The business card is often something stashed at the back of your wallet or in your pocket just in case you need to exchange details with a new contact. Seen as flimsy but essential part of a meeting ritual, the card is seldom considered for more than its face value. However, these cards have a long history and an evolution many of us might not fully appreciate.
The Earliest Social Cards
Business cards began in the 17th century in Europe, where they were used to announce the impending arrival of prosperous or aristocratic visitors. They were shaped and sized in a similar way to a playing card and became a staple of the elite by the middle of the century. In time cards began to be adorned with gold and ornate calligraphy and by the 19th century had become a must-have for anyone who was anyone in the middle class circles of the day.
By the 18th and the 19th centuries these ‘social cards’ were usually received by the lady of the house, who would examine its quality and refinement – in many ways it created the first impression of the standing of a person.
An Emerging Business Tool
The effects of the industrial revolution resulted in a lessening of formality in the world. Exchanging contact information became essential rather than frivolous and the visiting card and trade card were merged together to be handed out on informal occasions. While the upper classes still suffered an aversion towards this kind of casual use, the business card became widespread in the USA, where the modern business card was born.
Meanwhile in Japan the business card developed a very unique form of etiquette. The word for business card there is ‘meishi’ and the presentation of one’s meishi to another person is far more formal and ritualistic than in the West. The card should be held at the top two corners, face up and turned so that it can be read by the person receiving the meishi, who takes it by the bottom two corners using both hands. Placing one’s fingers over the name or other information is considered very rude. Upon receiving the meishi, one is expected to read the card over, noting the person’s name and rank. A meishi should never become warm or worn, which are both considered a sign of disrespect.
A Business Card Renaissance
At Strut and Fibre we’re reinstating the value of the business card to its rightful place. Something well designed and highly crafted to carry your name and details. Today there has never been a better opportunity to own your own quality business card, in fact there’s really no excuse. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, career climber, mover and shaker or social butterfly, if you care about what you look like and how you’re perceived, why fall short at the final hurdle? Own a card that’s right for you and projects your image effectively - after all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
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