Business Card Design: Better Than A Plain Ol’ Business Card

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Going to web conferences is a great opportunity to make new contacts and exchange business cards. Unfortunately, we have an industry filled with creative people who have no creative marketing for themselves. Sure, many have business cards, but one in a hundred have something really cool. These unique treasures, cards, items etc. get kept, talked about and usually photographed and shared. This post is an inspiration for all you creatives to step up your game, either by getting things made or by making them yourselves.

A note of warning though: interesting promotional materials almost always cost more per unit than a white business card or require a lot of prep work, so you’re often going to have a limited quantity. Pick the people you give these treasures to wisely. Those people will feel more important for getting a limited edition, and you don’t run the risk of spending an absolute fortune (in time or money) producing mass quantities!

Get something special made

There’s multitudes of promotional companies out there to help you create little treasures. You can order them online, but going for the lowest price isn’t always the best bet: quality products in this case is worth a few extra pennies per unit. Make sure you get them produced in your home country as shipping to another company can cost you more than your items!

Brownie points for sew-on badges

Remember girl guides or boy scouts? For some, getting a sew-on badge (especially if it looks cool) will delight the inner camper and badge collector.

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Sew on badge from www.edshoots.com2

Pin them down

Pin-on badges are relatively inexpensive and if well designed (or with a cheeky graphic) will be attached to a bag or coat. I know I have at least one badge that I’ve received attached to my bag. Sam Brown’s pins, for his app, remindness3, combined with business cards in a little goodie bag, are a treat to receive, and a great way to get awareness up for his upcoming launch.

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Goodie bags with badges from sam.brown.tc5

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Badges from www.erskinedesign.com7

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Badges and custom business cards from butterlabel.com9

Keep them stuck on you

Stickers are another relatively inexpensive ‘extra’. It’s especially great if you have a character or logo that has a lot of personality. Koshi, for example, designed the Songbird as a distraction from blogging and coding, but it ended up a popular character that made excellent stickers.

Not sure you want to commit to full customs? Try printing some off your printer onto sticker paper, or moo.com10 have small square ones that you can get made cheaply and quickly.

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Stickers and t-shirts for Songbird by jkoshi.com12

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More fist stickers14.

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Mobus stickers; aren’t they cute?

Make a point with pins

Proper pins are much more expensive than plain business cards to make, but they do send a message: you have a certain ‘classic’ quality to your design, you’re not cheap, and attention to detail is important to you. Andy Clarke, from Stuff and Nonsense16, who is well known for promoting good practice in css (and author of “Transcending CSS”), is a great example of how you can match your brand image with your pin.

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Pins on a business card from stuffandnonsense.co.uk18

Matches, tattoos and ornaments, oh my!

Promotional companies can create almost everything for you. If you’re a smoker, hand out a few packs of matches during the break to your fellow smokers. Is it near a holiday? Perhaps you can incorporate your card into a decoration! If you’re heading to the pub and you’ve created funny or cool temporary tattoos, you’ll be sure to find some enthusiastic friends willing to don your stuff.

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Matches, ornaments and stickers from crumplerbags.com20

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Christmas ornament from creativecommons.org22

Get lots of toys made

If you’ve got a cool character, want huge quantities (some places have minimum quantities of a few thousand), have a lot of money to spare (cost per unit may be low, but will easily put a dent in your wallet), have a huge lead time (definitely more than a month or two), and want things made properly in a factory, look into getting toys made. If you’re already an excellent character designer like Gavin Strange, you can get an established toy company to help you through the process. Upon making his first toy, Droplets, his visibility has sky-rocketed, and besides selling them to friends and family on his own website, he’s also in toy shops amongst more established toy makers. Those that purchase a droplet sometimes get little bonuses of stickers and badges. “Visibility has been unreal,” says Gavin.

You don’t need to a toy company to make them for you though. With a little elbow grease, you can organize the production yourself. If you’re going to do it without a company’s support, Figurepunk has this tutorial23 (click diy in the menu) for a brief overview of how Mashboy was designed and manufactured.

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How cute are these Droplets25?

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All the different colours of Mashboy27

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One of those cows you can squish the eyes out of from www.simpleusability.com29

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Image credit: Tamar Weinberg31

A cow keychain from utterz.com32

Go homemade

Make something cool, but make it out of paper

Making a real gear chain would be expensive, but what about a paper version? Paper is a very versatile medium and papercraft can make exceptionally unique cards. Time intensive, yes, but worth the effort to create something truly unique.

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How to make a paper cassette34, as made by 4volt.com35

Learn how to make your own business card with paper gears here36

Etched in their minds

Have any experience with embossing? Do you love playing with different etching techniques? It’s a perfect opportunity to create something unique and memorable.

