On Printing Business Cards

by Darius Kazemi on February 4, 2010

in business cards,conferences,gdc,networking,networking tips

Someone recently asked me, “How many business cards should I take to the Game Developers Conference?”

The short answer: 300, but you should bring up to 500 if you can afford it.

Longer answer: the one time I ran of out business cards at GDC was my first year. I brought 200 and ran out by my fifth day. You should assume that you’ll probably give out 50 cards a day at GDC, especially if it’s your first year attending. (When you come back a second year you don’t have to give a card to people you already know, so your first year will probably be the most demanding in terms of card usage.) I think 50 a day is about average, but it’s very possible to give out 100 cards in a day.

So if you’re going to be there for five days, bring at least 300. If you’re going to be there for three days, bring at least 200. Honestly though, you might as well bring 500 cards. If you have a few hundred left over, hey, use them at the next networking event you attend!

Tips for Printing and Designing Cards

Vistaprint is probably the best-regarded online business card service (they serve both the US and EU). I tend to use Staples to print my cards by going to the store and placing an order in person — of the national brick-and-mortar chains that print business cards, I think their quality-to-price ratio is the best. As I’ve said before, you should print your card on non-glossy stock, as it’s hard to take notes on a glossy card.

You can design your business card in any software you’re comfortable with as long as you can create a PDF file in the correct dimensions. If you’d like to design your own business cards and don’t know where to begin, I recommend Scribus. The dimensions for an American business card are 2″ tall by 3.5″ wide, and you want to leave at least 0.25″ margins for printer variation. For some nice fonts you might want to use, check out this article and this website.

Update: there’s a followup post I’ve written.


gus February 4, 2010 at 3:21 pm

What, no Moo cards? Have they gone out of style in Silicon Valley?

Darius Kazemi February 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Haha. Those things are so small, I lose them consistently!

The Sister February 19, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Moo has regular sized cards, too! And I love them for being awesome at the HOW conference in Austin. Great people. Awesome cards. But they’re more pricey.

Noah Kantrowitz February 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm

If you want to skip designing them yourself (or just have no design talent like me) you can check out http://www.businesscardland.com/home/. They have a flash app that will let you customize some basic templates and make a PDF for printing.

Jeromie Walters February 4, 2010 at 5:25 pm

How timely! Unfortunately I can’t make it to GDC, but I have been planning to get some business cards for local events. What do you think of going with a colored business card? I was thinking of designing it with a single color, just trying something to stand out; but would going against the norm (white) here be a bad idea? Also, what about a head shot on the card to help people associate a face with the name?

Thanks for your help!

Darius Kazemi February 4, 2010 at 5:41 pm

A single color is fine. As for a head shot, don’t do it! When you have your photo on your card, you look like a real estate agent.

Joe Ludwig February 5, 2010 at 10:53 am

The actual number depends quite a bit on how outgoing you are. Darius may give out fifty cards a day, but I seem to give out more like fifty cards for the week. In fact I’ve never run out of a box of 500 cards before changing titles or companies, and that includes some years with multiple GDC and AGDCs per box.

That said, I usually stick the box in my suitcase just in case. If I run out during the day I can always stop by the hotel room for a refill before all the evening socializing.

Darius Kazemi February 5, 2010 at 10:59 am

Well, you and I spend a lot of time at GDC with people we already know. If you went to GDC not knowing a single person, I bet you’d give out 50 a day, easily.

Ian Schreiber February 7, 2010 at 11:22 am

For someone trying to “break in” to the industry, if they’re only giving out 50 cards in a week they are not spending their time wisely enough, I think. If you’re gonna pay the thousand(s) of dollars it takes to get out there in the first place, network like you mean it! :)

As for running out during the day, personally I always carry my backpack with me. In it I have:
* All of my cards, so I can “restock” in a few seconds rather than having to head back to the hotel;
* Notebooks and pens, both to take notes myself and to offer to the people sitting next to me if they need it;
* Laptop computer and power cord, also for taking notes and in case anyone needs one to show a software demo or something;
* Emergency snacks and drinks, so that I’m never in a session where I’m distracted from a brilliant speaker by something mundane like bodily hunger signals (and likewise, headache medicine in case my skull picks a bad time to vasodilate);
* Board games, because I want people to think of me when they’re trying to find the fun :)
* Any swag or random stuff I pick up along the way.

