A highly scannable business card

A highly scannable business card

Not a bad business card

NOT BAD (scanned perfectly in spite of a patterned background BUT it would have been nice to see her business name in type, say between her name and her title, as scanners won’t “read” graphics (The Mary Kay logo to the right)

A bad business card

Real bad

I recently bought an OCR business card/receipt/document scanner called NeatDesk Desktop Scanner and Digital Filing System. And I’m loving it.

But I immediately noticed that NeatDesk “likes” some business cards and not others.

Some cards won’t translate to text at all.

Don’t you want YOUR business card to be OCR-friendly? I mean, who wants to create more work for a business contact or prospective employer or client?

You want an OCR-scannable business card.

Here are some dos and don’ts about creating a highly scannable document, at least on NeatDesk.


  • Large text. If you have trouble reading it, so will OCR software. Sans serif or serif, type will translate nicely if it’s big enough. And by big enough I mean just not teensy tiny.
  • Simplicity. Cards with simple (not fancy) lettering and clean backgrounds will scan better, no matter whether your background is light or dark and whether your type is white or black.
  • Contrast. Letters need to contrast with the background. A light blue type on a dark blue background, for instance, may not work well.
  • Critical info on one side of the card. NeatDesk can scan both sides of a business card. Some scanners can’t, and even NeatDesk won’t always incorporate data accurately from both sides. So put all important contact info on one side of the card.
  • Critical info grouped logically. Notice the “Real Bad” version of a business card above. It’s mine! Information needed to be larger and perhaps better organized. Oddly, the only two pieces of information that went into the correct locations of the OCR form were my work phone and my email address. On the other hand, Janice Lewis’s card above mine) was a perfect scan. No database touch-ups necessary.
  • Italics.
  • Fancy fonts or script fonts. Stick with clean fonts like Helevtica, Futura, or Gil Sans.
  • Fonts with exaggerated thicks and thins (e.g., Bodoni).
  • Complex backgrounds and art. OCR has trouble making out type superimposed over a graphic or complex pattern, for instance.
  • Fonts on an angle. Keep everything reading horizontally, whether your business card is horizontally or vertically oriented.
  • Logos with business name incorporated. If you use a logo, pair it with a text version of your business name, so that it can be read as text. Graphics don’t translate into text. See my caption notes for the Mary Kay business card above.


  • Two-sided cards. NeatDesk can scan both sides, but keep your critical info on one side.
  • Light type on dark background. Just make sure there’s enough contrast between the two.

So, if you’re designing a business card, or having one designed, be sure to take a print-out, cut it down to size, and run it through your scanner. I’d rather be associated as making life easier for my business contacts, not more difficult. Wouldn’t you?

How to design the best OCR-scannable business cards

by susan time to read: 2 min

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