What Happened to the Classic Business Card?

And does the gimmick card work outside of the online photo gallery?

FYI: I don't need your business card to take me on a journey of the imagination. I don't want it to require high-maintenance on my part. I just want to remember your name. And that's going to be hard enough.

Business card printing isn't what it used to be. We're not simply trying to communicate basic information anymore. We're trying to get noticed, to shake ourselves out of our unshakeable apathy. Today, the business card is, it seems, required to entice, titillate, and often, provide a uniquely interactive experience.

If you're a reader of the user-moderated news scene, a frequenter of sites such as Digg, Reddit, and more recently, Popurls, then you've already seen your share of 'amazing business card' design galleries.

These galleries tend to feature not so much business card printing, as metal-punched cards, cards that fold into fun shapes, ribboned cards, jeweled cards, cards with puffy 3D shapes, flaps, folds, and even seeds that will sprout into a garden with proper care and attention.

These cards are funny, creative, daring, and often surprising, but the more wild they get, the more I wonder: what's happened to functionality? The business card itself, like much of print media, was originally conceived to serve a single, extremely functional purpose, that is, to introduce, connect, and remind us of a business that we are interested in working with.

Certainly, an innovative card serves as an excellent reminder. I'll never forget a business card printed on a balloon that I had to blow up to read. But will I remember the business, or just the extravagance of presentation? And furthermore, where am I left when that balloon pops, when my mini-garden has disintegrated into mulch, or when my folded paper business card boat has sailed off into the sunset?

The more I look at beautiful business card design galleries, the more I wonder if these unique designs don't actually have their real strength online. They take a great picture, they look great in a gallery, but how will they survive in the real world of wallets, purses, cluttered desktops and crammed filing systems?

As much as presentation matters in business card printing, I have to argue that functionality matters more. If your business card doesn't fit in my wallet, if it crowds my datebook, or if it leaves fluff in my pocket, I'm going to be impressed by the hassle, but not so much by your business.

Beautiful things can be done with full color printing, and all the scoring, die-cutting, and rounding that comes with it, but don't forget to focus on the few essential bits of information that really need to stand out on that little card.

It might be a dated philosophy, but the more subtle taste and style required to pick the card stock, the font, and the presentation for plain old black-and-white business card printing still says more to me about a business's character than all the glam, glitz, and gimmicky presentation in the world.

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