In Europe, “visiting cards” came into France in the 17th Century. Your footman would present the card to the servant of the house you wish to visit. The servant would provide the card to the Mistress of the Manor. If the Lady wished to see you, she told the servant to tell your servant that it was A-OK.
The original cards were large and ornate and came to be used by any respectable gentleman or gentlewoman. A huge etiquette evolved which included:
- Having a card for each lady of the household.
- The mandatory silver tray on the hall table.
- Gentlemen carried cards in his pocket, but a lady may use a card case.
- If the card is not responded to, the resident does not want to see the visitor.
- A young lady may have her own cards after she has been out in society for a year.
- The card may be folded in the middle if the visitor wants to see the whole family.
Later, in England, there came into being a “trade card” which was developed to bring customers to the trade. They often had maps and directions on them. You had to be careful, though not to present your trade card in lieu of your visiting card, or the resident would think you were there to collect a bill.
Today, your cards can be simple and straightforward or complex and imaginative. For most of us, simpler is better. But if you are a hip hop singer or a tattoo artist, you may want to have a far-out and wild and crazy card to indicate how cool you are. In any case, the most important thing is to identify you and your business clearly so people know who you are and what you do.
Always consider the back of your card as a resource. You can put useful information there on your business or a calendar or a ruler that might be helpful to your public.
For those involved in creative industries or just for very creative people, the sky’s the limit. You can have CD ROM business cards made with lots of data on your business (these can be transmitted to handheld devices). They can be made of translucent plastic, clear plastic, white plastic, metallic plastic. They can look like poker chips, wooden nickels and real wood. They can be perforated, cutout, popups (like the children’s books), audio cassettes, envelopes with your product in it, wrist bands, key chains, bottle openers. For the truly egocentric, you can make a coin with your likeness on it.