What Happened to the Classic Business Card?

And does the gimmick card work outside of the online photo gallery?

FYI: I don’t need your business card to take me on a journey of the imagination. I don’t want it to require high-maintenance on my part. I just want to remember your name. And that's going to be hard enough.

Business card printing isn’t what it used to be. We’re not simply trying to communicate basic information anymore. We’re trying to get noticed, to shake ourselves out of our unshakeable apathy. Today, the business card is, it seems, required to entice, titillate, and often, provide a uniquely interactive experience.

If you’re a reader of the user-moderated news scene, a frequenter of sites such as Digg, Reddit, and more recently, Popurls, then you’ve already seen your share of 'amazing business card' design galleries.

These galleries tend to feature not so much business card printing, as metal-punched cards, cards that fold into fun shapes, ribboned cards, jeweled cards, cards with puffy 3D shapes, flaps, folds, and even seeds that will sprout into a garden with proper care and attention.

These cards are funny, creative, daring, and often surprising, but the more wild they get, the more I wonder: what’s happened to functionality? The business card itself, like much of print media, was originally conceived to serve a single, extremely functional purpose, that is, to introduce, connect, and remind us of a business that we are interested in working with.

Certainly, an innovative card serves as an excellent reminder. I’ll never forget a business card printed on a balloon that I had to blow up to read. But will I remember the business, or just the extravagance of presentation? And furthermore, where am I left when that balloon pops, when my mini-garden has disintegrated into mulch, or when my folded paper business card boat has sailed off into the sunset?

The more I look at beautiful business card design galleries, the more I wonder if these unique designs don’t actually have their real strength online. They take a great picture, they look great in a gallery, but how will they survive in the real world of wallets, purses, cluttered desktops and crammed filing systems?

As much as presentation matters in business card printing, I have to argue that functionality matters more. If your business card doesn’t fit in my wallet, if it crowds my datebook, or if it leaves fluff in my pocket, I’m going to be impressed by the hassle, but not so much by your business.

Beautiful things can be done with full color printing, and all the scoring, die-cutting, and rounding that comes with it, but don’t forget to focus on the few essential bits of information that really need to stand out on that little card.

It might be a dated philosophy, but the more subtle taste and style required to pick the card stock, the font, and the presentation for plain old black-and-white business card printing still says more to me about a business’s character than all the glam, glitz, and gimmicky presentation in the world.

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4 Comments Posted So Far:
Posted By: Nick On 2008-05-27 11:04:38

In this Glamour and glitz sometimes it is quite refreshing to receive a business card that is simple and easy to read. Which truly makes the contact memorable because you can get the information while not having to strain your eyes.

Posted By: jacel Voeung On 2008-06-02 12:25:12

I also prefer the simplicity of the business card as well. If your card is too jumbled to look at or unable to fit in my wallet, then forget it, I will simply throw the card out. It just needs to be eye catching and readable for me to remember your business.

Posted By: lauren On 2008-06-16 18:10:36

I enjoy the creativity. Especially since you don't receive many unique business cards, because the cost is so much higher. I would be more likely to keep a card I am impressed by than "just another card".... BUT most of all it needs to serve its purpose...form follows function. If you cannot read the information or it is disposable, than it becomes a waste of time and money.

Posted By: Anthony Proulx On 2009-05-29 11:35:42

I love savvy designs but I love simplicity, minimal designs even more.

Having a card that is a gimmick is a great idea for certain businesses, but its not for everyone and should be used in caution and you should still have normal business cards for various situations.

Overall your business card's first intention is functionality, once this is met, get creative and be unique, and then know when to stop.

For creative ideas, not overdone ideas

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