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How to make an embossed card38 by breakfastofhemind.com39

Playing games with them

Let’s face it: we’re an immature bunch, us creatives, and we like nothing more than a bit of fun and games. How about a business card that is also a weapon (not a handgun, but maybe a water gun, or as we have here, a catapult). Or, make your card into an actual game, like a deck of cards, or a role playing game?

The best bet is to find something that people will enjoy playing with. How do you know? Usually it’d be something you enjoy playing with too!

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Created by Bryce Bell41. Watch it in action here42. Learn how to make it here43.

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Playing cards for cscarts.org45

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An in-conference game from webstock.org.nz47.

Something heart-’felt’

It’s amazing what you can do with felt. It’s also amazing how personal anything made with it feels, especially as a relatively inexpensive material.

How would you feel if you received a handmade doll? Dolls for Friends48 have a running list of people that inspire them (whether it be designers, actors, musicians etc) and then send out a custom doll along with their regular marketing materials about their studio. They’ve got lots of good publicity and feedback from sending them and, because each doll can take anywhere from an hour to a few weeks to create, they’re special for everyone who receives them. Erin Lynch, co-founder of Dolls for Friends, is very passionate about creating unique experiences: “Anyone can send out a tri-fold brochure or postcard (and in a lot of cases that’s fine), but why not give some art or design back to the people (or potential clients) out there that you appreciate? It’s all about spreading the love.”

You don’t even have to do something so time intensive or intricate as that though, especially if you have quite a few to create. For example, Tim Van Damme sent cozies, made by Leigh Hicks49, along with stickers and buttons, as “a way to thank the people from whom I’ve learned everything I know”, he says. Even though these weren’t intended as promotional material, he ended up getting a good amount of exposure from those people posting his packages on flickr. Genuine goodwill lead to genuine publicity.

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A custom doll from dollsforfriends.com51

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A special felt cozie for www.madebyelephant.com53

ARRR! It’s a treasure ye say?

The best part about getting a present is those seconds just before you’ve ripped into the wrapping paper. Giving someone a card where they have to open it up, like a hidden treasure, is a great way to be remembered. Anna Debenham, who made these scrunchup.com54 envelopes said that people reacted very differently to her cards, and said it was “a bit like watching someone unwrap a Christmas present.” Her card was a photocopied handwritten note explaining the scrunchup’s action plan, folded into a paper aeroplane and then put into an envelope. The cards have been a huge success: she ran out of them before the conference was over, and had random people coming up to her to ask for them.

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A paper aeroplane treasure from www.scrunchup.com56

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A special bag of columbian goods. In this case, I’m guessing it’s for a good Columbian designer!

Make things from scratch using reused goods

Cut from cardboard found on the street and hand stamped, the cards for theboxcat.com6058, clearly reflect the spirit of its app: it’s about “random things to do and things to think about” (to be released soon!).

Making a business card out of cardboard, old plastic, tinfoil or any ‘found’ material makes for an interesting conversation starter. We all have old rulers, board game pieces and other wooden bits gathering dust in drawers and attics. These things can be cut with a saw into more appropriate sizes, and a stamp doesn’t cost much to get made!

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A homemade card from theboxcat.com6058

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A card made from an old ruler

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Information printed on an old domino

It’s all sewn up!

Can you sew? Using bits of material to create your entire card, or even just to add one bit onto it, gives your card a tactile quality that normal cards don’t have. It can also show people your crafty or crazy side, especially if you choose to choose a funky fabric, or if your stitching tends to be a bit hap-hazard.

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A hand-sewed card by www.naifpanicscares.it64

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A card that combines a traditional business card with sewing from sackwear.com66

Food for thought

At the dConstruct conference last year, ClearLeft67 had just released silverbackapp.com7168. During the break, someone dressed up in a gorilla costume and gave out free bananas stamped with their url. Everyone was a bit startled (it was only 10am, after all!), but I’m sure everyone remembers the ape, remembers the bananas and knows it was for Silverback. Talk about strong brand reinforcement for a startup! Originally, their designer, Paul Annett, wanted to create little stickers for the bananas, but it was too expensive. “Like good designers we pro yped the idea [of stamping them instead] and it worked, so we got some custom stamps made,” says Andy Budd, their User Experience Director.

Perishable foods only work on certain occasions, but there’s lots of other food type items you can use, including chocolates, candy or gum, all of which stays preserved and can be packaged quite small. Check out Sweet Impressions69 for more ideas. You can also just go out to the candy store and make your goody bags yourself!

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A stamped banana from silverbackapp.com7168

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A very fancy candy card from leica.com73

It’s a natural route to take

Imagine it: you’re trading business cards, and someone gives you a rock. Or a shell.

Do you have a logo with a flower or tree on it? How about a seed planter with instructions on care on it? Something from nature can reinforce a brand that personifies natural things. But stick to inanimate objects: no one wants a piece of rabbit skin or cat hair to put in their wallet!

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A handmade rock business card created by Nathan75. Learn here76 how to make it.