My shoulders are usually sore by the end of the week from walking around like a pack mule, but the convenience of having everything I need in reach at a moment’s notice is too great to give up.

Rachel Blum February 9, 2010 at 10:52 am

Oh, by all means, network like you mean it. But even assuming you can actually get 8 hours of pure networking time a day (which you really don’t, unless you ignore all the talks), that’s less than 10 minutes per person. It’s certainly a personal choice, but I usually would rather invest time in quality contacts than number of contacts.

Similarly to Joe, I rarely run out of business cards before I need to change them, either.

But hey, I’m a programmer, and as such socially slow anyways ;)

Alex Forsythe February 5, 2010 at 9:00 pm

How do you recommend that students indicate their area of expertise while making it clear that they’re not employed in that area? For example, I don’t imagine that “Level Designer” would be an appropriate title for someone who doesn’t actually hold that title professionally. Would “[Firstname Lastname] / [School] Class of 201x / Aspiring Level Designer” be all right?

Darius Kazemi February 5, 2010 at 9:49 pm

“Aspiring” or “Student of” or “Studying” would be totally fine.

Ian Schreiber February 7, 2010 at 11:25 am

I’ve seen some pretty clever student business cards. Darius wrote his tagline “a generally useful guy to know” which, aside from being accurate, was more memorable than “aspiring game programmer/designer” or whatever.

I saw one student card, I still have it somewhere, that introduced the person as “the mythical female programmer”… again, more memorable than “aspiring.”

I suppose you need to be careful with this, though. It’s easy to cross the line from “memorable” to “cliche” or “cheesy”. So maybe that kind of thing is best for your second year at GDC, after you’ve already seen what other cards are out there.

Max Nichols February 7, 2010 at 6:18 pm

You can say that again. I’ve experimented with taglines, and mine almost inevitably fall on the cheesy side… and I don’t often realize it until too late. Clearly, clever tagline writing is not my forte.

But you can bet that the moment I’ve got a good one it’s going on my business card. I just need to remember to have it checked out by a few friends, first.

Rachel Blum February 9, 2010 at 10:53 am

“the mythical female programmer” – that’s awesome. I wish I had thought of it! ;)

Erin Hoffman June 22, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Ian’s point is a great one. It’s the one thing I would add to Darius’s advice… I suspect for first-timers the words on the card are actually more important than the card’s visual design, though it’s certainly possible to excessively advertise non-pro status by having a business card that looks out-of-date, is too busy, or has poorly printed graphics. The worst one I saw from a student was glossy and black with a grainy graphic of something on it — I’m not even sure what. A classy but plain non-glossy white card with Times New Roman on it is much safer.

When I was a student I had “Creativity for Hire” on my card, which got comments from most of the people I handed it to. I didn’t really even expect that reaction — I just had an assortment of things I wanted to do and needed a broad phrase that would capture them. And I didn’t have that card very long. :) If I had to do it over again I would stick to the same — keep it simple, put your web address on the card, and aim your thought energy at a memorable (unique) phrase that encapsulates what you have to offer.

Darius Kazemi June 22, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Great point, Erin. I’ve added it to the followup blog post: http://tinysubversions.com/2010/02/business-cards-continued/

David McGraw February 13, 2010 at 1:40 am

My wife used Vistaprint for her latest business card and I was very happy with the results. However, for 250 cards it ended up costing $65 (including shipping). ($0.26/card)

Our wedding photographer used a service 4colorprint.com and her cards were pretty fantastic. I picked up the 16pt. silkcards at 500 cards for $69. ($0.13/card). This is who I just ordered from this round so be sure to grab my card so you can check them out.

(the price for both of these include full color on the back side)

If you really want to go the unique route and have some cash to spend… This company has some outstanding looks: http://www.plasmadesign.co.uk/ Don’t expect much note taking on these though…

Ian Schreiber February 13, 2010 at 12:36 pm

David brings up a good point about the limitations of Vistaprint. You can actually get, I think, 250 cards for $0 + shipping… but with some caveats. First, they WILL try to upsell you at every opportunity, so if you’re on a budget you will need to stick with their basic stock designs; second, shipping is of course going to vary on location, and they are US-based so they might not be an ideal solution for someone in another country; and third, their free cards do come with an advertisement for Vistaprint on the back of the card, which is kind of tacky if you’re trying to promote yourself and not them. So basically it’s a way of letting potential employers know that you are short on cash :-)

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: