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A blog about branding, marketing, and design, mostly through the lens of practical psychology, intended to be a resource to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Nyla Smith, owner of n-Vision Designs. {Subscribe to the RSS feed here: RSS}

Horizontal vs. vertical business cards

Nyla Smith | Friday, July 29, 2011

It's time for me to restock on my business cards, and since I have been redesigning my logo, of course I have to redesign my cards as well. In the spirit of exploring my options, I decided to design a vertical version of my new business card as well as horizontal one.

And dangit, now I'm stuck.

I took to the streets (i.e. Google-searched and ended up on various blogs and forums) to see what others thought about vertical vs horizontal cards in general. I didn't learn much...well, not much that I hadn't already opined on my own. But here's a summary:

Pros and Cons of Vertical Business Cards

Pros: They're unconventional. In a sea of horizontal business cards, a vertical one stands out just because it's different. Yes, your business card is for informational purposes, but it can also be a marketing piece. if you can get people to take a second look at your card (just to say "hm, that's different), it will help you to stand out in their mind. That's what every business wants, to stand out from the get noticed, be remembered, and inspire action.

Cons: They're unconventional. That means it has the potential to turn people off, if even just a tiny bit. Not everybody likes change. A vertical card will have to be turned sideways to go in business card holders or wallets that are typically oriented for horizontal cards. If someone is looking for or quickly scanning through cards, they'd have to turn either their head or their business card holder sideways to read it. This inconvenience could be slightly annoying to the person having to do this.

Pros and Cons of Horizontal Business Cards

Pros: They're standard. Horizontal cards are the norm. Business card holders, books, racks, and stands are all created for this norm. It's what people are used to. You can't shove a square peg in a round hole. And if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it, right?

Cons: (Yep, you guessed it—) They're standard. It's hard to call this a con, it's really just more like a status quo. But as mentioned earlier, almost everybody has horizontal cards, so you'd need to focus on elements other than the orientation to make yours stand out.

Other factors to consider

Think about the amount and line lengths of the information going on the card.

Vertical cards give you only a 2 inch width. If you, or anybody in your organization, has a long name or title, it may not fit. If your logo is horizontal, it may not fit. If your domain name is, it may not fit.

On the flip side, if you have short concise bits of text, vertical may work for you. In my case, I have a short name (and I'm the only name that will be printed), I've got a list of services that works nicely in a long vertical list, and I have both a horizontal and a vertical version of my logo to choose between.

Think about the purpose of the card.

Whenever one starts to get lost in details, one may tend to forget the forest for the trees. It's always best when trying to make a decision like this to step back and say, "How would this decision affect or support the ultimate purpose of this project?" As mentioned earlier, a business card, at its core, is simply a way to share your contact information with someone else. However, since I don't want to waste an opportunity to market, I think it should also be considered a selling piece. Ideally, you want to be able to talk to people and explain what your business is, what you do, and the benefits of doing business with you. Then you hand them your card so they can get in touch with you later. That's the sharing information bit. However, there will be instances where you don't have time to engage in a conversation with everybody you come across. But you can still hand them your card. If the only exposure that person has of you is your business card, you want it to say something. That's the marketing bit.

Think about your industry and audience.

Typically those in the more creative fields—artists, musicians, and the like—are given a little more leeway in being unconventional. Typically the more conservative fields—like law, finance, and government (random thought: does the President have a business card?) — should stick more to the status quo. 

And the verdict is...

Now, back to my dilemma at hand. I've got two designs and can't choose between them. I bet you want to see them, don't you? Okay, okay, you've twisted my arm; here you go:

Vertical business card, front and back

horizontal business card, front and back

And now it's decision time. So, after researching public opinion, reviewing the pros and cons, considering the purpose of my cards, thinking about my industry and audience, and doing some deep soul searching, which one did I decide to go with? Ah, decisions, decisions. Drumroll, please...

Oh, before I get to suggestion I came across on a forum was to design the front horizontally and the back vertically (or vice versa). That way you get the best of both worlds, right? That's a possibility, but it seems to me that would make it more confusing when somebody flips it over. Once you've already established the orientation to the viewer then it might be disorienting if they turn it over and all of a sudden it's not vertical anymore. So, I commend the idea for its attempt to be all things to all people, but I quickly kicked it to the curb.

Right, so back to my decision. Yeah, that.  *sigh* Okay, drumroll...

I'm leaning toward...

...the vertical card.

Yeah? No? What do you think?

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 13 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
peachi commented on 29-Jul-2011 09:56 AM
I like the vertical card's design as're giving me some ideas :)

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