new business cards 2013

MentorMate’s NEW new Business Cards

Do you know what makes business cards great? Our culture to exchange and keep them. It has become an American business tradition to own one and to hand it out when meeting new people. The business card exchange is like a toast at a dinner party.

So what if someone brings an extraordinary card to the table?

It is at this moment that the dinner party takes on the tone of a Japanese tea ceremony. Everyone takes turns admiring the unique design, talking about it as if it was a work of vibrant art in an otherwise plain and minimalistic room. People notice things like varnish, letterpress, material, color, corners, thickness, size and shape. If your card resonates with someone (even in a negative way) they will often take it back to the office to show their co-workers, inspiring conversation about your card.

I care more about having a business card I am proud of than the average person. As you can probably tell, I am somewhat of a business card fetishist…

Business card design is important to me so I jumped at the chance to help design our new cards. When tackling a new card design there are many things to consider.


Business cards need to be business-card shaped. People who are in the “business card culture”, meaning, they collect, store, reference, and use business cards often, have a system in place. The system they have is prepared to handle business cards, not weirdly-shaped pieces of cardboard. Sure, people might think it’s cool that your card looks like a floppy disk, but when they try to put it in their wallet, business card holder, card binder, or Rolodex, it won’t fit. You need to use your best judgment, but keep the user experience in mind. I have seen plenty of non-traditional cards on the internet printed on scraps of denim, rubber bands, coasters, even red bricks. It depends on your industry, but in the business world a 3.5″ x 2″ card is probably best.


I am a big fan of rounded corners for one major reason: there are no corners to bend. The corners on a card are always the first to go. This isn’t an issue with rounded corners. Rounded corners easily slide in and out of tight spaces and always look pristine. They also have a more finished and expensive look.

Matte vs. Gloss

I like to write notes on cards, especially if there is something I don’t want to forget from a meeting that related directly to this person. For example, if a specific person would like to see a project we worked on, I would make a note on that person’s card. It is difficult to write on glossy cards and near impossible to do with pencils. For this reason I prefer a matte finish. Our new cards are double-matte.

Explain What the Company Does

When I originally redesigned our business cards the primary directive was to explain what our company does. The name, MentorMate, doesn’t exactly have a literal and obvious connection to what we do. I came up with the concept of putting highlighted and grayed-out skill badges on the back of the card. The highlighted badges describe each employees skills/roles while the grayed-out icons illustrated all the other skills/roles the company as a whole shares. This was a successful concept which will be carrying over into our new design.

It is important to have your card explain what your business does because people may forget. I played “project manager” in the construction of a restaurant once and I ended up with a collection of business cards from the plumber, electrician, tile guy, metal worker, landscaper, kitchen supplier, equipment warehouse, and furniture fabricators. I had to organize all of these using my little business card binder. It is a distant memory now, but I remember having a heck of a time trying to remember if “Edison and Sons” or “Hockenbergs” was our kitchen supplier.

Break the Ice

Because the business card exchange is often the first thing that takes place at a meeting, it is important that the cards start a conversation. As I stated earlier, changing the card exchange from a formal toast to a tea ceremony is huge. I want people to ask questions about our cards. I want to create a buzz.

QR Code?

I have a complicated relationship with QR Codes. Initially, I hated them, thinking them to be pointless. After exploring their possibilities and discovering some creative uses, I fell in love with them and wanted to put a QR Code on everything. Then I swung back to hating them after multiple frustrating issues, until finally, I settled on cool understanding. There is a time and a place for a QR Code and a business card is a pretty good place. You can set it up to import contact information on scan, which saves people the time of manually entering your data. If you have a portfolio or a hard-to-remember website you want people to visit, you can have it go there.

Our previous design did have the QR Code (during my QR love phase), and I can attest that it was more trouble than it was worth. Most people didn’t scan it and of the few who did, some had trouble and complained. Not all cell phone cameras are created equal; 5+ year old phones have a very tough time scanning small complex codes. As generations of business cards came and went, the code kept getting larger and less complex to make scanning as easy as possible. I had to cut certain information, like title, company, and fax number. I had to increase the size and adjust the design to accommodate it. In the end, I spent way too much time tweaking it. As such, there is no QR Code on our new design.

(If you do plan on using a QR Code, I suggest making it about as wide as the card will allow.)

The talented MentorMate design team has been working hard to re-brand the company and the new card theme is based on those new branding standards. The theme is chemistry. Each project is like a compound made up of different elements like project management, design, PHP development, and so on. Each employee brings a set of these elements to the project. This brief summary of our design logic is just to get us all on the same page – I will leave the detailed explanation of the branding’s meaning for another blog post.

