The revived interest in embossed and engraved business cards is kind of an interesting phenomenon. Just a generation ago, a good number of people thought that business cards would go the way of the dodo and disappear from the landscape entirely. With quantum leaps in communications technology happening in the ‘90s and 2000s we thought we were being brought ever closer to a paperless future.
With the benefit of hindsight, we now realize that what technology did instead was to democratize business card printing. More people than ever before have business cards these days, which should be no surprise. We’re now living in an era where custom printing is more affordable than it’s ever been. Not only are commercial grade printers more accessible than they’ve ever been, a large number of online printing services have brought custom printing to the masses, so to speak. Our more solitary, technologically-dependent lives have also led many of us to crave for the human touch only print can provide, further driving interest in business cards.
Of course, people still being people, engraved and embossed prints remain a niche product due to their relative cost. To further reduce costs, many business cards produced today are printed with no human intervention after the design is sent in, leading to predictably disappointing results.
Those who take business cards seriously, however, are still drawn to traditionally handcrafted engraved and embossed business cards. Compared to mass-produced business cards or typical DIY efforts, a professionally-made engraved or embossed card will be made to a higher standard and better attention to detail than is typical of most business cards today.
What are engraved business cards?
Engraved business cards are created by etching details onto a suitable material. This could be done with traditional metal engraving tools or a precision laser cutter. This results in a three-dimensional effect on the business card. This could be subtle or dramatic, depending on the material and the design. The major benefit of this process is that you aren’t restricted to cardstock. Engraving could also be used on materials not often seen on business cards, such as wood or metal.
What are embossed business cards?
Embossed business cards, on the other hand, feature details that are impressed onto the back of the card with a special metal plate. The plate will have raised text or images, that when pressed firmly onto to a heavyweight piece of cardstock, deform it so that the details on the plate are transferred onto the piece of cardstock. If you wish, the plate can also be pressed onto the front side of the cardstock so that the details sink in, rather than rise up. In this case, you will have “debossed business cards”.
You can have a card that is nothing but embossed details for a clean, minimalist look, or you choose to combine embossing or debossing with regular printing. If you choose the latter option, the printed details of the card are raised or sink in. Since the embossed details are created by stretching the cardstock, the technique tends to work better with spaced-out lines and letters, and some distortion in dense images is inevitable. However, this is part of the charm of embossed business cards and a skilled craftsman can usually make the needed adjustments to make your card stand out in all the right ways.
Which is better: Embossed or engraved business cards?
Neither process is ‘better’ than the other. It all boils down to whether you like the engraved or embossed look a bit more. Subtly engraved business cards tend to have a more formal look to them and embossed cards will tend to suit creative workers a bit more, but a good designer can make either process work for whatever you need. One thing you can be sure of though is that people don’t see engraved or embossed business cards every day – something to keep in mind the next time you’re shopping for business cards.