4 Things You Never Knew About Business Cards

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce they’ve been designed and printed, you probably don’t give much thought to those little rectangles of card you give out at networking events. While your business card can say a lot about you (and we’ll talk about that in next weeks blog!) today we wanted to take a closer look at our promotional friends, their history and what makes them such an essential and popular business tool.

They’ve Been Around For A Long Time

Much longer than you would think actually. Business cards have been around in one form or another since the 1400’s. They originated in China, where they were known as Meishi, or ‘visiting cards’ and were used as a calling card to announce a meeting with another person. Only really used by the upper classes, they were decorates with beautiful calligraphy on handmade paper and often handed out at an establishments entrance in order to let the owner decide if the bearer is worthy of a meeting. Around this time they were also circulating Germany, but in the form of wood cuttings with the bearers name printed or carved onto them.

They Are Distantly Related To Greetings Cards

The business card didn’t come to Europe until the 1600’s, when it was introduced by King Louis XIV, and referred to as a ‘trade card’. On one side there was often a map to direct the receiver to the bearers home or place of, and the other would contain information. These trade cards weren’t just used for business though, and were often used as a means of introduction, to express condolences and to provide notice of an arrival or departure. Interestingly, women’s cards were always shorter and wider (2.75-3 inches wide by 2-2.75 inches high) than a man’s card, which measured around 3-3.4 inches long by 1.2-1.5 inches wide. When leaving or sending a trade card, the bearer would write a set of initials on the card, which would express the reason for leaving the card. This was a particular fashion in France, where the most common initials used were:

p.f (congratulations)

p.r (expressing thanks)

p.c. (condolences)

p.f.N.A (Happy New Year)

p.p.c (taking your leave)

p.p (if you wan to be introduced to someone, send your visiting card)

But They Quickly Became Signs Of High Standing

By the 1700’s, trade cards were seen as the mark of a gentleman. Advancements were made in printing, and their designs became much more stylish and flamboyant. A gentleman was permitted to carry his cards loose in his pocket, but a woman was expected to use a card case for tidiness. When you called into someone’s house, it was expected that you leave your card with the servants. They would deliver it to the host or hostess, who would decide if you were permitted inside. Men were expected, when visiting friends, to leave their card with every woman in the room, and if you folded the card in half it signalled that it was for multiple members of the same family.

By The 1900’s, Their Use Was Divided

By this stage the lithographic printing process had been developed, and there were new and exiting ways to print and display your calling card. Calling cards for businesses contained a lot of the information modern ones do, while personal cards only contained names and addresses. Letterpress printing had brought about a variety of cards printed on different materials, and your card was a way of standing out. During this time, the exchange of business cards was quite informal. Some countries however were (and still are) meticulous about business card etiquette. For example, in Japan it is rude to fold and write on another person’s card, while holding the card in who hands is a sign of respect. When giving out your own card in Japan, you should bow and introduce yourself with your name, company and title.

In Korea, it’s considered rude to study a card for too long after receiving it, and instead should be put away quickly. You should also present your own card before asking for anyone else’s. In India you must only present your business card with your right hand, while in Columbia you should only hold the card in one corner suing your thumb and index finger, so that you are not covering up important information.

And then we reach the present day, where cards are exchanged freely in the UK, and are considered a businesses stop 1 when branding. To find out more about business card printing or to enquire about starting your own design process, get in touch today.

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