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Growing card, designed by Jamie Wieck78

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Growing card for a landscape architect firm designed by Jung von Matt80

Electrical delights

We work in technology, so wouldn’t it be great if you could bring technology to your business card? If you dabble in creating your own electronics, creating a dot matrix or flashlight out of your business card will definitely make you ‘shine out’ from the crowd. Tom Ward from www.technologycamp.co.uk81, has created these and put up tutorials on how to make them. Cost per unit will probably be quite a lot (about $5 for supplies for the dot matrix or about $1 each for each flashlight, for example), and probably require a bit of skill. They may also inspire you to use your electronic skills to make something truly unique to hand out!

A dot matrix business card. Learn here82 how to make your own.

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A flashlight business card. Learn here84 how to make your own.

DIY toys can be child’s play

If you can’t afford the costs of getting toys made yourself, or just can’t see yourself needing enough to match the minimum quantities (more than a thousand can be daunting!), you can also make toys yourself. We’ve already seen felt toys, but you can also make toys out of things like fimo or modelling clay. A one off toy like Koshi’s songbird is great, but if you’re going to get any sort of quantity efficiency, you can make one prototype, make a mould, and then pour your own plastic.

That’s what I did for my own mascot, safetygoat. I’ve probably made over 50 of the little guys that I’ve given out, and even though they’re not perfect, they’ve been very popular. One of them is actually on an around the world tour85!

Moulds can be made from silicon, and they’re poured with polyeurathane (a type of plastic) and then hand painted. If you’re looking for supplies to make your own toys in the US, try Tap Plastics86 (who also have instructional videos and a fantastic jingle that get stuck in your head… Tap! Tap Plastics!). In the UK, try TOMPS87, who I have phoned up, and have been very helpful.

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A one-off special songbird toy created by JKoshi89

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One of the replicas of safetygoat. Learn here91 how to make your own.

Useful and/or interactive

Some arts and crafts for them to do later

It’s activity time! Lots of people love arts and crafts, and while they’re sitting later constructing your toy or treasure, they’ll be thinking about you. That’s a good thing. If they’re proud of their construction, they’ll keep it, and people will ask about it. What else can you ask for?

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Paint your own train from www.jfisherlogomotives.com93

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Make your own car from www.intersectionmagazine.com95

Useful things (but in context)

Bottle openers are an obvious marketing item, but they can be done well. Look at Message in A Bottle’s bottle opener. There’s a purpose, and it’s done well.

Harrumph wants to be sweeter, movabletype wants to move and adjust things (I’m not sure this wrench actually works, but it’s beautiful!). Mamma wants to help bake you some cookies, and if you get attacked by vampires, breakfast of the mind has a stake ready for you in these homemade wooden cards. Never have a spare bobby pin when you’re looking for one? Yuka Suki’s card uses the pins to reinforce her practice: hair and make-up artist.

Look around you at everyday things and think about the context, metaphors and more that you can relate to your business in a meaningful way. Try and come up with something new and different: I’m sure we all like getting a new pen, but a pen is nothing compared to any of these examples!

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A bottle opener from message.inabottle.org97

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Personalized sugar from www.harrumph.com99

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A wrench from movabletype.com101

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A cookie cutter from www.mamma.com103

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A punch-out stake created by breakfast of the mind105

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A useful card for hair styles from yukamakeupartist.com107

Just because it’s cool

Trinkets, coins and fake pills. Delightful, but just decoration. If you can pull it off, brilliant! These examples are all treasures to someone. I know I’d definitely hold on to a coin from Daniel Ballou, wouldn’t you?

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Some pills from www.brand-doctors.com109

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A personalized coin, created by Daniel Ballou, who works for dashdotstudios.com111

weird and wonderful business cards

Often you have a few really cool items to hand out to special people, but most likely have limited quantities. What about the rest of the people you meet? You’ll still need a card you can give out to everyone else, and there’s no need for these to be boring. Take Rick Braithwaite’s card, which tells a whole story, or lion in oils, which uses laser cut so it can be read both backwards and forwards. Giving your card a unique finish, a fantastic illustration or an interesting shape, like Depux, will earn you the coveted spot in a person’s wallet.

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A crazy story of identity from Rick

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A laser cut museum board business card from lioninoil.net114

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A custom shaped card from depux.com116

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Business card for incredible typographer, Marian Bantjes118

A small warning

The most important thing to remember when deciding what you’re going to use to promote yourself is: does this give people the impression I want people to have? For example, if you’re a designer for very serious pharmaceutical companies and are hoping to make contacts in that field, something really funky isn’t appropriate. But, on the other hand, if you’re a crazy flash developer with an obsession with fish and want to get into more fun projects, you owe it to yourself to create something memorable and creative.

You’re also going to have to carry this stuff around with you, so make things compact.

Let’s make going to meet other web people more fun by bringing cool business cards. We can’t leave all the cool stuff to the big corporations, can we?

