Why Hugh MacLeod’s Art Should Not Be on Your Business Cards 11

Candice Landau's business cards showing Hugh MacLeod's work on the back

A few weeks ago I attended my first Eugene-based baseball game with a colleague from work who was meeting up with a few of his friends. I had forgotten that that morning I’d elected to wear my own jewelry—a necklace and earring set with my Africanz men on them (jewelry is a side hobby/business of mine). At the game, a couple of the women I was sitting with commented on the jewelry, “Are those really little men?” They were amazed by the size and the level of detail. So, I gave them each a business card.

Guess what happened?

The topic of conversation abruptly changed. They commented on the cards! Now that would be awesome if the cards included pictures of my own jewelry—but they don’t. The ones I have incorporate pictures of monsters and quirky “marketing-ish” sayings by a well-established marketer/artist (aka NOT ME). I ordered them last year from moo.com to be used at marketing and networking events. I’d used them only once before when I attended a Meetup on Transmedia in San Francisco and I got a similar reaction. The conversation went from being about the freelance digital marketing services I was offering to being about someone else’s art. The same thing happened at the baseball game. From my own jewelry to someone’s else’s art.

Your business card should aid the discussion you’ve been having rather than direct people away from it.

Regardless of the industry you’re in, when networking or selling, moving the focus from you to someone else that bears no relevance to you, is terrible. Your business card should aid the discussion you’ve been having rather than direct people away from it.

In all instances that I have handed out the current cards I have, it has put the focus on Hugh MacLeod’s work instead of mine. Hugh is great at what he does but he doesn’t pay me to market for him and he’s famous enough without needing my help. Which means…it’s time for new cards and perhaps time to get thinking about how “my brand” is reflected and enhanced by those cards.

Having said that, of the few Hugh MacLeod cards I’ve handed out, more than half of the people I gave them to did end up getting in touch. However, none of those people purchased my jewelry. In all likelihood the little monsters did generate interest and prompt people to check out my website but they didn’t help sell my product.

Things to think about before you order your business cards

  1. What action to you want people to take? The information on your business card should reflect this and prompt them to take that action.
  2. Does your card reflect you or your brand? It should. You want people to associate you with your business or product, not to think of someone else when they think of you.
  3. Is your card going to aid the discussion or help you sell yourself or your business? It shouldn’t just be contact details, it should supplement what you do. Before you jump at the opportunity to have quirky little monsters scrawled on the back of your card (with someone else’s Twitter handle on the artwork), think about what you want others to think about! VistaPrint used to advertise free business cards (you still had to pay shipping). The real catch was the small print on the back of every single one of your business cards: a link to Vista Print’s own website. Today it looks as though the back of these cards is blank, so maybe there was enough of an outcry!
  4. YOU! If you run the type of business that could benefit from having a picture attached to it (literally any type of artistic enterprise), you should have that on your card. In 2010 I competed in a business plan competition in Bath, England. One of my competitors had a business card that was more than just attractive, it was a portfolio and a sales tool. I can’t remember exactly what her business model was but I do remember that it had something to do with the creation of unique textiles. To get the point across, on the back of each of her business cards was a sample of one of the textiles she’d created. Every time she handed one of her cards to someone else in the room, she got a reaction. People could see what she did instantly. It gave her credibility and it kept the focus on her. More than that, it let them sample the quality of her work. If you can do something like this, go for it.

Where to find a business card designer

Finding a site or person to design your cards is pretty easy. I recently had my designs made by an Etsy graphic design artist. I was actually her first customer and because she was just getting started on Etsy, she gave me a brilliant deal. I got a logo, two business card designs and a social media branding package for $100, and she was good!

A lot of the websites that offer to print your business card will also offer to design them. I haven’t tried any of those services, primarily because I like to see a portfolio of work first and work with someone that has a face.

  • Etsy—as I said above, this is a great resource for anyone that is looking to work with an individual. Plus, on Etsy, it’s easy to see how reliable an artist is based on feedback and reviews. Don’t be put off by a low number of sales. It’s really hard to “rank” on Etsy. In fact, I’ve found it harder to sell on this marketplace than on any other. 
  • Pinterest—if you’re just looking for ideas, I can’t recommend Pinterest enough. There are hundreds of users with “creative business card idea” boards. Even I have one and I’m not in the business of making them. The nice thing about Pinterest is that most of the time, if you click an image you get taken to the original source. If you’re luck, this will be the graphic designer’s website. 
  • Canva—if you want to take control of the design of your own business cards, try this site. Canva is the new kid on the block and still a little bit buggy. I’ve found that when I save documents occasionally something will be cut off or a single image will flip. A bit odd. However, it truly is a tool that revolutionizes “design.” Be sure to check for business card dimensions first (each printer will have their own) and be sure to double check the final design when you do finally print to PDF.
  • 99designs—this is the holy grail of design sites for those of you who don’t really know what you’re looking for. According to the company, they have a community of over 300,000 registered designers. That’s right, just designers. From a website through a logo or business card, you can pretty much get anything designed here. Business card design packages start from $199 (for 25 designs!) and got to $1,000 (for 40 premium designs). 
  • Freelance Websites—there are dozens of reliable sites you can turn to if you want to get the job done quickly. My favorites include Freelancer, oDesk, Elance, People Per Hour and Fiverr. The last one is a steal because every product is as the name suggests—only $5. As of today, the business card category alone has 562 listed products.
  • DeviantART—like Pinterest, DeviantART is a great place to go if you need inspiration and if you want to find a designer. Granted, not everyone will be available to complete a project, but, given that it’s a social community, you’ll have an opportunity not granted to you by many other platforms: the option to discuss your project before you even agree on something. I’ve had friends that have found design partners for life on this site, one of whom went on to work with his designer on a series of comic books.

Printing your business cards

When it comes time to print the cards, your options are just as diverse. I’ve only used Moo.com and VistaPrint but I do know people who use Zazzle and Jukebox. If you want to keep it local, consider FedEx or, if you’ve got them in your town, Staples and OfficeDepot. Sure, your paper options won’t be as diverse, but it will be easy to do a pick up and to speak to someone directly. If you want a special kind of card—perhaps a card made out of real cork, or a card shaped like a cupcake, Jukebox is the place to go.

And, if you’re wondering whether or not business cards are even relevant anymore in an online world, let me tell you something: they ARE! 100 percent. Of the business cards I’ve handed out over the past couple of years, over half of the people I’ve given them to have reached out to contact me, typically after having viewed my website (not talking about the Hugh MacLeod cards here). Even if you’re just handing out a card to provide contact details for the first time, this form of personal marketing still has its place. Try to think of your business card as a supporting argument to your conversation and as a means of getting people to remember you.

What’s your opinion? Should you worry about the design or focus on just getting the information across? I’d love to hear from you! Leave your comment below and I’ll be sure to respond.

About the Author Candice is the Managing Editor of Bplans. With a background in writing and digital marketing and an interest in technology, business, creativity and just about everything else, she aims to find the best answers to your questions. Follow Candice on Google+ Read more »

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  • http://www.liveplan.com/ Noah Parsons

    Really interesting post, Candice! I actually have a set of Hugh MacLeod business cards as well, but because the drawing and saying more directly relate to what I do, I feel it actually helps drive the conversation forward rather than redirect it.

    That said, I think most people will have a hard time finding illustrations and sayings that will do that for them and they should take your excellent business card advice above.

    • Candice Landau

      Thanks Noah! I always find situations like this one fascinating because they force me to think about what is actually going on. The baseball game was the tipping point!

      That said, I do really like Hugh’s cards and is art and am inclined to agree with you – if they suit your industry, they’re a good idea.

      Although… I still think that having @gapingvoid or ‘hugh’ scrawled in a corner detracts from your own message. Maybe if he’d incorporated his signature into his artwork it would be less intrusive?

      • Alexander Alajiki

        Thanks Candice. I have my picture on my business and card and many people find it interesting. People find it easy to remember my face and what I do.
        Do you think that is a great idea in business setting.

        • Candice Landau

          Hi Alexander, I don’t think the personal touch can ever hurt, not unless it comes across as too self-congratulatory :) That said, I always like to receive emails from people that have their photo in their email signature. It makes me feel I’ve already got some sort of a relationship with them and it turns them into a real person meaning that I feel more obligated to reply or respond! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Jens Schmidt

    You have some very valid points, Candice. And thank you very much for all the links – I didn’t know 99designs, but I will try them now – I have a design job that has been bothering me for months…

    • Candice Landau

      That’s great Jens! I know that if you pick the right package as well you will also be working with ‘premium’ designers – the best of the best! Hope all goes well. Thanks for the feedback.

  • http://maximumSEO.pl Katarzyna Feliksik

    Thanks for inspiring article, Candice. What about a wisely picked quotation for the back of a business card?

    • Candice Landau

      Hi Katarzyna, I think that’s a great idea, especially if it relates to your business or your personal brand. If you’re all about inspiring people then why not include an inspiring quotation?

  • Carsten Schulz

    Your article showed again what I read before…and always made me wonder…bc-cards from Vistaprint with their advertising on the back…the “business-owner” must be really poor…so i would suggest to get the best paperquality and no external advertising on it. Have a clear logo…on the back print – if at all – a good productpicture or a short USP what the future client will look for…the best BC i got so far – a golden metalpiece – coloured black on the front – the companydetails engraved so they were shining in gold… worth about 20 usd/each… what will a future contact do with it when receiving such from me ?
    For mass-distribution i will use very good paperquality cards…

  • Carsten Schulz

    The way of having bc-cards is very much depending on the “industry” you work in…quality of paper etc. is NEVER allowed accepted… in conservative industries like banking , insurance etc. you better dont overdo it with individual experiments:-) if you are designer, art-oriented etc. you will need to show off of your abilities a bit…your website etc.. needs to fit…so you dont build a wrong pic with card and then show off something different on the website… and nobody says… your bc cant be bigger then usual…so think if your additional investment wont give a much better advertising…

  • clandau

    Thank you, Candice for the great links to sites on where to get one’s focused business cards made and for teaching us to remember the priorities to bring the focus back to ourselves and the client, if we want the business.