My new business cards have arrived. It’s the umpteenth iteration. Like all the previous ones, they provide a snapshot of my life and times.
Over 30-odd years I have kept samples of only a few of my own business cards. Others have succumbed to decluttering. That’s both literally (no stray cards even in the junk bowl) and digitally (not even a jpeg file remains).
Yet even these six illustrate parts of my working life. They also reflect the design trends and business concerns of the times.
My earliest (vanished) business cards date back to about 1991 for my first or second trip to Japan. There, business cards were an essential communication tool and a notation of status. I surely would not have lectured at universities without a card that at least gave my name and contact details. Still, I’m darned if I can remember what that first one looked like.
As a two-year Guest Professor at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, I didn’t qualify for a card from that prestigious institution. If I had, it would be framed in gold and hung on my front door with bells and good luck charms.
Business card 1995 style
In 1995 I came home to New Zealand permanently. I quickly became absorbed in a new passion: communication on the internet, especially the “World Wide Web.” (Forgive the quote marks, but the expression is almost obsolete. Perhaps you have never even heard it spoken aloud.)
At that point I got a proper business card from a cool designer, and we both thought my personal logo was forever. The font was Excelsior, new and classy, and the “e” of “Rachel” was elevated over a fine line. E-everything was the go and I was into a serious 20-year geek phase. As a bonus, that lively little “e” jumping up in the air reminded people how to spell my name.
Then I lost the logo. I tried to recreate it but my version was clumsy, all elegance gone. This is the only fragment of my ersatz logo:
Business cards 1999–2003 (about)
For maybe ten years I freelanced, writing books and training people to write digital content. We called it “writing for the Web.” “World Wide” eventually slipped into the shadows, but note the persistent capital W.
After I got married to the WWW I needed a business card like a wedding ring. One more trendy card followed (lost, lost) then these two, photographed below.
The first, very much a DIY card. Would that typeface be Verdana already? And look at those lovely domain names. Also long lost, of course. The second, made a few years later, shows a more professional touch. It’s legible. It’s balanced. That’s nice.
There were other business cards around this time. As a freelancer in a new field I struggled to know what to call myself. Both Quality Web Content and QWICKIT were brands I tried over those years. Qwickit? What was I thinking! No business card remains to tell that story.
A business card for a Plain English lobby group
The next card tells a different story.
Around 2000 (just a guess), Plain English Power was what we called our lobby group. We began pressing for more clarity in government documents. At the time, the clarity and content of official communications varied wildly. Government organisations were all bound to communicate online, which some thought irrelevant. But a large proportion of official bodies just plonked 1,000 incomprehensible PDFs on a painfully inadequate web site and thought the job was done. We did have a cause! Luckily while we were lobbying for the cause of clear communication, a core group of public servants took things in hand.
Today, years later, WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust in New Zealand carries the flame with their annual awards for clear communication. Entries for this year’s awards close tonight!
But I digress. Here’s what’s obvious about the Plain English Power business card. Sure, it identified the organisation and gave our contact details. But it did more. It clearly stated our business:
Plain English Power. Read it. Get it.
Join our campaign to promote plain language in official information. Clear communication from government is our democratic right—and it saves money.
Business card 2006–2016
In 2006 I formed a company with business partner Alice Hearnshaw. The dreaded QWICKIT was soon transformed into Contented, which stuck. The business card pictured below was probably our second attempt to get it right.
And now look at it! This must be one that I corrected on the spot under duress. The desecration occurred after I’d retired from the company and reverted to life as a poet. I was so used to having a business card in my pocket—but Contented was no longer my business, firstname.lastname@example.org was no longer my email address, and “business communication in the digital world” was no longer my job.
What to do? Scribble all over the beautiful cardboard, obviously. Now the sorry card pictured below is the only paper relic of my life with Contented.com. But the photo mattered. No use being shy: a portrait is so useful on a business card. Especially for us face-blind people.
Business card for a poet
Yes, even poets can use a business card. Just very occasionally. They can double as invoices or receipts. Remind people of your name and work. Save people writing down your email address. You can stick labels on the back with little poems or a promo for some event.
Actually I’ve had a poet’s business card for a few years. That one was made in haste for—I forget the occasion. The idea was good, pity about the execution. All my doing, but the photo is weird and I never really liked it.
So this is what I had printed last week. Designed by me, tweaked by Danni, a Big Picture designer. Frankly my friends, it is an advertisement. After they leave an event, I want people to remember my latest book of poems. Recognise it in a book store. And buy a copy or two. Shameless, ay?
Why did I write about business cards?
Honestly I have no idea. It’s not my core business. It’s taken me days. It’s time for lunch.
Maybe I did it because I’m pleased with my latest card. I always am, mind you, so that’s no guide to quality. But I’m specially happy that I can:
- feel free to do whatever I like with my own card
- design it without a committee or a brand expert
- use a snapshot of me paddling in the sea instead of a head-shot
- brazenly advertise my latest book
- hope against hope that two people will glance at my blog.
What will this card look like on Friday?
One more problem, though. I will have my first cataract operation on Thursday.
What will my business card look like when one eye sees clearly? Is that blue really blue or almost black? Clear communication depends partly on clear eyes.
What have I done?