Essay: Calling Cards to Business Cards

In the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, cards that were exchanged between parties fell into two groups. The first group was the trade card. These were generally larger than today’s business cards and served to advertise one’s business. They were carried by business owners and could be handed out, or left at homes as a form of advertisement. Socially, the calling card was the proper way to announce one’s visits to a home. Visits were often made on predetermined “home days.” The servant who answered the door would have a silver platter to serve the card to the party that the caller was seeking. At social events, a man would give his calling card to every lady present. The single man’s calling card was smaller in size than the card of a married gentleman. Contrary to popular belief today, women of the era also had calling cards. Their cards were larger in size than the men’s cards because men carried their cards in a small case in their breast pocket while the women had elaborate cases, which served as fashion statements. The typical card of either gender had a name in fancy script, possibly an address, and room to write a message. The quality of the printing and paper was an indication of the person’s social status. Although the expensive engraving in Victorian times was a luxury, many people spared no expense for their calling cards even if other sacrifices needed to be made (Calling Cards).

Business cards today serve as more than just a way to leave a phone number for a potential customer. They serve as an introduction, a marketing tool, and a way to add to a woman’s personal branding. An example of branding through memory association is the professional headshot on the front of the card.

Business card companies such as Tiny Prints allow for a photo to be incorporated within the business card as shown.

The headshot card

Business cards may be designed according to the type of business, the style of the individual, or even to target a particular market. For example, a woman who is working in a male-dominated industry, like information technology, might require a simplistic, conservative design.

IT Professional
The IT professional business card

A designer or boutique owner may see the best fit as something that reflects a sense of personal creativity or the style of marketed products. One card may appeal strictly to an upscale market, and another may invite a more mainstream clientele. In another scenario, for a woman who is in accounting, a simple straightforward approach is best;

The Accounting business card

whereas, a floral designer might add a whimsical icon.

Floral Designer
The Floral Designer business card

The quality of today’s business cards is determined by the design’s originality and the card stock thickness. Fortunately, digital printing has made even the highest quality cards affordable.

It is becoming more frequent today for a woman to have multiple business card designs. One may be a marketing tool with pertinent social media links and a QR code. Another may be used strictly for introduction within her industry while a third may be scaled down to just a name, phone, email, and small message space for social situations. This third version, designed to allow for personal and work privacy, may be the advent of the 21st-century calling card. In the future, we may see more widespread and accepted use of the QR code and the addition of hologram headshot photos, but the need to hand a card to someone is a personal touch that probably will continue despite advances in electronic communication.

Today, Labor Bureau statistics show that 53.1 percent of managerial and professional jobs are now held by women, which is an increase of 26 percent since 1980. Several surveys also reveal that approximately 83 million women own businesses. The demand for business cards is evident from these figures as is the need for diversity of style. A woman may hold any position today, or operate any business, and her business card must reflect exactly who she is and how she desires her business and herself to be portrayed.

Special thanks to Kate P. for her contribution.