of the previous stages, this step is impossible to perfect.
5 – Delivery
Once the creative has been complete you must deliver the final product. One must have the know how to deliver the design in the necessary formats. What good is a business card design if it doesn’t have the necessary bleed and safe margins for proper printing protocol? Does the client require additional formats for personal application to websites, signage, other professionals, etc…
Delivery caps off the project with a WOW factor. “Garage Designers” seldom receive that Wow! “Good Designers” strive for that Wow! “Great Designers” take pride in receiving the Wow! every single time.
After the final approval (and Wow!) from the client, then only can your creative design process be considered as successfully completed.
aspects of this blog are credited to graphicdesignblog.org