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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Offering business cards

I’ve already written on my loathing of business cards. But as with my attitude to the word insight, my stance on the issue is modifying.

I still think they’re an inefficient remnant from an analogue age that have little relevance alongside a mobile phone (particularly one that syncs to an email client).

But if someone requests a business card, then that is their preferred means of exchanging information. And that should be respected.

I still have little inclination to order a batch. But I think I’ve found a compromise. Customised cards.

I’ll carry some blank pieces of card around with me in my wallet. If someone requests my contact details and doesn’t want to do it digitally (whether via Bump, Bluetooth or manually entering the information), I’ll create a card. Similar to the example below, which shows both sides of a card.

Simon Kendrick's business cardThis has multiple advantages

  • Efficiency – the only wastage will be the unused pieces of card that could be reused for something else
  • Custom levels of access – I can choose which contact details to provide. My social graph isn’t completely open, and this allows me to choose whether to give my mobile number or my office number, or whether to include my Twitter or Linked In details alongside an email address
  • Personalisation – I can customise the card by including details of our meeting or a private in-joke. This should aid cognitive recall when the recipient is sorting through their cards (and probably deciding which to throw away)
  • Stand-out – it is different and so it should stand out (a little) among a pile of boring corporate cards. As Hugh MacLeod – a pioneer in repurposing business cards – would say, it creates a social object

Of course, there are drawbacks to this approach

  • Legibility – I have terrible handwriting, and so my contact details may not be legible
  • Digital incompatibility – Digital business card scanners won’t pick it up
  • Too informal – It doesn’t fit in with the corporate brand, and so wouldn’t be suitable in more formal circumstances (though I’m not planning on visiting Japan, with its strict business card etiquette, in the near future).

I’ll trial this approach and see how I get on. Ultimately, business cards are transient and disposable – they are a means to an end. But if my means could be a little more memorable, a little more personal and a little more environmentally friendly, then I would be fine distributing my contact details.

Though I would still prefer people to take down my details digitally.



Why do business cards still exist?

gaping voidI don’t have business cards. I don’t want business cards. And I don’t need them.

Business cards are a remnant of a bygone age. Where people stayed with the same company, with the same job title, for many years. Where business was analogue rather than digital. Where the Rolodex were a staple of the office stationary order.

That era has passed. Job titles are forever changing and increasingly meaningless. Taking self-aggrandizement/irreverence (delete according to personal opinion) to a new level, some companies even allow employees to make up their title. In some cases they act as a useful barometer of seniority. But how long has it been since a manager actually had serious business authority? How many levels of hierarchy call themselves Director? (NB: The old ITV hierarchy was particularly confusing; I reported into a Head who reported into a Head who reported into a Director).

If someone wants to contact me, there is:

  • Contact details on my email signature
  • My company website
  • A general Google search (I’m not the best example as I’m not the first entry)
  • A specific Google search (e.g. incorporating blog or twitter)
  • Asking for my phone number and entering it into a mobile phone (assuming you don’t have one of these)

The exchange of business cards may be a ritual in some cultures, but it is increasingly wasteful. If I am given a business card, it goes into a drawer never to be seen again (no offence). I have piles of unused business cards from previous employment and job titles.

Business cards may provide fodder for optimistic websites or aspiring artists, but what other reasons are there for needing them? I’m stumped.


Image credit: Gaping Void