Why Everyone Still Uses Those "Jurassic Cards"

Posted on November 26, 2014 by - Also by this author

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I came across the below article recently in the Nov. 17, 2014 edition of National Review magazine. It makes you pause as to why we cling to old-school printed cards when the business world has gone instant-digital, and always stays online.

The biz card swap ritual endures like face-to-face meetings and visits. The spread of strange-shaped and odd-textured cards may make you stand out, but can get obnoxious with too much information and too many gimmicks (see-thru plastic). I find that a card without a specific LOCATION (city/town) and a DIRECT EMAIL address (no [email protected]) is not very useful in the limo world.

Jurassic Cards

By Tim Cavanaugh

The business card seems to be surviving the speedy displacement and long death of print media, but nobody knows exactly why. Already a relic before the 20th century began, an object that even in its supposed heyday was at best a bookmark and at worst a moldy leaf in some dust-clotted pile in a desk drawer, the business card, mute confetto of a poorer time, not only has endured but is selling better than ever.

Why? Why do printers still move around $800 million in business cards every year?

And why are the cards getting better? The ritual of the business card was travestied in a passage from Bret Easton Ellis’s notorious 1991 novel American Psycho: “I pull it out of my gazelleskin wallet (Barney’s, $850) and slap it on the table, waiting for reactions,” violently deranged narrator Patrick Bateman confides. “That’s bone,” he points out to his yuppie rivals. “And the lettering is something called Silian Rail.”

The card one-upmanship that follows is hilarious: “A brief spasm of jealousy courses through me. . . . I clench my fist as Van Patten says, smugly, ‘Eggshell with Romalian type . . .’” A Wall Street master of the universe counters with: “Raised lettering, pale nimbus white . . .” Another card is so beautiful Bateman fingers it, “for the sensation the card gives off to the pads of my fingers.”

But a fresh reading of the business-card passage, set during the late 1980s, reveals something striking: All these fancy business cards are basically variants of black printing on white paper.

Almost nobody settles for something that primitive anymore. Mid-level Capitol Hill staffers are issued pearl business cards featuring raised printing and a gold-leaf federal coat of arms, with all 13 of the eagle’s arrows detailed and “E Pluribus Unum” in tiny but legible lettering. A D.C.-area automotive-repair chain issues employees laminated cards with front-and-back graphics of the company logo in four colors. Real-estate agents everywhere dispense full-color cards with at least half a dozen slugs of contact information and photographic head shots. In the entertainment business, even flunkies give out odd-sized cards with matte finishes, glossy printing on both sides, and plentiful graphic elements. In 2014, any slob in a smelly T-shirt can carry a billfold of business cards nicer than what was available to the highest fliers of the Iacocca age.

“Business cards in general are if anything increasing, not decreasing,” Mitch Evans, vice president and senior consultant at the National Association for Printing Leadership, tells National Review. This is despite a steady and pronounced drop in the printing industry’s annual revenues, which now stand at $80 billion, since the beginning of the 21st century, Evans adds.

Edward Gleeson, director of economics and market research at Printing Industries of America, says 82 member companies in a recent survey reported increased demand for business cards — one of a handful of services for which printers did report better demand. (Printing-industry experts estimate that business cards account for approximately 1 percent of that $80 billion total.) In a recent online poll by a Fox TV station in Cleveland, 80 percent of 475 voters answered “Yes” to the question “Are business cards still relevant?”

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