Looking for more inspiration?

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Kat Neville is a freelance Canadian web designer (living in the UK) who is constantly coming up with too many ideas for new websites. She also loves arts and crafts, gardening and going on adventures. You can find her design work at safetygoat.co.uk.

  1. 1

    wooow Just what we needed! Thank you so much! Hopefully you’ll see the results of our cards we could make thanks to this post someday!

    Johan

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  2. 2

    Good post, love silk!

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  3. 3

    While I love these posts (and all the business card collection posts on the internets), there is a hitch. Custom cards like these, with embossing/foil/die cuts yada yada are VERY VERY expensive.

    But hey, if you can convince a client to buy them, cool. But the average designer that doesn’t have more than a grand for more than 1,000 of these might have to simplify.

    Well, ok… the guy who wrote on rocks gets props… not sure I would distribute those though.

    Actually, I’ve been giving out little (2GB) flash drives that I buy in bulk that have my demo reel/portfolio on them, and I cover then in a simple glossy sticker with my website on it. Costs maybe $5 a pop, but for interviews and the “big ones”, they have been a success.

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    • 4

      Really good idea the little flash drives! It has something mysterious and in the same way it makes publicity for your own name!

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  4. 5

    Nice Article Kat…. Creative writing… enjoy reading. Business cards are cards bearing business information about a company or individual.

    Today a professional business card will sometimes include one or more aspects of striking visual design and creativity. I find many of them very creative from your collection. Thanks for sharing.

    DKumar M.
    @instantShift

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  5. 6

    Palm Pre images & Videos

    May 20, 2009 7:32 am

    Excellent post and a new learning for me..thanks

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  6. 7

    Nice. A czech creative studio has sent some messages in bottles (per classic mail) and the message said: “Your current advertising agency needs help!”

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  7. 8

    Ollie Kavanagh

    May 20, 2009 7:42 am

    Great post Kat! Great to see theBoxCat cards in there as well.

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  8. 9

    Is there a link to sites which make custom cards

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  9. 10

    It’s called Colombia, not Columbia. Our demonym is colombian, not columbian.

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  10. 11

    Wow, how amazing is that catapult!? Thats the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Second coolest is the business card chia pet.

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  11. 12

    Some of these are great, really imaginitive and creative, however as said in a comment before they are SO much more expensive and you do have to consider if it’s worth the extra cost for the job it’s doing?

    I wanted to do something custom with my designs (only a small thing) but it would have cost me 10x what it ended up costing .

    Nice post though, some impressive designs

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  12. 13

    This is a great article, and one that I’d love to send out to my colleagues to spark their creativity, but I won’t/can’t, because of the “goatse” stickers and reference. Too bad, because otherwise this is a really fun article!

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  13. 14

    Don The Idea Guy

    May 20, 2009 8:22 am

    Love all these examples. Perhaps you’ll consider adding mine to the mix?
    http://ideabarista.com/2006/06/ideabarista-business-cards.htm

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  14. 15

    Luxury and smashing. I love it!

    Almost beautiful things, but if you imagine to store it all in wallet.

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  15. 16

    So hot stuff!

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  16. 17

    This is one of my top favorite posts SMag! I love it.
    Thank you for the ideas, some of them will be very useful for me.

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  17. 18

    Great ideas here.

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  18. 19

    Someone dedicated a post on how to write on a rock? Really? How hard is that?

    1) Find a rock
    2) Find a pen
    3) Write on the rock with the pen
    4) Voila!

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  19. 20

    Courtny Cotten

    May 20, 2009 9:21 am

    BTW the featured post image is the work of Eric Kass, check out the rest of his work

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  20. 21

    Great list! I hope you will take a look at mine for my web design business, I laser cut them from my favorite model making material in Architecture School – Paint Color Swatches from Lowes. Free and colorful!

    http://www.kareydarnellhelms.com/byKBCards/

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  21. 22

    I’ll tell you what, the cards for depux.com are excellent, but I can’t say the same about the website…. wow.

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  22. 23

    Good post! Props to Indy local Kass.

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  23. 24

    Una fuente de inspiración excelente Saludos desde MX

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  24. 25

    ED = Erectile Dysfunction = Failure

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  25. 26

    Some amazing designs… some real inspiration!

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  26. 27

    They are fantastic designs, but in most cases these are a really bad idea. If you’re in a normal business where lots of cards are exchanged, people really don’t want to get these kind of things that they have nowhere to put.

    In a creative environment, where you don’t get lots of cards, maybe, but not in most businesses, I think.

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  27. 28

    Willa is right. The goatse stickers make this on-forwardable. But the caption “more fist stickers” suggests the author is not actually familiar with what goatse is. And if you are not, google it at your own peril. It is very VERY NSFW.

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  28. 29

    Nice post. Though its good to be different & make an impression, most of these will be forgotten or Eaten ( A banana!). Business cards should look great, be different from others, but they should be kept with people.

