Business card is the term used to describe a piece of paper with information about a business; contact information, location, logo and name of employee some with their rank shown. Few people know about the history of business cards though they sit in our wallets and office drawers as long as we are in business. Like anything else, business cards had their own rich history long before they came to be as we know them today.
The oldest cards can be traced back to ancient china where they were used as visiting cards in the fifteenth century. They were governed under strict etiquette rules for the users who could not be admitted to any home without a calling card.With migration and mass movement from one place to another, the visiting cards were introduced to other parts like America and England. The cards were made by woodcut or word press methods due to lack of a better medium.
Before you visited someone, courtesy demanded that a calling card was sent to the host. Slaves and servants would be sent in advance with the cards to announce the arrival of their masters. There was no better way to book an appointment in those times, giving the public a contemporary and trendy way to ‘call’ their potential hosts.Business cards were given different names depending on their usage which changed over time with advances in technology and communication media. In England, the common visitor’s card was in the sixteenth century broken into two categories bearer card and visitor’s card.
There was no significant difference in the beginning but over time gentlemen started making bearer cards which were legal documents that helped to communicate obligation. They were used to collect debts, promissory notes.Over the years visiting or calling cards were phased out by the more popular use for business instead of social reasons. In most cases the cards were used solely by the upper class and not the country dwellers or working class like in America after they came in during the early seventeenth century.
The elite demanded the use of calling cards both by gentlemen and ladies. The rules of etiquette demanded that married women leave their husband’s calling cards as well even where the latter was absent from a social call. There were few details put on these cards making them smaller than the ones we use today. The absence of street numbering systems made the cards most efficient for merchants and business people who started using trade cards to advertise their businesses and direct customers to their shops. The trade cards had the merchant’s name and a map which could be used to trace the business location.In 1830s lithography became the primary method of printing trade cards. There was a wider selection in terms of color and variety. With subsequent changes in technology, the mass printing of cards for business reasons became all the more popular. Newspapers had just emerged too but they were more expensive for advertising.
The exchange of cards in England simply became for business and the strict etiquette rules are changing as days go by. In ancient times, the moment you knocked on someone’s door, a receiving tray or other ornate equipment was handed to you to place your calling card. The card was then taken to the lady of the house for approval. The Japanese have their own rules about business card etiquette, lower ranking officials are supposed to exchange business cards with seniors in a preferred fashion. The junior has to keep his under that of the senior and exchange is accompanied by a bow.The widespread use of business cards was prompted by the industrial revolution which resulted in mushrooming of many enterprises and businesses focused on profit. The business elite would present their cards to each other as a sign of respect and formality. Upon receipt of such cards, they were kept in the safety of purses and wallets for future reference in case they were needed for certain purposes. The printing press enabled people to choose from a variety of designs, and colors according to their tastes and preferences.
As a form of advertising, business cards were chosen over the news paper because they were smaller and cheaper.The nineteenth century business card became better and more efficient than the previous makes because the card designer was able to play around with new styles though these may differ according to the country. Through the morphosis of business cards, one factor that has remained constant is etiquette. You should always keep your cards clean and never write on them. They should not be folded in any way as this might send an unintended message. It is also very polite to translate the cards in various languages.