Business cards have been around for a long time. We’ve covered this topic in detail on our past blog posts. In a nutshell, they’ve been widely used for around 5 centuries. During this period of time, many styles have come and gone. In our small NYC print shop, our customers frequently ask us for consultation on how to style their business cards. Many customers like certain finishes, but they aren’t confident enough to actually move forward with them. They end up getting something more conservative and safe, despite the fact that they prefer another finish. Knowing which types of business cards are going out of style would really be helpful in these situations. Nobody positively knows what will last, but we can surely offer our opinion.
When we talk about styles, we’re referring to multiple things. These things can be the look, effects, finish, or even material. Style can be summarized as the overall appearance of a business card, though there isn’t really a textbook definition. An example of a business card style could be raised ink business cards. Since raised ink is typically printed on uncoated papers, with less than 4 colors, a certain type of card immediately comes to mind when you mention the name. Another example would be silk laminated business cards. Since these business cards all share a plastic laminate coating and flat printing, its easy to envision how most of them look. Hopefully these two examples help shed light on how we define style in the context of business cards.
The best way to predict the future is to study the past. Well, that may not always be true, but I think it applies here. Its helpful to think about what finishes and effects have withstood the test of time. Right away, there are two thoughts that come to mind. Letterpress and raised ink, also known as thermography. These two finishes incorporate 3-dimensional characteristics, which make them look and feel unique. There are other similar finishes that we can include as well, such as embossing and engraving. Those finishes are definitely on the same level, but they didn’t come to mind because they are so rare. Anyhow, all of these effects are typically done on uncoated papers, and they seldom use more than 2 or 3 colors. The fact that they share characteristics in appearance and their specifications, makes me categorize them as one style of business cards. Yes, I know that is debatable and some printers that read this may disagree, but its just an opinion. Anyway, this 3-dimensional style has been around for hundreds of years and is still very attractive today. That leads me to believe that they are a safe bet for the coming years.
Other styles of business cards that I think will age well are purpose built finishes. A prime example would be silk laminated business cards. Sure, its an acquired taste – I happen to like them – but they do one particular thing extremely well. They are durable. This style of business cards were designed to be durable yet offer great versatility with regard to printing. Years ago, someone decided to coat their printed sheets of paper with a thin layer of plastic to protect it. It worked, but an unintended byproduct was that they felt really nice when held. They usually have a silky smooth finish that can justify opting for this finish even if you dont care about the durability of your cards. Since there will always be some need for business cards with increased durability, this finish is here to stay. Picking this style of business card would be fairly safe as far as I’m concerned. Of course, this and all discussions in this blog post are assuming you have a tasteful design. Without a nice design, there isn’t anything you can do to make your business cards look good.
As far as fads go, only one type of business cards come to mind. In the late 90’s, cheap online suppliers rose to prominence by offering business cards that cost next to nothing. They use cheap, flimsy papers with a generic. This finish is usually a generic, dull coated smooth finish. These business cards use CMYK color and employ template driven designs that are generic and poorly executed. A user can select one of these designs from a list of thousands. I dont have a great name for these business cards, so we will refer to them as cheap online business cards. Im sure everyone has seen one of these cards at some point. They are those flimsy, slightly shiny (but not glossy) business cards that have cheesy graphics on them that look like a promotion. This style of business card is likely to fade away in the coming years. Not completely, but moderately. Notice how I said style and not supplier. The suppliers will still be around, and they will likely pay far more attention to the quality of the designs. They will also be printed on better materials as well. This means that they will look less and less like some promotional gimmick, and more like real business cards. The problem is that they aren’t there yet. For those reasons, I would avoid mass produced online business cards if possible unless you are sure about the quality of the material and designs.
Our conclusion is that styles of business cards that have passed the test of time are definitely the safest. We also think that purpose built business cards that address your specific needs are always a good choice. Also, quality is always extremely important. Quality doesn’t just apply to the materials, it also applies to the design. Low quality designs and materials are never a good idea. Particularly low quality designs.