Please provide an overview of credit card design best practices, with examples.
While most credit card design advice is targeted at individuals seeking to create personalized card designs, the following have been identified as design principles aimed at guiding professional card design: understand the purpose and limitations of the card, use a unified color scheme, balance simplicity and elegance, and ensure that the essential information is easy to read on both sides of the card.
AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION
There is no shortage of examples of unique, interesting, and beautiful credit card designs online. This is in part because custom designs have become common. As one card company extols, "Pick a design that shows your true colors. Simply log into the Account Center and select a new design for yourself or anyone on your account." In addition to being attractive expressions of one's own unique tastes, an individual can choose designs that express the purpose of the card; e.g., having a business card designed so that it represents and promotes the business when it is used to pay for lunch with a client.
Due to the ability to create unique credit card designs on even a personal level, the internet is replete with blogs, Pinterest boards, and other sites showing off these individual designs. What is less common are serious articles discussing the best practices in design. In fact, only a handful of sources discuss the design process itself. Consequently, the few sources available to identify best practices and the advice that follows, should be understood in light of the limitations of this data.
UNDERSTAND THE PURPOSE
On a simple, practical level, the average person carries at least three cards on them, and the ability to quickly tell them apart at a glance is immensely useful. Some also suggest that there is a basic human element in our desire for colorful, unique credit cards as well: "The world is tired of generic, impersonal credit cards that represent the grey life of busy money-making, in which there is no time for art and sparks of emotion and joy." Indeed, designing credit cards to commemorate historical events or raise awareness of a cause has become a common practice of companies wishing to demonstrate their social consciousness.
In addition, there is a real issue of branding, whether the branding of a tech-savvy firm or that of a parent. The best card design for a mother of small children, a Millennial who wants to show off his or her interests, or an entrepreneur attempting to impress clients will obviously be far different. The designer should not only understand the client's needs but how they perceive their brand and what feel they want the card to have. For example, the design of a credit card meant for business purposes especially "should be appealing and relevant to the company’s image."
UNDERSTAND THE LIMITATIONS
Credit cards are small and compact, yet they require a large amount of information to be presented even on their face (see below). Consequently, "Designers often rely on credit card templates to act as the base for their card design. Ready-made templates help save time and effort in constructing image layers and editing out canvas sizes." Other limitations are imposed by the necessity of presenting the most important information.
Colors chosen in the design should follow a color scheme that flows together. "To illustrate, wedding card templates often follow the same color motif that the couple chooses for their entire wedding." Likewise, a company credit card may work best if it follows the company's color scheme. Even a non-individualized card design should keep this in mind, with the color scheme following the bank's colors if possible.
SIMPLICITY VS ELEGANCE
Given the small size of the card, there has to be a balance between the card's simplicity and its elegance. On one hand, one should make "use of gradients, tones, highlights, shadows, and 3D effects" to "create realistic effects on the card," but on the other, the overall design should be kept simple, as perhaps exemplified in this example. While individuals creating custom cards may be encouraged to "go crazy with the background image—or as crazy as you are allowed to," in a professional design the card's "background image should stay on the backdrop and not overwhelm the customer’s eye," as some designs on this page show.
REMEMBER THE ESSENTIAL INFORMATION
No matter what design is envisioned, there are certain features that must go on every card, and the background image must be designed to accommodate and compliment them rather than make them difficult to read. This includes the cardholder's name, the bank's name and logo, the credit card name or version, the card number and expiration date, and the security features, in addition to all the information commonly carried on the back of the card. For an example of poor card design, the Favor Credit Card displays an elegant and eye-pleasing design, but this design makes reading the numbers on the card next to impossible.
THE BACK OF THE CARD
When considering the back of the card, it is accepted best practice "to use the same background image on the card’s reverse side." However, this means taking into account the information that needs to be printed clearly on the back, like "the bank’s contact information, a blank space for the customer’s signature, and the card’s verification value (or CVV). Despite being relegated to the back portion, these pieces of information are still important."
Though the advice for credit card designers that is available publicly is limited, understanding the purpose and limitations of the card, using a unified color scheme, balancing simplicity and elegance, and remembering to make the essential information easy to read on both sides of the card are the best practices for creating a card design that is both beautiful and useful.