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Technology poses no threat to the
Business card printing in the United States is a $1.2 billion industry
BOSTON - D.A. Mlynek’s double-sided business cards are busy with facts
about himself, his military outfitting and equipment company, and his Web
site. When turned at an angle, the cards even show a sequence of images of
a man in camouflage climbing a boulder.
“Everybody looks at it and hands it back to me,” said Mlynek, of
Oceanside, Calif. “When I tell them I’m giving it to them, they say, ’Oh
wow, I can keep this?”’
The tangible wallet-filler has long been a staple at conventions and
cocktail parties, and experts say technology is expanding the function of
the business card rather than hindering it. While Treos and BlackBerrys
make exchanging contact information simpler than ever, some say there’s
nothing more personal than a card-in-hand.
Business card printing in the United States is a $1.2 billion industry,
according to Gail Nickel-Kailing, an analyst with Business Strategies Etc.
In fact, there is such growing demand for business cards that
Framingham-based Staples Inc. this month unveiled its “Business Cards in
Minutes,” allowing customers to design and print cards in as little as 30
minutes. The standard industry delivery time is three to seven business
Graphic designers say consumers are desperate to distinguish themselves
with wildly colorful and multi-textured formats, from plastics to linens.
“No matter what you’re selling, if it’s a product or yourself, business
cards are a form of advertising,” said Sabatino Andreoni, a
Montreal-based graphic designer. “Many people are ordering cards with just
a Web site. People are going to type the domain if they really like the
card. It then becomes a conduit to something more alive.”
Information cards are an ancient tradition, dating back to 15th century
China. What were then called visiting cards or calling cards were used to
introduce the arrival of royalty, and were engraved with elaborate and
Today, they are taking new forms, from simply printed to some carrying
computer chips that can be plugged into a personal computer to download
catalogs or company information.
While infrared business cards, transferred via personal digital
assistants, have become increasingly popular, some say the 3½-by-2-inch
standards will always be a sign of prestige and good business etiquette.
“It is a symbol handed from one person to another,” said Ganesan
Shankaranarayanan, a professor of information systems at Boston University
School of Management. “You’re supposed to take the card and examine it for
texture, color, look and feel. It would be impolite to just stick it in
In China and Japan, people are expected to receive a business card with
both hands, read it immediately and praise the card’s qualities,
Shankaranarayanan said. In Korea, every employee in a company has business
cards, including janitors.
Dan Ariely, who teaches behavioral economics at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, said business cards are necessary to remember who
you’ve met and why they are important. It isn’t likely an electronic
message will serve the same purpose, he said.
“When people introduce themselves, they usually don’t say what their title
is,” Ariely said. “When you are sitting with 10 people, you need a card to
remember names and who you should be paying more attention to. This is
especially true with globalization, as more people are traveling to other
countries for business.”
But business cards are no longer limited to white-collar businessmen,
according to Rob Schlacter, Staples vice president. In Staples’ Los
Angeles stores especially, a large portion of the cards designed are
“social cards” and “dating cards.”
“Customers are creating cards for the nightclub dating scene, as a way to
give vital statistics about themselves,” Schlacter said. “We also had a
high school student come in and make a MySpace card. Within a day or two,
40 other MySpace kids came in to do the same card.”
When 18-year-old Josh Burke of Easthampton, Mass. meets girls, he can’t
stand scrambling for a pen and paper. So the aspiring comic book writer
hands them his business card that includes his e-mail address, MySpace
link and title: Visionary Genius.
“If you meet a girl, rather than being clumsy, you give them your card and
try to act like you know what you’re doing,” he said. “It gives an
Mlynek’s cards certainly leave an impression. When he’s not using ones
with lenticular lens screens that show multiple images, he favors others
that have computer chips carrying data for online catalogs and
The cards cost him about $1.60 a piece, versus the standard
black-and-white average cost of 4 cents per card, but Mlynek said the
reaction he gets is priceless.
“The card is a novelty, and people will show it to others at a bar or a
conference because it’s neat,” Mlynek said. “I’ll talk to people I’ve done
business with five years ago, and they’ll tell me they still have my
business card. You don’t get that same effect with e-mail, because it’s
not personal and it doesn’t last.”
© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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