In a recent interview, designer and artist Ed Schlossberg recalled the first diplomatic reception he attended at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo with his wife Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan: The guests exchanged cards for 20 minutes, ate and drank, and left after an hour.
Schlossberg added that his wife gets 100 to 200 business cards a day, which is not unusual, considering that meishi (‘may-she”)—the exchange of business cards—is as an integral part of business etiquette in Japan as a firm handshake is in the U.S.
In Japan, there are many rules to follow and pitfalls to avoid when handing out or receiving a business card, warns Linguistic Systems, Inc., a company that provides language translation services to business clients. For instance, when someone hands you a business card, you are expected to take a moment to read it and put it into a business card holder instead of thoughtlessly stuffing it into your jacket pocket. And when you give out your business card to a high-ranking executive or government official, you should remove it from a card case and offer it with the side printed in Japanese facing up, using both hands as a sign of respect.
The exchange of business cards is a far less formal process in the U.S. than in Japan, thus when smartphones became ubiquitous some predicted that near-field communication and QR (Quick Response) codes would make the gesture altogether obsolete. Software would enable people to share contact information by tapping their devices together, or by scanning a code—a high-tech fist bump to replace the old-fashioned handshake.
If It Ain’t Broke …
It didn’t quite work out that way. Virtual business cards required both the giver and the receiver to have the same NFC software installed on their phones—plus, Google’s Android Beam didn’t work with iPhones—and QR scanning apps could be finicky.
As The Economist’s Joseph Schumpeter noted recently, “Even at the trendiest of Silicon Valley tech gatherings, people still greet each other by handing out little rectangles made from dead trees rather than tapping their phones together. Facebook’s boss, Mark Zuckerberg, who briefly had a business card printed with “I’m CEO, bitch”, now hands out a sensible, grown-up version.”
Schumpeter harrumphs, “The ritual swapping of paper rectangles may be old-fashioned but on it will go” because “there is much about business that is timeless.”
Like it or not, business cards will continue to be the preferred way for people to introduce themselves, to exchange contact information and to establish and build a brand.
They Work Hard For The Money
Most business cards are plain vanilla—black type with a one color logo printed on a lightweight card stock paper, which is fine for accountants, bankers and lawyers working for large, established corporations. But if you are self-employed, particularly in a creative field, and don’t have the credibility of a Fortune 500 company behind you, business cards have to work harder for you by associating your name with a specific product or service in the mind of a prospective client.
highresolution® offers a variety of printing processes and techniques—including digital and sheet fed offset; engraving and letterpress; hot stamping, embossing, debossing and die cutting; and augmented reality—to create memorable specialty business cards.
Without a doubt, metal cards, which come in black, stainless steel, copper and other finishes, are visually striking. Here’s an example of one of our cards that is made from aluminum. After laser etching the floral design, the metal is black powder coated. Then the type is etched into the black finish to expose the silver color of the underlying metal. The etched silver is filled with a Pantone Cool Gray 5 to make the word “resolution” pop.
Because metal is much stiffer than cardstock, you can incorporate industry-specific tools into the design to build your brand and make the card too useful to the recipient to toss out. Ever.
For instance, in addition to chemical- or laser-etching contact information, a carpenter or quilt-maker can incorporate a right-angle ruler along the left-hand and bottom edges of a business card.
Die cutting, which creates strategically-placed cut-outs in a metal card, also offers a variety of branding possibilities:
- Instead of a ruler at the top edge, a series of slits can turn a hipster barber’s business card into a pocket-sized mustache comb.
- An auto or bicycle mechanic could have the top left hand corner of the card cut off at a 45 degree angle to enable it to serve a flat-head screwdriver, and a hexagonal cut-out that can be used as a bolt-tightener.
- A freelance bartender’s card could incorporate a bottle opener, and a personal chef’s card can double as a mini cheese grater.
When considering designs that allow a card to double as a tool that advertises your services, it’s best not to get too gimmicky with sizes and shapes that won’t fit into the recipient’s wallet, card holder or rolodex. And avoid novelty cards with folded or pop-out parts that have to be assembled into an object, such as a toy airplane—it’s all fun and games until one of the parts is damaged or lost, and your card will get round filed.
Combined with letterpress printing, texturized cards produced with embossing, debossing, spot ultraviolet (UV) varnishing, die cutting and foil stamping are elegant and eye-catching. The interplay of positive and negative space, raised and depressed impressions, smooth and matte areas also creates clever and unique effects.
This card we made for an artist was printed with a conventional four-color offset process. In a second step, his contact information was letterpressed on top of the offset printing. The stock we used, 130# Crane’s Fluourescent White Cover, has a rich feel. The card is slightly smaller than a standard card, which is noticeable by the recipient—and therefore, memorable.
Layering patterned stock also gives a card additional heft and dimension—as with this card, which is triple layered Loop Feltmark Pure White Cover 130# on the front and back, with 130# Classic Crest Pepper Red Cover in between to create a striped edge. Feltmark stock is suitable for both offset and digital printing.
QR codes fizzled, but that doesn’t mean that people working in creative or high-tech fields can’t add an element of interactivity to their business cards.
Lenticular printing is a decades-old technique that adds animation to images, enabling one image to morph into another as the card is wiggled from left to right. Visual and graphic artists can alternate images of projects on the face of a business card with contact information on the back. Similarly, an architect can alternate images of a signature project from blueprint to skyline.
Augmented reality cards provide the ultimate level of interactivity. If you’re a globe-trotter, no need to keep multiple copies of business cards in various languages; viewed through a tablet or smartphone using a custom iPhone app that we develop for your project, will provide your contact information in the language spoken by the recipient—as well as your resume and a sales pitch. Pointing an iPhone camera at an AR card for a restaurant can bring up a map of its location, the menu and a video of the chef preparing a signature dish. Artists and designers can display their portfolios via an AR business card. The possibilities are endless.
On the highresolution® printing AR card you see an animation showing our tag line jumping around, then settling down to form the words “we make your life easier!” Our card also includes images that explain AR, and a sample of an AR project we did for a client. Give us a call and we’ll guide you to a great AR experience on your Apple device.
Why will business cards stand the test of time? They are adaptable enough lend themselves to emerging design trends, and to new printing tools and repurposed techniques, in order to change with the times.