In a recent post, we discussed what your business card says about you, but we didn’t even scratch the surface of the larger issue: contemporary business card design. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a whole new world out there.

Gone are the days where business card selection and personalization were all about quality/texture of paper, font, and color of ink. As we rang in our new, design-crazy world, we welcomed with it the thrill of experimentation, of pushing the traditional to see how far it could go, and business cards were no exception.

While some of the new aesthetic creates problems—misshapen cards, mostly, that, tend to get lost because they don’t fit into a wallet or scan easily into ScanBizCards or a similar product—design has never been bigger or bolder. Just have a look at YourBusinessCardSucks, CardObserver, or Hongkiat; what you’ll notice is that, while cards have largely stayed the same shape, they’re different now, bolder, and, most importantly, more geared toward visually representing a brand.

Here’s what’s changed:

  • Typography, typography typography: Gone are the days where type-face is relegated to a few simple styles from which you choose regular, slim, cursive, bold, or italic. Each week, new type-faces are being created, many of which capture current trends (think “chalkboard writing”) and different modes of expression. Because “professional” is a given with a business card at this point, many search out type-faces that represent something about their brand, tell part of the brand story, or create the emotional associations they want.
  • An image is worth a thousand words: The old white (or cream or pearl) business card is over; it’s tired, boring, and it’s been seen a thousand times. Instead, professionals are taking the time to be strategic with the coloring and images they present on their business cards. Whether it’s a logo, an illustration, or a funky pattern or color-scheme the brand, forward-thinking professionals are looking for images on the card that create emotional, visual connections with their brand.
  • The whole should be more than the sum of its parts: Holistic design is everything in business cards; in that way, you see the influence of visual art on business card design. Because business cards are no longer about just conveying information but rather making a branded value proposition, it’s not enough to have a cool type-face, a funky image, and contact information. Instead, cards now demonstrate a harmony among their elements, so much so that, without reading a word on it, the viewer knows exactly what the brand values, what their aesthetics are, and, most importantly, what services they can provide. Many actually hire designers to ensure that their cards convey these characteristics.
  • Take a risk: Thirty years ago, it would have been unthinkable that a business card might come as a toy, a cheese-grater, or be made out of Legos. Nowadays, it’s encouraged. In addition to unconventional content on business cards, people are rethinking what a business card is or has to be. Businesses are creating “cards” that a receiver will either remember because of the extreme novelty or one that they’re less likely to discard because it provides a practical use (think cheese-grater or bottle opener) that speaks directly to the business’ value proposition.

Business cards are changing; there’s not doubt about that. It’s the future out there, after all. How are you coping with it? Do you have a beautiful business card?