My job is to marry the chemistry concept to the skill badge theme.

andy frontandy back

The front of the card lists all of the vital information. It is traditional and easy to understand. The back of the card is more interesting. You can see the throw-back to the skill icons, but we went a different direction this time. The icons are no longer labeled. I came to the decision to remove them, mostly for aesthetic reasons. The words made the icons irregular shapes creating too much clutter. The loss of information was a concern at first, but then we concluded that most people don’t know what most of the icons mean with or without a title. The majority of people can happily live their entire life and never have any idea what MySQL, PHP, or JQuery is. On the other hand, people who do know those things will have no problem identifying the icon.

While gathering my co-worker’s skill information to complete the backs all the unique cards, many would jokingly request icons like a basketball, high heels, or a Rebel Alliance symbol. We laughed it off at first, but then … why not? We already have icons like a ninja for SEO, a cup of steamy coffee for Java, and a penguin for Linux server administration. Would a ping pong paddle or microphone really be out of place? Why not let the back of the card tell as much of a story as possible about that employee, not just through skills but through hobbies and interests? I presented this idea up the chain and, to my surprise, it was approved! I opened the floodgates for special requests.

Here are the backs of the marketing team with custom icons. Let me know what you think in the comments! I am genuinely curious.

Pete Freeberg
Marketing Manager


Alex Krasny Creative
Marketing Specialist


Brady Swanson
Internet Marketing Specialist


Ryan Fortune
Inbound Marketing Specialist


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MentorMate’s New Business Cards

Think about all the unremarkable movies you have seen in your life that were forgotten the second you left the theater. Business cards are no different. You probably leave them strewn about your wallet, desk  or car as visual clutter you ignore on a daily basis. On the other hand, like any good work of art, there are probably some cards that stand out from the rest. Which kind would you rather have your name on?

When MentorMate tasked me with redesigning our business card I was given a single, simple instruction:

“Make our business card explain what our company does.”

“Custom software development” is what we do. Could I just write that and make it work? I tried several configurations and nothing looked right. It just cluttered up the design. Also, custom software development is not descriptive enough to fully explain what MentorMate does. Do we work with web software, desktop or mobile apps? Do we offer any other skills in additional to custom software development? MentorMate does all of those things, but a simple label cannot say it all. That sentence does not leave a lasting impression. I needed a better way to explain what we do at MentorMate in a way that people could understand and internalize.

Working Backwards

MM Hand Back

A realization occurred while I was sitting at my computer. I have Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign icons on my desktop. Adobe CS5 comes with many applications ranging from movie editing to flash animation. Most people only utilize a small subset of those applications. Anyone looking at my desktop would see these three icons and they would have a pretty good idea of what I do (graphic design) without having it spelled out for them. What if I had these icons on my business card?

But it is not enough to just explain what I do. The same way I can see that Adobe CS5 is much more than just Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, people need to see that MentorMate is more than just the skills of a single graphic designer. After a little more brainstorming the concept for the back of the card was born.

A list of all relevant skills was compiled with input from the entire staff and an icon was created for each of these skills. Every employee’s card has his or her skills highlighted, while the other skills remain grayed out. At a glance, you can see exactly what skills any person at MentorMate has and at the same time see all the skills MentorMate encompasses as a whole.

A bonus side effect of this design materialized: people want more badges. MentorMate employees are driven to light up as many of their icons as they can and become eager to learn new skills. The business card became almost like a trophy, a point of pride.

“Storyboarding” the Card Front is the email convention we use. As you can see, this email address holds a lot of information: name, company, website and email are all present. Instead of writing all that information out on the card, why not just break it down into the core elements?

Minimizing lines of code is an important practice for developers. Creating visual appeal is important to graphic designers. Most of all, it just makes sense. Alex.Krasny at is everything a client or business partner needs to know about me. Why use four lines when it can be said in one?

The graph paper background and the hand drawn brackets were added to create a storyboarding feel. MentorMate begins each project by discussing the clients business needs first, usually using a white board. There are many arrows, lines, subtitles and images scribbled on a white board in the early stages of any application’s development. Although the business card is far from an early stage of development at this point, the handwriting and measurements add an accurate visual cue.

Scanning the QR code will import all of the card’s contact info into any mobile device. QR codes are a relatively new piece of technology that will probably continue to develop as more people own smartphones that have scanning capabilities. The business card wears the QR code almost as a badge of technology forwardness.

“Make our business cards explain what we do as a company.”

In the end the business cards explain what we do as a company without outright saying so. The amount of redundancy is kept at a minimum while still delivering all relevant information. The proficiencies of each employee are delivered along with the company’s total knowledge pool without using excessive technical jargon. The resulting design is visually appealing and provides others with a small glimpse of our storyboarding process.