Business card

Business card

Business cards are cards bearing business information about a company or individual. They are shared during formal introductions as a convenience and a memory aid. A business card typically includes the giver's name, company affiliation (usually with a logo) and contact information such as street addresses, telephone number(s), fax number, e-mail addresses and website. It can also include telex, bank account, tax code. Traditionally many cards were simple black text on white stock; today a professional business card will sometimes include one or more aspects of striking visual design.

Business cards are frequently used during sales calls (visits) to provide potential customers with a means to contact the business or representative of the business.


Business cards evolved from a fusion of traditional trade cards and visiting cards.

Visiting cards (also known as calling cards) first appeared in China in the 15th century, and in Europe in the 17th century. The footmen of aristocrats and of royalty would deliver these first European visiting cards to the servants of their prospective hosts solemnly introducing their arrival.

Visiting cards became an indispensable tool of etiquette, with sophisticated rules governing their use. The aristocracies of North America and the rest of Europe adopted the practice from French and English etiquette.

Visiting cards included refined engraved ornaments and fantastic coats of arms. The visiting cards served as tangible evidence of the meeting of social obligations. The stack of cards in the card tray in the hall was a handy catalog of exactly who had called and whose calls one should reciprocate. They also provided a streamlined letter of introduction.

With the passage of time, visiting cards became an essential accessory to any 19th-century upper or middle class lady or gentleman. Visiting cards were not generally used among country folk or the working classes.

Trade cards first became popular at the beginning of the 17th century in London. These functioned as advertising and also as maps, directing the public to merchants' stores, as no formal street address numbering system existed at the time.

Businesses used their cards as marks of distinction and thus introduced the first modifications in their design. Later, as the growing demand for the cards boosted the development of color printing, more sophisticated card designs appeared, making the cards works of art.

The trend toward fanciful trade cards was balanced by the pragmatic need of a growing group of private entrepreneurs who had a constant need to exchange contact information. These users often started to print out their own cheaper business cards.


Aspect ratios reach from 1.42 to 1.8.
Standard Dimensions (mm) Dimensions (in) Aspect ratio
ISO 7810 ID-1, credit card sized 85.60 × 53.98 3.370 × 2.125 1.586
ISO 216, A8 sized 74 × 52 2.913 × 2.047 1.423
Australia, New Zealand 90 × 55 3.54 × 2.165 1.636
Canada, United States, The Netherlands 89 × 51 3.5 × 2 1.75
Yongō, used in Japan 91 × 55 3.582 × 2.165 1.655
IT, UK, FR, DE, ES 85 × 55 3.346 × 2.165 1.545
Czech Republic, Hungary 90 × 50 3.543 × 1.968 1.8
People's Republic of China 90 × 54 3.543 × 2.125 1.667

In print

Business cards are printed on some form of card stock with exact parameters dependent on national or local norms, the desired effect and method of printing, and cost. The common weight of a business card may vary on your location. Generally, business cards are printed on stock that is 250g/m2 (weight) or 12pt (thickness).

High quality business cards without full-color photographs are normally printed using spot colors on sheetfed offset printing presses. Some companies have gone so far as to trademark their spot colors (examples are UPS brown, Los Angeles Lakers' purple, and Tide's orange). If a business card logo is a single color and the type is another color, the process is considered two color. More spot colors can be added depending on the needs of the card. With the onset of digital printing, it is cost effective to print business cards in full color.

To simulate the "raised-print" effect of printing with engraved plates, a less-expensive process called thermography was developed that uses the application of a plastic powder, which adheres to the wet ink. The cards are then passed through a heating unit, which melts the plastic onto the card. Spot UV varnish onto matte laminate can also have a similar effect.

Full color cards, or cards that use many colors, are printed on sheetfed presses as well; however, they use the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) four-color printing process. Screens of each color overprinted on one another create a wide gamut of color. The downside to this printing method is that screened colors if examined closely will reveal tiny dots, whereas spot color cards are printed solid in most cases. Spot colors should be used for simple cards with line art.

Some terminology in reference to full color printing:

  • 4/0 - Full Color Front / No Back
  • 4/1 - Full Color Front / One color to reverse
  • 4/4 - Full Color Front / Full Color Back

These names are pronounced as "four back zero" or "four back four".

A business card can also be coated with a UV glossy coat (offset-uv Printing). The coat is applied just like another ink using an additional unit on a sheetfed press. That being said, UV coats can also be applied as a spot coating - meaning areas can be coated, and other areas can be left uncoated. This creates additional design potential.

Business Cards can also be printed with a digital copier, which uses toner baked onto the surface of the card. Generally these cards have to be printed on lighter stocks so as to not damage the copier. To compensate for this a UV coating or plastic lamination can be applied to thicken the cards up and make them more durable.

UV coats, and other coatings such as Aqueous Coatings are used to speed manufacturing of the cards. Cards that are not dry will "offset" which means the ink from the front of one card will end up on the back of the next one. UV coatings are generally highly glossy but are more likely to fingerprint, while aqueous coatings are not noticeable but increase the life of the card. It is possible to use a dull aqueous coating on uncoated stock and get some very durable uncoated cards.

When cards are designed, they are given bleeds if color extends to the edge of the finished cut size. (A bleed is the extension of printed lines or colors beyond the line where the paper it is printed on will be cut.) This is to help ensure that the paper will cut without white edges due to very small differences in where the blade cuts the cards, and it is almost impossible to cut the cards properly without. Just being a hair off can result in white lines, and the blade itself will pull the paper while cutting. The image on the paper can also shift from page to page which is called a bounce, which is generally off by a hairline on an offset press, but can be quite larger on lower end equipment such as a copier or a duplicator press. Bleeds are typically an extra to in to all sides of the card.

  • Bleed Size: 3.759 × 2.25 in ( in bleeds) (95.25 × 57.15 mm)
  • Cut Size: 3.57 × 2 in (89 × 51 mm) (Depend on typography request)

Other formats

Recent technological advances have made CD-ROM "business cards" possible which can hold about 35 to 100 MB of data. These cards may be square, round or oblong but are approximately the same size as a conventional business card. CD business cards are designed to fit within the 80 mm tray of a computer's CD-ROM drive. They are playable in most computer CD drives, however do not work in slot-loading drives. Despite the ability to include dynamic presentations and a great deal of data, these discs are not in common use as business cards.

Most handheld computers have the ability to wirelessly transmit (through either infra-red or Bluetooth or RFID) an electronic business card, eliminating the need for the recipient to re-key the contact information. This is also done via SMS on most mobile telephones.

Special materials

Apart from common business cards made of paper/card there are also special business cards made from plastic (PVC), especially frosted translucent plastic, crystal clear plastic, white or metallic plastic. Other extraordinary materials are metal, rubberized cards, rubber, magnets and even real wood. For the most part those special material business cards are of standard format, preferably with rounded corners. These new materials are extremely popular amongst companies that wish a unique and eye catching look.


There are several hundred known collectors of business cards, especially antique cards, celebrity cards, or cards made of unusual materials. One of the major business card collectors' clubs is the IBCC, International Business Card Collectors. IBCC members exchange cards with other members, simply for the price of postage. Collectors often shorten the words "business card" to BC to make e-mail discussion easier.

See also


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