Niki Jacob - Advertising Art & Design Instructor

Business Card Design

In this project, we will continue to master Illustrator by taking the knowledge used in creating a logo and creating a custom business card and trading card for a faux soda company with many soda flavors.

Ten years ago, business cards were the primary source of exchanging contact information with a contact you’ve just met. They usually contained every conceivable way to contact somebody, and as a result, were weighed down with tons of text.

Now, a simple web or email address is all that’s needed to get in touch with somebody, so business card design has evolved to become much more creative and cleaner in design. Even though trading cards have been a staple in baseball, they have not been used as a marketing resource for businesses.

Today, many businesses are using trading cards as a way to grow their business. Trading cards are being used in the craft beer business to show off each IPA. Keeping in mind this is high school, for this project, you will create a business card and a trading card for a soda company enticing consumers to collect their favorite soda flavors. You will also need to find a balance between creating a card that reflects the business personality, appears professional, and is clean in its design.


Let’s focus on the typography, layout, and design principles. What is the design, tone, audience, and purpose of the business card? In your sketchbook answer the following questions.

  • What information needs to be on the card?
  • What do you want to communicate about yourself or the organization?
  • How will you incorporate the logo? Does it need to change?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What impact do you want the business cards to have when they are handed out?
  • What is the most important information to be conveyed?
  • How does your audience impact the font family you will use?


Having a website is a must for any company, and for strategic purposes you should always keep the URL as simple as you can. 


Rule of Thumb for Domain Names and Social Profiles

It is good practice to add the website address but not the homepage. Example: We all know that the name, job title (Exact service you provide), and contact information belong on a business card. But to create a truly useful card requires an appreciation for the subtle. As an extension of your brand, the first thing you should consider including would be a logo and a tagline. Adding your social profiles is also a good idea – but keep the profile name/link as short as possible.

Creative brief for this unitAXE and ARROW SODA COMPANY

COMPANY: Axe and Arrow Soda Company

PROBLEM: They need a new business card and a new trading card. The Business Card is horizontal, the trading card is for each of their different flavor sodas and is vertical.

  1. In your sketchbook next to or under the card write out your goals and design decisions, explain the design principles you used.
  2. Make sure you find out everything that is needed on the card.
  3. Upload to the same assignment and name the file “redesign-filename.
  4. Save as an EPS, AI, and JPG
  5. Print out the cards with Marks and Bleeds — Trim, Registration, Color Bars, and Page Information.


  1. Artwork 3 files in ai, eps and jpg
  2. Study Notes
  3. Quiz

Portfolio Items

  1. Analog Portfolio: Printout with all Registration and Marks.
  2. Digital Portfolio: Post added with Gallery and rationale behind the design

Setup for Commercial PreSS

Now let’s step back and think about just the graphics we need. Read the article Difference Between Bitmap and Vector to learn the difference between bitmaps and vector images. In almost everything we create, we will be creating vector images. Before you do anything in Illustrator make sure you have all your graphics together in a folder on your drive.

So open up Illustrator and let’s go ahead and:

  • Let’s create a new document with the following settings:
  • On the TOP Menu in this box, I’d like you to select Print from this profile pulled down and what that does is that sets up everything else the way that we need it.
  • Under the PRESETDetails, I  make sure I don’t end up with Untitled-4 all over the place. So I will change the name to AI-5 CARDS cause we’re gonna make some business cards. 
  • Change the Points to Inches because we are better in the US for reading in inches. But it is your choice.
  • We are making a business card and a trading card. Both have a Front and a Back. Both are standard sized business cards at 3.2 inches by 2 inches.
  • Orientation change to Landscape, we will change 2 artboards to vertical later on.
  • 4 artboards (Business Front, Business Back, Trading front, Trading Back)
  • Bleed: 3 mm on Top, Bottom, Left and Right margins.
  • Advanced Options:
    • Color Mode: CMYK Color …commercial printing
    • Raster Effects: High (300ppi) …more detail
    • CREATE. 

