All business cards in the same size? This seems unusual to me as clothes and humans aren't the same size too! Aiming at individuality and our whish to stand out of the mass led us to incredible creativity concerning design, materials, techniques and finishing – almost every time within the same size. The net knows everything and confirms my apprehension: "The standard for business cards is 8,5x5,5 cm. All popular onlineprinters offer this dimension: Orientation can be portrait or landscape – eitherway is possible. I wouldn't reccomend any other sizes. Depending on the supplier one needs to add bleed for the background to reach the edges in case the die cutter shifts." I came across this advice on one of the most popular Q&A Websites. Should I jubilate because we're fre to chosse portrait or landscape on our own? Or should I worry about shifting and sliding die cutting machines with several tons of weight just because I forgot to add bleed to my design?
Anyway, back to work: In my opinion there are two main reasons for this egalitarianism. One is historical and there's one that is current.
Nowadays we have all relevant contact information on our smart devices in our pocket. Well organized businessmen and women in the old days had to have another solution. They had a well organized archive of all contact details: manually operated, analogue and offline — what else.
Rolodex, Filofax and a filing box had one thing in common: a maximum size of the item to be filed. The blueprint for this very card size was presumably a bank card. ISO/IEC 7810 ID-1 85.60 × 53.98 mm (3.370 × 2.125 in). When choosing this size one couldn't make a mistake. Too big a card would result in a displeasing situation: the risk not to be filed because of this bulky card. There's no doubt that printers just could do any size, but nobody seemed to be willing to move awy from the safe ground of this dimension. This way a bank cards size became the least common denominator…
When online print services gained momentum the size was finally settled. Producing goods at minimal costs demands a high degree of standardization and streamlined processes. Individual sizes of business cards on a press sheet can't be processed as fast and cost-efficient as cads of all the same size. Maybe robots are on this task as well…
Sidenote: Oscar Friedheim invented a cutting machine back in the year 1889 (see picture) that was capable of trimming not less than 100,000 business cards a day! So we can conclude that streamlining the cutting process isn't an invention of online print businesses!
Business Cards became en vogue during the era of Louis XIV. In the beginning one used playing cards and took down its own name in case the person wasn't met.
During the 19th century asize of 105 x 65 millimeters for gentleman and 80 x 50 mm for the ladies became fashionable. There were even card sizes that were reserved: German emperor Wilhelmwas the only one o be allowed to have a card measuring 120 x 80 millimeters. During the course of history sizes changed a lot and related personal taste and fashion. French cards tended to be long and slender, British cards were smaller and in America square cards could be seen. When the 20th century broke the hippest card size was the small British with rounded corners.
85,60 mm x 54 mm
3.370" x 2.125"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,59
74,0 mm x 52,0 mm
2.913" x 2.047"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,42
85 mm x 55 mm
3.346" x 2.165"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,55
120 mm x 80 mm
4.724" x 3.150"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,5
90 mm x 55 mm
3.543" x 2.165"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,6363
90 mm x 50 mm
3.543" x 1.969"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,8
89 mm x 51 mm
3.5" x 2"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,75
90 mm x 54 mm
3.543" x 2.125"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,67
91 mm x 55 mm
3.583" x 2.165"
Aspect Ratio: 1 : 1,655
Source: Designers Toolbox
How do you carry your business cards with you? In your wallet? Really – you must be joking?!? Wikipedia explains: "A business card needs to be clean, immaculate and of high quality." (Source: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visitenkarte (german). Clean and immaculate – this leaves absolutely no room for interpretation and rendes the idea of putting cards into you wallet as invalid. Anyway, one more thought: The budget invested in your cards doesn't matter. But what's for sure is that you wasted your budget while destroying your cards deliberately in your wallet. You destroy your cards with purpose and leave a more than mediocre impression with the receiver.
There's no doubt a cardholder is what one should use. They fit into the pocket of a shirt or suit and can be found easily in a purse. There's a wide variety of modern cardholders but very nice ones can be found on antique markets as well. Card holders of earlier times have patina and a story to tell and – ost important in the sense of this article – do support card sizes that differ from the bank cards size!
Established, handy, normal – this is the conclusion. You don't do anything wrong with a card of this size. Today it doesn't matter too much anymore if a card fits into an organizer. Some business card afficionados even go one step further: "[…] business cards that are put into plastic pouches contained in a file in order to browse them without pulling them out. This is something I refuse! You can't feel their edges, the stock they're made of and won't recognize their smell. Besides of that do business cards look great while arranged on a desk. […]." (Dorrian, Farrelly: "Visitenkarten", Stiebner Verlag, 2004, S. 5).
A passionate collector will have a solution for storing cards in non standard sizes – that's for sure! I by myself really do enjoy good cards meandering around my desk. I wouldn't call it "decoration" but the most beautiful are kept the longest time on my desk…
In the end there is only one really strong point about the size of a bank card: they fit into a wallet. But what kind of an advantage is this when you shouldn't put them there anyway because they'ld be doomed for extinction?
Not doing something wrong doesn't necessarily mean you're doing it right. Choosing the bank cards size means risking to vanish in the masses. HP Becker of New Cat Orange nails it: "A business card is a personal statement and has nothing to do with the application of norms and standards – and furthermore it hasn't to do anything with paying!".
Non standard sizes stand out of he mass! think about the last time you were on a trade show or a congress. You might have collected a pile of cards and chances are great that all of them share the same size. But what about that one card that sticks out of the pile? Maybe it has colored edges to make it stand out even more? You almost can't avoid to remind this card…
Cardfila, specialises in digital storage of business cards. They claim that business cards get lost after four years on average. Shouldn't we try to create business cards that will never get dumped by purpose. We go with Dorian and Farrell when it comes to good looking business cards on a desk. Decorating someones desk seems obvious but what a great opportunity to be in front of someones eyes day after day, week after week. This way business cards turn into success stories and are an essential aspect of someones marketing. The size of a business cards size matters as well asprinting and finishing techniques used. It is one critical aspect because of its impact on layout and design.
What size should you choose? Overtrumping or containment? Small and elegant might be suitable for private calling cards when it must not be a top priority to stand out of a pile of cards.
When thinking about bigger sized cards one doesn't have to go wider and taller. Differing in one dimension might fulfill the task. 89 x 55 millimeters for example stands out of a pile and has a far more appealing aspect ratio than a bank card. The reason: it's a "golden rectangle".
The golden ratio fascinates mathematicians and scientists since centuries and this is why I wont delve into it here. But what seems interesting in regard to printing is the fact that the type area of books usually has the following proportions: gutter margin : head stick : outer margin : foot stick = 2 : 3 : 5 : 8. This Choice of Fibonacci figures is close to the golden proportion and seems mythical somehow. Examples of harmonic looking geometric elements can be found in nature in vast amounts. These can be described or explained by the golden ratio and Fibonacci figures. It might lame pointing out that the design of the card follows these rules while presenting it in a bar, but I'm convinced that those rule play a significant role.
If the primary usage of a business cards aims at trade shows or conferences it is not optional but mandatory to have a card that differs in size from the masses.
In case you head to a printer or finisher to have you cards done individually don't miss this chance to stand out an shine!
And here's the best thing about alternative sizes: Differing in size from a bank card doesn't cost you more. So, why should you leave out this chance? Use the full potential of custom tailored business cards and don't just go for cheap cards ordered online!
P.S.: If you want to know more about the business cards depicted above click here:Sophisticated Business Cards "Convecto".