The Business Card: Historic Self-Promotion - Modern Necessity
Even though Integrity Images has been crafting and delivering custom business cards in the Houston area since 2001, the history of the humble business card tells of its use for many, many centuries. Almost as soon as companies and individuals savvied-up to the idea of advertising their services, business cards have been around. Below are a few of our modern-day attention-grabbing examples, but before that let's take a quick dash through the decades to look at the origins of that invaluable, 3.5 by 2-inch rectangle - the amazing business card.
15th Century China: Visiting Cards
Most folks in the know about these things agree that the origins of the business card can be traced back to China in the 15th century. They were known as visiting cards and served as a calling card to announce one’s intention of meeting with another individual. They could also be handed at the door of elite establishments so that the owner of the establishment could decide if permitting a meeting was worthwhile. Visiting cards were an essential self-promotion tool of the upper classes, a personal advertisement and a basis of forging an introduction much like today.
17th – 19th Century Europe: Trade Cards
The practice of exchanging cards soared during the 17th century, particularly in Europe, where strict protocol governed that exchange. The highly mannered reign of Louis XIV is considered to be the calling card heyday, where an individual’s success or failure in society often depended on the strength of their personal promotion.
Later in the 17th century, London merchants began to usetrade cards. At a time when street numbers were not in popular use (which sounds like Houston), these cards were a crucial promotional tool which informed customers of both the business location and the services available. They would be handed out in public squares and markets and on occasions could be used to establish trade links and even credit with other local businesses. Trade cards were taken very seriously, and a signed card would be considered contractually and legally binding.
The final years of the 1700’s and the Industrial Revolution led to a lessening of rigid rules. The lines between social calling and trade promotion became blurred, leading to a merger of the calling card and trade card, which could be handed out in both informal and formal occasions. That said, the upper classes retained a certain snobbishness towards the handing out of trade cards in polite company, particularly in Europe.
20th Century: Options, Options, Options
Today’s business cards come in an array of shapes, sizes and materials. Designs are no longer limited to paper-based products and almost any surface can be printed on to create a unique card. And thankfully, handing out your business card is no longer the etiquette minefield it was a few centuries ago. Many business cards are just simple cards, others are glorified 'mini-brochures' and then others are statement makers and truly get noticed. The French saying chacun son gout roughly translates as to each his own or (to) each one his taste. Everyone has individual tastes and Integrity Images is humbled to provide our great customers with a huge variety of selections including a few options below because Your Image Deserves Integrity.
However, there are still a few essential rules that should be followed to ensure its success, like keeping your card easy to read, service-appropriate and including all your relevant contact details if you’re interested in building business acquaintances that get you further than the front door.
The earliest business cards were made using wood-cut and letterpress techniques. During the 18th century, copperplate engraving became the standard practice. Cards tended to be single color prints until the advent of lithographic printing in the 19th century, which made it possible to use several colors. All this was time consuming and labor intensive.
But today, so much has changed! All you have to do, Judy, is give Michael Reiland a call (office: 713 862 4919 or cell: 713 269 3973) and with a business card sample swatch book in hand, together you can narrow down which option works best based on your budget and deadline. Plus, we can help you design it and design your logo if you need one as well.
21st Century Integrity Images – The Modern Business Card