Extreme Makeover: The Business Card Edition

Is your business card boring? Well, probably. You may think that business cards and Rolodexes are going the way of the Edsel, but think again. Sure, you have a sparkling personality and a fascinating company, but if I meet you at a networking event or at a conference, I'm highly unlikely to remember you unless I have your card. And yes, I know all about Bump, but guess what? I was at SXSW with the cool kids last March and business cards were still the preferred method of contact information exchange. So you need one, and you need it to say something memorable about you and your company. Richard Moross, the CEO of MOO.com, which is one of many companies where you can order business cards online, offers the following five elements you should consider when designing your card:
FORM. So often ignored as a differentiator, the shape of your business card can really help to make a lasting impact. Exciting new form factors like folded, round and other oddly shaped cards are a great conversation starter and will set your business apart from 'the squares'. Who cares if they refuse to fit in a Rolodex: be unconventional and you'll always be remembered.

THEATRE. As unique as your cards look, there's also a real art to giving out your details. The Japanese have even developed a ritual around it. I have hundreds of different pictures on my cards (each one a different part of the world I've visited or an incredible meal I've eaten) and I love to give people a choice when handing out my cards. I lay them all out on the table and ask them to pick one that they like, I then tell them the story about the picture, where it was taken and so on. It's amazing what a little theatre can do in making an impression, so think about different ways in which to give out your cards. You could leave a blank space that you fill in when you hand them over ("you met me in ... Delaware!)", or buy a cool business card holder that enhances the ritual of card giving.

STOCK. The medium is the message, as they say, so pick a paper stock that says something about you, one that tells a good story. In running MOO, I've seen an amazing range of papers, from the recycled stock we use, which comes from a wind-powered paper factory, to a paper that actually contains tiny little seeds which will flower if you plant the card in your garden and water it. Got real money to spend? Try wooden or metal cards, which can be laser etched with your details or, alternatively, play it cheap and eco and print your details on a sticker that you can affix to used bus tickets or old postcards before you give them out.

PERSONALITY. Probably the hardest part in designing a good business card is deciding what you should write on it. Beyond the usual name and contact details, what else should you say about yourself? Like with the rest of the card, being bold and smart will give your card a major advantage, but being personal and human is the killer move. Start with something simple, your Twitter or Flickr URL, or perhaps your Last.fm username (to show off your bizarre taste in music). Business doesn't have to be impersonal and doing what you love should be fun, so use your card to tell people about yourself and your passion for the business: let your personality shine through.

IMAGES. It's one of the simplest and most effective business card design choices, but adding photos to cards is rarely done well. So often people opt for boring headshots or sterile poses. Liven it up! Do something funny in a photo or use photos to tell the recipient some great things about your business. About 80% of our customers use photos on their cards, and we're lucky enough to have some of the world's most creative businesses as our customers, so we've seen some great design ideas. Whatever the execution, stop thinking like a business and start thinking like an ad agency: use photos to bring your company to life.

Resource: If you're game for a business card makeover, Moo.com is now offering free redesigns to 500 small companies through its Business Card Project. Small businesses can send in pictures of their old, stale, lame cards and MOO will choose 500 to redo - totaling more than $250,000 worth of design services.