A business card is still an essential tool, even in the digital age. It is a tactile promotional and marketing tool that every self-respecting entrepreneur should have in his or her pocket.

The business card has evolved in recent years but is still used in the same way. To tell people who you are, what your business does, and to get noticed.

China – the 1400s

The business card was born. It was used by the upper classes to introduce themselves to other people who would benefit them in the world of commerce. The receiver would decide if, on receiving their card at home, the sender was worthy of meeting them.

In most cases, the business card was elaborate and calligraphy was often used on homemade paper. The better the card, the better the business.

In some way, the modern business card is much the same. People prefer weightier, well-designed business cards over cheap and flimsy cards. They tend to have more impact on the public if they're memorable.

Watch those corners!

In the 1800s, calling cards as they became known, could become a diplomatic nightmare if you got it wrong.

The corners represented a message to the receiver:

  • Top left corner folded – this meant the caller had come in person, but an unfolded one meant a servant has been sent.
  • Folded bottom left corner – was a way of bidding goodbye to someone.
  • Top right corner folded– this sent a congratulatory note to the receiver.
  • Folded bottom right corner – this signified condolences.

GSM or Grams per Square Metre

Contrary to popular belief, GSM is not just about thickness.

When it comes to choosing the paper or card for a business card, the higher the GSM figure, the better quality the card and the finish will be.

Gloss papers are created using various techniques and materials with a coating of china clay which adds weight. This top layer is then polished by rollers to give an exquisite finish. This finish allows for excellent reproduction of fine lines and pictures. The gloss finish separates the microscopic dots that make up a graphic or image, giving a much sharper and focused reproduction.

Generally, 260gsm paper or card would be used as a cover of a booklet, whereas 135gsm is used for inner pages. If you want a higher quality business card that feels weightier and more sturdy, then choose a paper with a higher gsm.

Do business cards carry the same weight today?

We don’t tend to leave calling cards in the modern age, not do we wait expectantly to be received in the drawing room. But a well-designed business card can say a lot about your business.

  • Impressions – just like the calling cards of the 1400s and those introduced in Europe during the 18th century, first impressions are important. The modern-day business card needs to create a memorable impression of you and your business.
  • Odd shapes and sizes are not always best – Of course, you'd think that they will get you noticed. That's the whole point of a business card. But, an odd-sized or shaped business card can make it harder to keep hold of. Even though it got you noticed for a short time, it may not be for the reasons you had hoped.
  • Paper weight and thickness can be a decisive factor in getting noticed – a weighty business card made from a high-quality paper with a high GSM rating will create a favourable impression. This is simply because it feels sturdier and of high quality.
  • Information is key – calling cards came with a strict code relating to what information could be included, such as how big your name could be on the card. Times have changed and the business card can now pack a lot of information into a small space. Making sure you pass on all the right details is essential.
  • Have a distribution plan – you may have spent hours designing the perfect business card, but if you don’t have a plan for using your business cards they are a waste of time and money. The humble business card can be a powerful marketing tool if you use them well.

And Finally…

When in Japan, don’t fold and write on someone’s business card. It's considered rude- but giving out your card with two hands is a sign of respect.