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  29. 30

    the cardapult and growing cards are so well done, diggin it! I just wonder what the printing cost was on those two projects…

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  30. 31

    Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

    May 20, 2009 12:36 pm

    Great piece! Some incredible ideas. Thanks for including my train kit among the mix.

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  31. 32

    Nice, awesome, great.

    Now you could post how to convince clients to pay for it.

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  32. 33

    Whilst these “cards” are pretty special in their own right, surley they overlook one simple yet practicle point. Business cards generally get stored with other business cards and in my experience, thats in a wallet!

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  33. 34

    I’m really sorry, but all these things are really old issues…

    Something new???

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  34. 35

    This article is really amazing. I think all these novelty goods and cards are awesome when you want to make an impact that won’t be forgotten too soon… well, some more than others. (a banana?!?) That said, I have a few issues to bring to light.

    To be fair, the author does not refer to these items as business cards. However, the title of the article is a bit misleading. While all of them have something to do with business, many of them cannot be associated with cards by any stretch of the imagination. I believe that they are effective as marketing tools and we all can see the benefits of using them. However, here are a few drawbacks, mostly to do with storage.

    Scenario one:
    You check your business card holder before leaving for a conference or symposium to make sure you have enough business cards. You carry an extra wad “just in case”. You get to the event. The first person you meet gives you a piece of engraved terra-cotta. The next gives you an embroidered scarf. The one after gives you a stamped banana. Another one gives you a rock…! You meet hundreds of people that day. Where do you store all the stuff? At the end of the day, your business card holder (or wallet) is empty but your shoulder is aching from the weight of the tote bag full of “contact details” you’ve received. You wonder how the guys dishing them out brought them in in the first place.

    Scenario two:
    You were lucky enough to dodge all the bulky stuff. However, you have flat stuff of all shapes, sizes and description. You know you’ll be able to get them home / to work just fine, but how will you ever be able to file them for future reference without cluttering your desk / drawers?

    In defense of the standard business card.
    Most business cards are square in shape and more or less identical in size to a credit card. Being more or less standard in size, there are many storage options readily available. While the impact might not be as great, I believe they can endure for longer. Some of the examples above have managed to express the creativity of the designer within those boundaries.

    With that rant out of the way, I’d like to say that creative experimenting is the best way to unlock new discoveries and these designers certainly have a lot of it. I’d really like to see more similar ideas… only not classified under business cards. In Japan, there is a difference between business cards (usually plain and standardized) and shop cards (usually unique and creative). Does anyone know of an equivalent anywhere else?

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    • 36

      I agree with you.
      I think creativity can be best shown when within that standard credit card size, you can still think out of the box.
      Design ain’t just about aesthetics, but also about function.

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  35. 37

    Summary: Great design, but don’t ever let design overshadow function.

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  36. 38

    Anybody have a good vendor who can print me some custom shape stickers? I’ve got an idea for a campaign/card.

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  37. 39

    I’d love to get the business card from American Psycho; right down to the card color and font, just to see if anyone I gave it to ‘got it’.

    Then I would high five them.

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  38. 40

    awesome,I like them :)
    thanks!

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  39. 41

    Sérgio Michels

    May 20, 2009 5:51 pm

    Just amazing!

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  40. 42

    Just another reason SM is watered down design for the masses…most of these are fairly old…and really? goatse? have you been under a rock for the last 10 years of internet memes? the stickers are not even promoting anything that you might use for a “business” or “business card”… might as well have put ANY other sticker there and not had something most people consider offensive associated with your site.

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  41. 43

    juvenile.
    at best.

    clearly you guys play in sandboxes and not board rooms.

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  42. 44

    Dave G aka EditorDave

    May 20, 2009 6:21 pm

    Cool post. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and expressions with business cards. Because I want to help folks get out of the “business-card-boredom” syndrome, I’ve posted a link to your blog on my Squidoo Site on Business Cards – 25 tips. Some of these cards are over the top… and I’m glad you made recommendations to be careful about where you hand them out…

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  43. 45

    amazing! it’s actually inspiring.

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  44. 46

    Robert Goldasich

    May 20, 2009 7:34 pm

    Great Post – it’s amazing how creative some people can be. Here is my business card:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3GeunsEm1s

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  45. 47

    Future Business Partner

    May 20, 2009 10:10 pm

    Oh, that’s nice. Do you also crochet’ in your spare time?

    Hand me a *real* business card or else I’ll think you are an unprofessional git!

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  46. 48

    Lot of nice,inspiring stuff.But as stated earlier,it would be another matter as far as the economical side is considered

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  47. 49

    some are really cool. thanx for sharing good stuff, i can see the light bulb on my head right now!

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  48. 50

    Something could be little bit more expensive, but really fresh..

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  49. 51
  50. 52

    Excellent article. Not sure I’d be going to a marketing forum with a pocket full of bananas though.

