I decided recently that I would write an occasional post about our marketing strategy. It seems to be something that a good number of people are interested in, and I find that writing about a topic helps clarify my thinking and create new ideas. If you aren’t into this departure from our normal programming, I apologize. Rest assured, we will be back to the green building/design content you have come to expect right after this post.
Business cards are an odd analog moment in our increasingly digital world. They seem a remnant of a distant past where contact information was actually stored on paper. There was something called a phone book and a Rolodex back then. People even sent non-bill related information through the mail. The office hummed along to the sound of fax machines and dial-up modems, and professionals shamelessly displayed email addresses that ended in @aol.com. It was a far cry from today’s digital address books and CRMs, but the business card, like some vestigial organ, has remained.
Even in the most progressive business environment the business card is the norm. At networking events, meetings and even causal meet ups, one is expected to be able to present a concise description of oneself, with attendant contact info, on a 3″ x 2.5″ piece of card stock. This seems increasingly odd as our technology allows us to exchange the same basic info without any kind of physical transfer, and yet it endures.
The business card, I think, touches on a basic desire to exchange something physical upon meeting. It is a ritualized activity in our commerce driven society that calls on something more primal. The card is also reminder made physical. It persists after the meeting in the way a text message, iPhone bump or email doesn’t. It is there when you empty your pockets. It is there when you clean your desk. It is there when you go into that drawer you never open with all the other business cards you have been intending on entering into your contact database. The card carries with it a piece of the meeting from which it came and has the ability to spark memory in a way particular to physical objects.
The card also transmits information beyond the intended data. The quality of the stock and printing tells us something. The design elements and fonts communicate more than the construct of their words and images. We may never judge a book by its cover but a person by their business card . . . that’s fair game.
I am personally conflicted over business cards. The pragmatic, digitally obsessed part of me finds these antiquated informational scraps superfluous in the face of better, faster, data-sharing methods. This part of me advocates the relegation of the business card to the scrapheap of history where it belongs. But, the designer in me relishes the opportunity to speak in the beautiful language of ink and paper. To create something tangible in a world of one-second web sites and emails that constantly fall beneath the fold. The business card, to this part of me, is like a tiny, insignificant vice. To create a physical thing with so much less impact than the binge-style wastefulness of brochures and pamphlets feels alright somehow. It is just a business card after all.
Well, enough pontificating. Business cards will persist or not without my input and for now, it appears, we need one. In designing the new Postgreen business cards I made an effort to capture much of what it is we try to do online. I attempted to make our digital presence physical in however small a way. The following is what I came up with. I have included all three of the designs for the fronts of the cards and one of the back to give you a full impression of the approach. Take a look, and then, if I haven’t already put you to sleep, read on to get a sense of my thought process behind the design.
The overall design was conceived to mimic the clean, minimal look represented by postgreen.com and postgreenhomes.com. I tried to let the overall feel of the card be compelling without overt explanation. This is, of course, a calculated risk. Nowhere on the card does it explicitly say what it is we do. However, the white space encourages note taking by the recipient, and the hope remains that one will feel inspired to explore through the contact information on the back.
The back of the card features prominent, legible contact information. The intent here is to emphasize the idea of accessibility we are always trying to convey (with mixed results). Hopefully, the exaggerated attention paid to the contact information will encourage the recipient to use it. They should get the impression that the card’s owner wants to be contacted. They should feel that this is the person to call with a question, a critique or, even better, an invite to grab a beer.
The front of the card features a silhouette and a list of “titles” that range from the everyday to the absurd. This is intended to capitalize on our individual personalities as part of the brand. We want to loan ourselves to Postgreen in an effort to make our brand more human and approachable. This isn’t a new idea. Even big companies use this strategy to great success. Apple leans heavily on the personality of Steve Jobs and Virgin is basically buried in Richard Branson. Smaller companies, I think, can get even more out of this type of personality driven marketing, particularly if the people behind it are approachable and interesting (are we?).
So, there is a little look behind my thinking when developing our new business cards. Believe it or not, I could actually expand on the above quite a bit if I felt anyone was interested. If you are interested, or if your particular brand of masochism involves tedious explanations of relatively simple processes, then you know where to find me.
For now, let me know what you think of business cards in general and ours in particular. Do you feel that business cards still play a role in marketing? How did I do with hitting my design goals with these cards? What would you add/subtract from my designs? Should I be less long-winded in the future?
Tell me about it in the comments.