Business cards are like fountain pens, right back on-trend. The irony of course with the fountain pen is that people take to their keyboards or their laptops or electronic devices to type about how wonderful they are! Business cards are available in an e-format but that humble and tangible little piece of card is still actively very much in use. So why is a small piece of card still thriving in this fast-paced 21st century digital age? First, let’s take a look at its history.
The business card has its origins in the calling card used by the aristocracy in the 17th and 18th centuries. In those days, calling cards were about the size of a playing card whereas today, business cards are smaller. A calling card was a hallmark of quality and style and this is the first big connection with the modern business card and from where it draws its early influence.
In these early years, the calling card was usually separate to the caller but by the late 18th and the 19th century, the calling card and the caller arrived together. The etiquette of this form of announcement was very important and calling cards developed their own language. This is one feature which has not survived into the 21st century. A card with a corner folded down meant the visitor had attended in person. Cards folded in the middle indicated that the caller had come to see all the family members. Certain styles of lettering could point at the purpose for a visit – P/C for a condolence call following a death and P/F for a visit to offer congratulations for a happy event.
During the industrial revolution, a new class appeared in society, new families empowered by industry and often referred to as ‘new money’. Seeking acceptance via societal norms, this new breed of industrialists began copying the upper-classes, handing out a card which described what they did in the absence of an aristocratic designation. Initially, the business card was more prevalent in the States and then as with many ideas even today, it travelled across the Atlantic to the UK. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So, why has a simple human act – the passing across of a piece of card – with 300 years of tradition, still survived into the modern era? Here’s why.
• Business cards are personal – they represent a face to face meeting or encounter so carry memories of a conversation, an impression that was formed – you just can’t replicate this online
• Business cards are convenient – if you are in a group of people at a conference or reception, it can be hard to disseminate your email address, twitter handle and social media details without resorting to an endless typing fest on your Smartphone. A business card neatly and simply carries all of your data, email address and mobile number plus and anything else you want it to say. It is a way of confirming a conversation or meeting without interrupting the flow – professional and convenient especially when you are in a situation where lots of people may want your details
• Business cards can be personalised – your card can say so much about you, far more than just your contact details. Styling and design can echo your business or organisation’s branding – the presentation can convey so much more about you and what you do beyond the contact information on the face of the card
• Business cards are simply handy – you never know when you might run into someone who you may want to share your details with. Having a few business cards tucked away inside your wallet can be so useful in business and personal situations where a sudden exchange of information is needed
• Business cards can impress – a really well-designed or innovative business card is a talking point and a great ice-breaker. The design of the card will often linger on for a long time in the memory and the wallet of the recipient
• Business cards exude a state of readiness and an aura of professionalism – a smart, well –presented business card carries a cachet with it, a quiet, understated efficiency and style that tells the recipient about you as a person not just who you are and how to contact you
The fact of the matter is that nothing can convey those all-important details as quickly, succinctly and stylishly as that tiny little piece of card. That’s why there is still a place in modern business life for the business card. A business card can speak volumes without saying very much at all
Digital printing techniques have brought the styling and presentation of modern business cards to life. Gone are the days of a plain black and white card (unless that is what you are aiming for) – business cards just got funky and almost anything goes.
Central to these are cards which replicate through their shape or even some clever feature a representation of what the cardholder does. Business cards have become an essential element of your brand story using colour, icons and even tailored personal messages. It has become something of a modern trend to see who can create the cleverest and most unusual business card with competition for the most eye-catching and innovative design. There is lots of online inspiration for newbies and a library of good ideas to reference created by other people ahead of you.
the modern business card shows no sign of extinction at all and is, in fact, thriving throughout the world. There are not many business tools which still have a legitimate place in the modern workplace two to three hundred years after their original creation. The great thing is that there is no modern etiquette which restricts what you can do with the card and so really, anything goes. Why not try a 21st-century twist on this design classic and really turn heads with clever styling and design? Make sure that your card won’t be the one that is consigned to the bin.