    Here’s the real deal in business cards:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg52V1MMTL4

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  51. 53

    Design is amazing but can we use them as business card? We cant carry them in our wallet as well as our card holder. Then nobody going to kept it in there safe inspite they will be very costly nobody going to store it. so it will become worthless. But as designs are very good one can use them as marketing tool.

    Vijayta

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  52. 54

    Fantastic! Thanks a lot. I am having moo cards, that hardly anyone uses in Hungary, ergo it is unique. One side I have my web address, the other a close up from one of my glass wrk. People love ti!

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  53. 55

    Some of them are good.. the rest sucks! A business card is a business card, you can definitely make it attractive.. but some people go just too far in order to get into lists such as these… I would expect better ideas from SmashingMag when they are giving out interesting topics as these..

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  54. 56

    Welovenicethings

    May 21, 2009 4:08 am

    Really good choice here to inspire, very good timing as I am looking at how to do mine.

    I think the best card is one that stands out from the crowd and make people remember you but is also usable and has the information. The Architect growing card I think is very good for that as you would leave it on your desk to grow and would therefore have you contact details on someones desk day after day.

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  55. 57

    How about some corporate business card designs? Ones that look strong and you can proudly show to someone in a suit. For us stuck in cubes all day long…

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  56. 58
  57. 59

    Funny but some look more like give aways then business cards. Still inspirational.

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  58. 60
  59. 61

    Since everyone else here is kissing @ss, I’m going to be the bad guy.

    These ideas are very creative, but let’s get real: these types of cards and promo items are a total waste of money. Once you hand it to someone important, what do you think is going to happen? They’ll look at it, say something banal like, “Ah how cute.” and then leave it on the table or drop it on the floor or in the trash the moment your back is turned. They will not remember your name and you’ve just wasted all that money.

    Why? Simple: No busy person is going to carry around weird, irregular shaped cards no matter how clever they are because they won’t fit inside their regular-shaped card holder. Nobody besides Star Trek nerds and 3 year olds want your cutesy little toys. Are nerds and 3 year olds your clients? Are they going to hire you? Then you’d best stop wasting your time and money on gimmicky promos and put together a kickass portfolio, website, and standard-sized business card to show what you can do.

    If anyone gave me a card or toy like this, I’d immediately cross them off my list because frivolity like this would tell me one of two things:

    1. This person lacks commonsense and practicality to waste money on such things.
    2. This person is insecure about their real work and trying to “dazzle” me with showy cards and knick-knacks.

    Number 2 is especially important to companies like Songbird who only exist due to the generosity of donors and venture capitalists. I tell you one thing: if I’d have given money to a startup like Songbird and found out they were throwing it away on gimmicky toys, I would be furious! I wouldn’t give them another dime.

    Let your work speak for itself.

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  60. 62

    As a web designer, I’m torn between the “super dooper creative” business card versus the “Boring but practical” business card.

    In the end the creative ones are good novelty items short term, but are completely useless practically speaking (business card on a stone? – where the hell do you keep that?) – So I have to go with standard rectangular card.

    The only exception are the “cards” that are quirky, but have a practical use – such as the bottle opener or the spanner. I can easily see some people attaching these onto keyrings or carrying them in their car etc.

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  61. 63

    Those Mobus stickers remind me of the animals from Castle Crashers, the Xbox 360 video game. :)

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  62. 64

    I like the idea of business card from The Hitch movie (http://www.liongraphics.com/BusinessCards/HollywoodStyle.htm).

    The “google design” is also nice:
    http://www.craig-edmonds.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/google-business-card.jpg
    ;)

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  63. 65

    Thank You!
    You made me think about businesscard in a new way. We make Norwegian Natural Water, both our own brand, and with different logos. Untill now we have presented ourselfs with ordinary cards. From now on we shall print businesscards as labels on the bottles and give them away. So simple that i haven’t thought about it.

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  64. 66

    Lighten up…the goatse stickers fold down to the size of a business card…its a good example of how you can be creative with the media you choose for your business cards. i got some in my valleyschwag shipment when valleyschwag was still operating…looks like SM subscribed to valleyschwag too judging by the picture of the stickers.

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  65. 67

    Those goatse stickers have some of the coolest sticker design I’ve ever seen. Brownnuts is right, the fact that the stickers fold down into the size of a business card make it perfect for bringing to conferences, etc. If you’re not forwarding this article to your business partners, guess what? Your competitors are going to beat you because they aren’t afraid of spreading good information. Folded stickers are the future and Goatse Stickers are the shining light at the end of the tunnel. Follow that light. Enter the tunnel.

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  66. 68

    Very nice representation of many ideas that really stand out – creativity does not have to be expensive! Thanks

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  67. 69

    What a great post! Very inspiring and creative designs and ideas. Many of these totally break the paradigm of business cards in so many ways, but are effective and thought provoking. Awesome stuff, as usual.