The bleed is going to be displayed as a red rectangle around the canvas. (If you don’t see it, go to View > Guides > Show Guides)

What is bleed?
For example, think about how on your printer from home, if you tell it you wanna print something full screen or full size, you always get that little white border around the edge, well every printer basically has that problem. And so what you do with bleed is you print the document larger than you need it. This way the color can go all the way past the edges when you print it.

Advanced Options
Your advanced options here may be closed and if you open them you’ll see that it’s CMYK at 300.

  1. Remember to always use CMYK when you’re designing a document that may be sent to a professional offset press. This is not for any document you think you’re gonna print because if you’re printing on an inkjet printer or a color laser, you want to design an RGB.
  2. CMYK is only for commercial offset presses.

You can see that our Raster Effects are also the highest quality making sure everything is clear and crisp.

Rule of Thumb – Raster Effect Tips

  • Set my Raster Effects to high, when printing on a high-quality printer or for offset.
  • Set to medium for cheap home computers.
  • Set to 72. Anything for the web or maybe concepts

TIPS: When you designing for a printer, an outside source. Another way of thinking of it is a Commercial Offset Printing company you ALWAYS use CMYK. If you are merely printing them at home or for a client you always use RGB. Why??? The consumer printers only print in RGB (laser and inkjet); whereas commercial printers print using CMYK colors.

Guide Me to Your Rulers

It is always good practice to set up your Rulers, Guides, and Grids before starting. We need to make guidelines (like bleed) on the inside of the documents too. You can make changes in Preferences to Save these settings for all documents you use in Illustrator. 

  1. Show our rulers. View, Rulers, Show Rulers. 
  2. Right-click the ruler and change to inches.
  3. Show the Grid. View, Show Grid. This helps us align things on our screen. 
  4. Let’s use the grid to help align your artboards to be precise in measurements and aligning objects. Click on the artboard tool.
  5. Drag the artboard until it lines up with the grid.
  6. Using the grid let’s set up our TRIMMING ZONE. Standard TRIM SIZE is .10.
  7. Left side ruler. Click on the ruler itself and holding down the button, drag across the screen. You will see a dark line as you drag. This is a guide. 
  8. Create guides on each side that are .10 or 1 box on the grid. 
  9. Layers panel. Lock Guides.

When done. File, Save. Name it. Save.


  • Click on the artboard tool.
  • Drag the artboard until it lines up with the grid.
  • Using the grid let’s set up our TRIMMING ZONE. Standard TRIM SIZE is .10.

Left side ruler. Click on the ruler itself and holding down the button, drag across the screen. You will see a dark line as you drag. This is a guide. Because we need a TRIM guide on each side of our cards we need to create guides on each side that are .10 or 1 box on the grid. Layers panel. Lock Guides.


The Safe Zone is where you can put all your information without fear of it being cut off by the printer. In order to do this, we need our rulers and guides.

Go to the ruler at the top and click and hold the mouse button down and drag. A blue line should come down with you.

  • Place this line on about 1 box in from the BLEED.
  • Do this on all 4 sides. Make them align with the grid lines.

This will allow us to know important stuff like text or logos should not go past these lines in fear they might be cut off.

Align the Artboards to the Grid – The Artboard tool 

The Artboard tool is used to both create and edit artboards. Another way to enter this Artboard Editing mode is to simply select the Artboard tool. Now, to create a new artboard, click and drag to the far right of the artboards. Notice the Gray Measurement label showing the Width and Height as you draw.

  1. For this lesson, let’s go into the Artboard and just make sure our Artboards line up with the GRID. This will make aligning easier.
  2. Now let’s LOCK our guides.

2. Setting Up Your Background

Never set the background all one color at the beginning in the Profile settings. 

  1. Basically I have to build a box. Click the rectangle tool
  2. Use the rule of thirds when creating the boxes or go for a full width and height box. Remember that the rule of thirds is kinda like basically laying a tic-tac-toe board over your design.
  3. The background needs to extend to the bleed line.

