Business cards are very curious scraps of paper because they are often much more than a convenient away to transfer contact information. They are in fact portraits of the business entity or the individual who they represent. A portrait is more than a mere painted photograph recordng the physical features of an individual. A good portrait reveals something about the personality of the person being painted. It offers essential information but it is also a glimpse into his or her social status by virtue of costume and sometimes location. A good artist captures nonverbal cues given through facial expression. In much the same way business cards at a glance tell us much about the person presenting it and the business or organization with whom he or she is associated.
There is much talk today about branding which essentially entatils delivering a clear consice and consistant message so that those interested in your product or service recognize your message instantly no matter when and where it is delivered. The publicy comes to recognize your brand. They come to understand what it represents; they come to know what they can expect from you, and ultimately they come to depend on your brand to deliver what you have promised at glance through familiarity with your branded message. There is no place in which the brand is more concise than on a business card. You must be able to deliver your brand message in a 2″ x 3.5″ space. In order to accomplish this your logo or branding image must do a lot of the speaking for you. Color, font, paper stock and other nonverbal messages must help to reinforce your message.
Now you would think that this way of thinking is mostly for large corporations, but it is advantageous for any individual or organization who provides a product or service to create and distribute an identifiable meaningful brand image. It appears that the importance of this concept is not limited to the bourgeois merchant class as is evidenced by this collection of Chicago gang cards presented at http://wearesupervision.blogspot.com/2009/03/chicago-lesser-known-arts-history.html. These “business cards” are the creations of Chicago street gangs whose leaders understood that brand is important and distribution of their brand through the use of business cards are an effective grass roots strategy for increasing awareness of their brand. I think this is interesting because it illustrates just how essential and fundamental business cards are perceived. You do not have to be a Harvard MBA to see the importance of distributing your brand image.
One of the roles of business cards is to declare your existance. In many instances a client or customer may never see your place of business because for instance there is no need to visit a manufacturing facility when orders are often placed through an agent or company rep. Today many businesses are virtual your business cards and website may be the only visual representaion of your company that a client sees. There is probably no enterprise more virtual than a street gang. These gang cards tell me that there is an understood perception that business cards declare your presence and declare you to be a part of the establishment or in this case the anti-establishment.
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