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  68. 70

    I personally think most of these are a waste of time and money. Yes they may look cool, but most clients aren’t impressed with stickers, pins, buttons, stamps, and toys, unless you are trying to hire a bunch of preteens. And they’re too awkward to carry around. Reminds me of when I go to Comic book conventions and the comic companies are handing out all those freebies (same stuff shown above) and when I walk out of there I don’t even care about how cool that stuff is. What’s next, should people give out free water bottles with their card? It all usually ends up in the trash. Design a good standard business card and put more effort into things like typeface, color, & printing, and make sure you have one hell of a website that is consistent with the design on your card.

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  69. 71

    Ah, some really fresh and original ideas… Good for stirring the imagination.. Nice one!

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  70. 72

    Nice article! Thanks a lot.
    I live in South California, where can I print cards using special materials ?

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  71. 73
  72. 74

    I think there’s a miscommunication about this article. Most of these should be considered campaign or self-promotion pieces, not business cards. They can still be useful for promoting or job searching or generating traffic, but I agree with most, a business card should be a simple, standard sized thing (well designed, yes) but there’s no reason to stifle the creativity of creating this type of work. It has it’s place out there, just like all other design.

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  73. 75

    I see a business opportunity for making a Rolodex that can actually accommodate all of these business “cards”:

    Do you deal with frivolous artists on a regular basis, but have trouble finding their contact info because they branded it onto a banana or scrawled in on a rock? The vacuum-sealed bags of the MegaUltraDex keeps all of the idiosyncratic craft projects your artists call business cards in one handy rotating carousel where they can be alphabetized for easy access, even if they eccentrically spell their names with non-alphanumeric characters.

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  74. 76

    The MovableType spanner reminds me of stainless steel business cards at http://www.plasmadesign.co.uk/metalbusinesscards.htm

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  75. 77

    Giveaways are one thing, but I too think business cards should be standard size. Overly flashy ones in are generally seen as “ego stroking” cards in my experience. They are not usually viewed in a positive light.

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  76. 78

    Just because this kind of creative marketing doesn’t work on some the stuffed shirts who commented here doesn’t mean it doesn’t work at all. It works. I’ve seen it. You will get more clients. You will make more money. *But*, you still need regular business cards.

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  77. 79

    These are pretty cool, but a lot of them are pretty inconvenient. What do some of these people do, carry a bunch of bananas everywhere? Bring a bag of keychains to events? Still, very cool.

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  78. 80

    I LOVE this article. It got me thinking, inspired me. The writer didn’t say use these ‘promotional-odd-looking-toys’ in lieu of a business card. These items are as mentioned, successful in establishing recall and are supposed to be given to certain target “clients”, as they are limited editions (in most cases) and not given to everyone they meet in a boardroom. Too bad the other people here didn’t seem to understand that. Congratulations to the writer.

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  79. 81

    @Pepper: Wrong. The title of the article is Business Card Design: Better Than A Plain Ol’ Business Card. The article could have more correctly made your point by choosing a better title.

    These items are promo pieces, not proper business cards.

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  80. 82

    really inspiring ! Awesome ideas !

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  81. 83

    Nice list!!!

    Im interested in buying an original card… but I only find companies which make traditional cards.

    I need help :)

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  82. 84

    Andrea Koppenhofer

    May 22, 2009 7:00 am

    I love these ideas! It makes me want to be something besides a lawyer just for the business card. But, in the immortal words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam”. So what about lawyers & some creativity in business cards? Can the two marry?

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  83. 85

    all of this designs are very interesting…thanks

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  84. 86

    Louise McGregor

    May 24, 2009 2:10 am

    I like them in the sense that they are memorable give-aways.

    But most of them don’t score so highly on usefulness – I file my business cards, so to make it easy for me to use there are a couple of constraints;
    - standard size so they’ll fit in the plastic holders of my contacts folder
    - all the details upfront where I can see them

    I realise that the standard cards are becoming obsolete as we move online – but we’re not quite there yet.

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  85. 87

    A great list of some incredible designs.
    Wonderful.
    It’s sad to see some of the commenters aren’t inspired by any of this and commenting about how it’s too much money to get impressive cards. Creativity isn’t always expensive. Get out there. Create.
    Also: Flattered!

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  86. 88

    heights of creativity … amazing innovations ;)

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  87. 89

    Where do I get tattoos made? been looking for someone to do this for me for a very long time.

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  88. 90

    tom@plasticprinters

    June 16, 2009 11:42 am

    i kind of like the idea of presenting yourself to someone without using the standard business card. seems more creative than a nicely designed business card. clever work.

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  89. 91

    Here another collection of original and unique business cards:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/biglietti_da_visita/
    This company has amazing products.
    “Nice list!!!
    Im interested in buying an original card… but I only find companies which make traditional cards.
    I need help :)”

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  90. 92

    Very original concepts. I like the interactive cards, prevents the filing factor.

