Business cards play a key role in helping business people remember each other and serve as an easy way to transfer contact information from person to person, even in our modern era filled with digital devices.
But although business cards are largely ubiquitous, particularly in certain circles like tech or manufacturing, there’s a lot of confusion about what size business cards should be, as well as what should be on them.
In this guide, we’ll break down what size your business card should be, as well as the differences between business cards found in different countries. Let’s get started!
Business Card Sizes in the US
Of course, there’s no single or universal business card size or style. Different countries or cultures have different takes on what constitutes an appropriate business card or what a business card even is.
In the US, a business card is primarily a correspondence tool that business executives, entrepreneurs, and other important individuals can trade with one another to sign that they wish to continue or start doing business. True, in today’s hyper-connected world and many digital tools, business cards are not exactly required.
But they still play an important part in business etiquette, which matters the higher you go in the economic sector.
Since the business world takes many of its cues from the US, it makes sense for many other countries to use the US business card standard as their card standard. The standard US business card size is 3.5” x 2”. Alternatively, if you use the metric system, the size is 89 mm x 51 mm, or a small card with an aspect ratio of 1.75.
Why this size? It’s partly due to historical reasons and the practical concerns of fitting a business card in a businessperson’s wallet or suit pocket.
What About the Rest of the World?
As mentioned, the US may have a single standard size, but other countries have their standard business card dimensions. Here are just a few examples:
- Japan – 3.582” x 2.165”
- Ireland, Italy, the UK, France, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, and more – 3.346” x 2.165”
- Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Taiwan, India, and more – 3.54” x 2.165”
- China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia – 3.346” x 1.889”
As you can see, different countries may have different business card standard sizes due to cultural trends, historical factors, and even the card-carrying tendencies of their citizens. For example, not everyone worldwide carries a rectangular wallet like many people in the US do.
There’s an important thing to remember when handing out business cards to international customers or clients. When giving away a business card, the card should be tailored and formatted for the recipient’s cultural style or needs.
For example, when giving a business card to a Japanese businessperson, the business card should be in Japan’s business card dimensions. Relevant information should be in Japanese rather than English. This is just one part of proper business card exchange etiquette (more on that below).
The “Full” Size of a Business Card
Technically, US business cards are not 3.5” x 2”. That’s just their standard size. In reality, an unfinished business card has dimensions of 3.61” x 2.11”. This little bit of negative space gives the card designer or printer a bit of wiggle room to ensure that there are never any ugly white borders around the edges of the card. This is true even if the business cards are cut slightly off-center.
Other Areas to Consider When Making a Business Card
As you develop your business, you’ll need to create business cards sooner or later. So let’s break down the two major areas on business cards aside from the center’s primary, decorative or informative area.
The Bleed Area
The above-mentioned negative space outside the card’s finished design area is technically called the “bleed” area. This is the negative space between the card’s pre-finished area of 3.61” x 2.11” and the finished card size of 3.5” x 2”.
When designing a business card for your organization, you should first determine whether you have a background color or pattern to consider. If so, make sure that the background color or pattern extends slightly beyond the finished dimensions of the business card. When the business cards are cut, this will prevent any white space from showing up at the borders and ruining the aesthetic of the finished card.
The Printable Area
The “safe printing area” actually has dimensions of 3.36″ x 1.86″. This is not much smaller than the card’s finished size, but it’s still an important box as it prevents any important information or design elements from being cut off during the card manufacturing process.
Furthermore, it ensures that your business card looks clean and professional. Nothing looks jankier than a business card with text or design elements that run to the border of the card’s surface.
When creating business cards for your organization, be sure that any information or designs fit inside a box that is sized at the above dimensions.
What Should Be On a Business Card?
Despite what you may have seen from some flashier examples, most business cards should be relatively simplistic and to the point. In particular, your business card should have:
- Your contact information, including your name and phone number
- The name of your business and any other relevant contact information
- Your business hours, if applicable
- A basic design or aesthetic, which can be represented by the font, the border, or a minimalist image/logo elsewhere on the card
The big thing to keep in mind is to prevent your card from looking busy or overdesigned. Not only will this be difficult to fit within the small amount of space described above, but it will also make you seem a little overeager to impress with your card.
Remember, running your business isn’t just about making stuff and selling products – it’s about connecting with customers and clients alike.
The Origins of Business Cards
The first accessories we would recognize as the precursors to modern business cards showed up in the 17th century in Europe. These cards weren’t always (or even often) used for business, however. In most cases, they were handed out by aristocrats or other prosperous people as ways of announcing their arrival in villages or small towns throughout the countryside.
The cards were closer to trading cards and modern-day business cards. Some people collected them, and many families or wealthy merchants competed against one another to create the most ornate or aesthetically attractive cards available.
The purpose of these cards gradually shifted until they became calling cards first and foremost. Upon entering an aristocrat’s home, visitors would place calling cards on specialized card trays, particularly if the host of the house was not home. The calling cards were a way to indicate that someone had stopped by.
It was only in the 20th century, after the boom of the Industrial Revolution, that these cards became staples of the business class. Entrepreneurs and would-be business tycoons would exchange cards with one another to emulate the upper classes they so wished to join.
American businesspeople, in particular, led the charge toward reducing the formality required to exchange business cards. These days, business cards are rarely used by aristocrats and are almost exclusively a marketplace accessory.
But even today, there remain a few perky etiquette rules that most business people will follow when exchanging cards.
For example, you should only give out a business card with your right hand, never your left, even if you are left-hand dominant. Your business card should also be in pristine condition when exchanged, so it’s a good idea to have several fresh business cards ready at all times.
Lastly, you should never write on any business cards you exchange with another person.
As you can see, there’s a lot of history behind business cards, plus several things you need to consider when designing and cutting cards for your small business. If done improperly, your business cards could look poorly thought out, improperly cut, and give clients or customers a bad impression of your business.
But when you understand the card sizes to target and when you create your cards with these size limitations in mind, your business cards can look impressive and inspire people to do business with your organization.
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