Text Me

Use the Text tool to add your name and other items to your card.

  • Experiment with the colors
  • Experiment with the Typeface or Fonts.
  • Maybe all caps or Titlecase

If you want to know what typefaces go well together head over to TYP.IO.

Take some time before moving on and add all the text to the FRONT and BACK of your card. All business and trading cards have the text so let’s click on the text tool.

  1. Using your mouse button, drag and draw a box. 
  2. Add some text in the box.
  3. Experiment with the fonts, size, and color. 
  4. Create a new Text box for each item on the card.

To manipulate the text and stretch it, like I would a graphic . Double click the handle with the circle on it, out to the right. It will convert the text to a point type. Play with the boxes and the arrows.

Placing Items

Your business probably has a logo, and we need to PLACE it on the document. 

  1. File. Place
  2. Find the logo file. Click Place.
  3. In the options area, Choose Embed


Rule of Thumb – Linked Files

When you or someone changes the linked document, it will automatically update this document. Click Edit the Original to actually go to the original and edit it.

Pasting Items

  1. And I’m going to just open my logo file.
  2. Make sure that the text is expanded. 
  3. Object. Expand.

Creating Shadows

  1. Click on an object in the document.
  2. Effect. Stylize. Drop Shadow
  3. Preview is checked
  4. Change the different parameters or leave it. OK

Rule of Thumb-Double Shadows

If I need to change the drop shadow later on. Do not go to Stylize. Drop Shadow or you will create another drop shadow. Properties panel. Fx, Drop Shadow, or Trash it.

Creating Gradients

Gradients can be bold or they can be subtle. Sometimes if you add a little bit of a subtle hint to an element it gives it depth. 

  1. Select the object
  2. Gradient tool on the toolbar. 


Not only does that add a gradient to your object, but it opens up the gradient panel as well.

The Gradient panel

  1. Linear or radial. Change the angle, Change the color. Double click the current color. Choose a color. Click outside the panel for it to Save.
  2.  Creating a Fade
  3. Change the Opacity to 0% for a color.

Style Options

  • Window. Graphic Styles. At the bottom of the Graphic Styles panel is a bunch of books. 
  • Choose additional effects already in Illustrator.

Style Option – Appearance Panel

  • The appearance panel will show you how each effect is made.
    The Graphic Styles panel will allow you to duplicate and create your own. And even change the name of the style.

The Transform Panel
Edit the Size or Shear or Rotation and Shear of an object

Stay Organized – The layers panel

The primary goal of the layers panel is to help us organize all of the elements that make up our document. Think about layers if they’re like folders and files. 

  1. Create a new layer, (bottom of panel, plus button)
  2. Group similar items together.
  3. Rename layers. Like Card Front and Card Back.

The Eyedropper Tool

Whatever objects are selected, they are going to suck up the color and/or effect with the eyedropper tool. This is one way to keep things really unified and make sure that they always look the same. 

Exporting Your Card

Vector Files

  • Very small
  • can scale infinitely without quality loss or also called
  • Small Files not meant for photographs
  • Most Common Formats: ai, svg, eps, pdf


  • RESOLUTION DEPENDENT or looks better at a specific size
  • Compressed files for photographic images
  • Most common formats are jpg, gif, png, mp4.

Save Like a Pro

  1. File, Save. Save As to create a new version of the file. Example: Business-Card-Sophomore to Business-Card-Junior.
  2. Save as Type. ai.
  3. Type. Create outlines. Turning them into vectors. This text can be sent without the actual font files because unless you have the rights to share that font file, it’s actually a copyright violation to include the font for the client to be able to modify themselves. 
  4. File Save As. card final-vector. (change the filename, Vector files are a type of file that are resolution-independent. There are a couple of different formats that you can use; EPS, PDF, and SVG.)
  5. Check to use Artboards. Save.
  6. File. Export. Save for the Web. Preset Name. JPG or PNG-24. Choose PNG for a transparent background. JPG is the best to also send to a client.