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  91. 93

    useless. stick to a well “print” designed card. just what i need, to walk around with a rock or some other weird object in my pocket all day and i sure as heck dont care to wear some pin or button. a business owner or creative leader doesn’t want cumbersome crap, they want to have a quick talk, see a nice and easy to read card, and then move on. be professionally creative. here are some SWEET cards: http://www.plasmadesign.co.uk/

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  92. 94

    Mike from tastyadsheet

    July 16, 2009 5:40 pm

    Those mobus stickers are fantastic. It has the look of pop surrealism.

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  93. 95

    kelvinwebdesigner

    August 28, 2009 2:07 pm

    Amazing collection. Thanks for sharing
    CG

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  94. 96

    Some of designs are very old. I have seen them before. Paper cards looks a little bit cheaper than metal business cards.

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  95. 97

    100//
    Stoked thanks for the inspiration!

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  96. 98

    I think an original ‘card’ is a great idea… so long as it behaves in the same way is its more ordinary brethren i.e. fit in a wallet or business card holder and quickly and legibly display contact details and what the person does (there’s nothing worse than accumulating a pocket full of cards at an event and forgetting who half these people were and what they do when you try to catalogue them at a later date!).

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  97. 99

    I feel the need to plug meatcards.com – Your business card laser-etched onto some beef jerky.

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  98. 100

    Great techniques to create unique business cards: http://ljdesignstudio.com/techniques-to-create-unique-business-cards

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  99. 101

    uh oh, no no no no!

    classic examples of creativity before business sense. don’t get me wrong, some cool designs and thats where it stops.

    This is the kind of thing that costs companies millions when it comes to TV advertising, some creative advert that does nothing but massage an ego yet nothing towards getting someone to pick up the phone willing to give you their money.

    Your in business your not artists. Direct response business cards that get the phone ringing. Thats all a card needs to do. Dont waste money on your creative ego.

    None of those cards evoke any action to make contact.

    Keep it simple, benefit driven headline, some benefit driven copy, contact for special report etc get the prospects details.

    a plastic credit card template will get it kept.

    that system will cream any of the arty cards on this site

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  100. 102

    These are all really cool. Sometimes the humble business card gets a bit left behind creatively. I’d be much more inclined to keep a sticker like those of Mobus or something made out of felt like Made By Elephant. Great article.

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  101. 103

    Very unique options! Another is Meet-Meme social media trading cards… https://www.meet-meme.com/

    1
  102. 104

    I think the coin, the growing plants, the bobby pins, and the mechanical engineer ones are my favorites. They are so creative–I can’t imagine the costs that would go into producing several thousand of those, though.

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    • 105

      Neither do I. But I’m starting to think that it’s better to select the people who you give your card to instead of giving them to everybody you encounter. But maybe that’s something that doesn’t work the same in every type of business.

      (in French, it sounded more clever though)

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  103. 106

    I think this is what our designers need to aspire to. Some great examples! A unique and memorable business card is what will make a client remember you – embossed is definitely the way to go. Some of these examples are a bit bland, however, a mixture of the embossed feel and bright colours (to an extent!) would work wonders…. guaranteedleafletdistribution.co.uk

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  104. 107

    Thanks for sharing excellent informations. Your website is so cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this web site. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for more articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found just the information I already searched everywhere and just could not come across. What a perfect website.

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  105. 108

    Since technology is improving day by day, we can see more improvement in each and every part of life and same with business cards.

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  106. 109

    Love some of these, especially the pastry cutter. Very cool. I’ve seen some interesting ideas for business cards using plastic or metal over at http://www.plasmadesign.co.uk including a steel card that has lock picks cut out of it.

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  107. 110

    I like the look of the laser cut museum board business card, is it printed with holoprint? as It looks similar to some business cards I have seen at http://www.cpcards.co.uk which are printed with the holoprint stuff. Looks very funky!

    1
  108. 111

    Love how creative these cards are. My fave are the playing cards. simple but catchy. They seem similar to moo cards. You can fins some silk business cards at http://www.lecards.com which seems like they ship nation wide free in the US.

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  109. 112

    Business Card Designing is the art of developing relation with the peoples.
    Business cards depends targeting, you have very nicely explain all the important points, and regarding blog u have share nice information, it could helpful for me for developing new ideas :-)

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  110. 113

    Love this article. One question: what company is Mobus? I tried to find them on Google to no avail, and I really want those stickers on my motorcycle.

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  111. 114

    Business Card Designing is the art of developing relation with the peoples.
    Business cards depends targeting, you have very nicely explain all the important points, and regarding blog u have share nice information, it could helpful for me for developing.<a href=''http://www.alltimeprint.com/custom-plastic-cards ''But it should be in mind that there are some special logo/image thich should not be used becase it may be disheart some communities

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