They’ll never know. DIY business cards because who needs 1,000?
Business cards are useless, until they’re not. I created a DIY business card that anyone can make.
I’ve been an independent studio for years and never had business cards. I network digitally and it‘s never come up. If you need to find someone, imagine the situation where you're hunting through a stack of cards. A blackout? Even then you're looking in the dark. How many cards slapped down to start a meeting get recycled an hour later? I still have full boxes from previous jobs. Sad, alone, un-networked. Next time you give out a card, look in their eyes. It’s awkward. Not how I want to start a relationship.
While I stand behind the previous paragraph, once in a while a physical leave-behind is handy. I ran into a long lost contact, told them about my new website and ended it with a “google me”. So I wanted a business card, but how to avoid another sad box in my drawer (so… much… guilt…)?
I figured there has to be people out there like me, so why not design business cards that anyone can make? I can solve beyond my own needs and create something for independents everywhere. I’ve always been the DIY type, especially when it comes to self-promotion, and that’s how I approached it.
The parameters of the project:
- I don’t need 1,000 cards, I need 50.
- They must be completely unique and memorable.
- If I’m only doing a few, can I customize to my audience?
Below is an explanation of my process and instructions to make fully customizable, tactile business cards on demand. You can follow them exactly, or get inspired and riff on it for your needs.
Years ago paper distributers only took large orders from agencies. Now they have retail outlets that can even get you a special order from the warehouse. A full press sheet (30"x40") is a couple dollars, which they will cut down to about 75 cards. I tried a bunch of papers, settling on French Paper Pop-Tone Lemon Drop 100# cover.
My card’s information is printed on a wrapping paper label. To test the limits of “accessible to anyone”, I printed them at a FedEx Office using their colored papers. They cost about six cents each, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t perfectly match my fancy card stock.
To attach the labels, a sticker maker can be found at any craft store for under ten bucks. The only tricky part is removing extra adhesive on the edges, which is done with a rubber cement square. It’s the difference between handing out a craft project and a premium business card.
Getting stamps made is pretty cheap ($6-12 each, hello) so I made a bunch. They have an imperfect, personal quality that shows this was made by a person, for a person. I'm using them to add a sentiment to envelopes and note cards.
The real genius behind on demand cards is being able to change them up. The colors and materials can evolve over time. If I ever feel like being that card slapper, I can customize the message to talk about why we’re meeting, the date, what we’re discussing. Instead of a forgettable ritual, it's a personal connection that’s more likely to start an exchange.
The final product
The cards are unique, memorable and premium. They reward the fingers as much as the eyes, and can be customized to the moment they were given out. The embosser has a long handle that extends the system to envelopes and note cards. Plus they are a great conversation starter about design, innovation and problem solving.
The system is tactile, premium and does not look handmade. If anything, I think they look quite expensive. In my field, a business card should suggest the kind of work you do. In this case, it’s a statement of scrappy problem-solving and seeing opportunities without sacrificing impact.