RE: Business Cards

Business Cards

Business cards are cards bearing business information about a company or individual.  They are shared during formal introductions as a convenience and a memory aid.  A business card typically includes the giver's name, company affiliation (usually with a logo) and contact information such as street addresses, telephone number(s), fax number, e-mail addresses and website.  It can also include telex, bank account and tax code.  Traditionally many cards were simple black text on white stock; today a professional business card will sometimes include one or more aspects of striking visual design.     -- Wikipedia

The most important printed item for your business success, is only 3 - 1/2 " wide by 2 " high.  The business card is a must have marketing tool.

In most countries they are given with no formality or consequence, serving as an internationally recognized way to exchange contact information.  In other nations, particularly in Asia, these cards are regarded as an extension of the individual are to be treated with honor and respect.  The exchange of cards is attended with great ritual and a breech of protocol can give serious offense.  How did a simple card come to play such a central role in business culture ?  Depending on the source, the cards may actually have originated in China in the 15th Century.

Below left are historical examples of business or visiting cards. To the right is the front and back of the Principal's current business card.

Business Card History

Historical Business Cards Image"Visiting cards" were the size of playing cards and appeared during the 17th Century in France during the reign of Louis XIV.  He was of very high style, was a great supporter of the arts and because of the brilliance of his court and palace, Louis was called "Le Grand Monarque."  These cards were a staple of upper echelon etiquette with a sophisticated system of rules attached to their use.  They are the forerunners of todays greeting cards.

Tradecards, are also found at the beginning of the 17th Century in London.  As advertising and maps, directing the public to merchant's stores, they were used as there was no formal street numbering system at that time.  The popularity of tradecards soared as they were the most effective form of advertising, as newspapers at that time were not well developed and tradecards, by directing the marketplace to the business, played a similar role as today's online media.

Their earliest forms were printed by the woodcut or letterpress method.  In the 18th Century, copperplate engraving became the popular method.  Into the 19th Century, tradecards were still done in monotones, or with simple tints.  Around 1830, lithography using several colors became an established method in Europe, and these cards became small works of art.  Over time, new technologies and improved speed of communication made the distribution of newspapers and periodicals more practical and advertising in these media became more affordable and widespread.  The advent of this machinery, that was so lavishly displayed and advertised, was responsible for the downfall of the tradecard industry.

Visiting cards came to America and Europe, an adaptation from the French court's etiquette.  They included refined engraved ornaments and fantastic coat of arms.  Calling cards in polite society, were an essential accessory to any 19th Century middle class lady and gentleman.bcfrontimage

With the rise of the middle class during the Industrial Revolution and an overall lessening of social formality, a class of private entrepreneurs emerged in both Europe and the United States that had a constant need to exchange contact information.  This class merged the idea of the visiting card and trade card to produce, on plain, heavy paper with clear, utilitarian lettering, the first variation of the modern business card.  These were handed out widely at presentations and exhibitions but were looked upon with disdain by members of the upper class.

Over time, there became a rigid distinction between business and visiting cards.  Visiting cards served as tangible evidence of meeting social obligations, as well as a streamlined letter of introduction.  A stack of cards in the hall's card tray was a handy catalog of exactly who had called and whose calls may need to be returned.  They did smack of affectation however, and were generally not used among country folk or working class Americans.

However, business cards were widespread among men and women, of all classes, with a business to promote. It was considered very poor taste to use a business card when making a social call. A business card, left with servants, could imply that you had called to collect a bill.

In the United States, business card use became widespread in the 1890s.  Only the very highest social circles continue to draw a distinction between a visiting card and a business card although the former are still in limited use.  Unfortunately the very common nature of such cards in America and the U.K. can lead to disastrous faux pas when businessmen from those nations travel abroad.bcbackimage

Not only are elaborate rituals of presentation and reception followed in Asian nations but in many parts of the world it is rude to present your card with your left hand or to immediately put a card away upon receiving it.  Internationally a card should never be used to take notes and all cards should be translated on the reverse side in the language of the nation in question.  Cards should not be carried loose but in appropriate card cases and should be maintained in pristine condition.  The general rule of thumb is that the card should be presented in the condition in which the owner himself would appear for a high level business meeting -- immaculate and behaving according to the manners of the host nation.

Modern business cards are expected to convey the name of the card holder, his title, the company with which he is affiliated, and the relevant contact information.  Company logos are often used as well as a single statement about the business.  In some nations academic degrees, honors, and the date when the business was founded are also incorporated.  Traditionally cards are printed with black ink in clear, legible type on white cards of quality paper stock.

After 400 years, cards for purposes of introduction and exchange of contact information have evolved from the early "visite biletes" to the business cards now central to the exchange of basic professional data in the international business community. While elaborate ritual attached to the presentation of a piece of paper roughly 3 x 2 inches may seem out of proportion to the object itself, one thing has not changed about the use of such cards.

They are a means of introduction -- and first impressions really do matter.

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Let us design your business card. RE: can incorporate your logo ( which we have hopefully designed ) and add the typography information, making a pleasing and informative design that you can be happy to produce for your clients.