Picture this: A business card with real impact

Mark A. Kellner

I was recently at a conference hosted by a technology company. The participants were
experienced businesspeople, and we all had gone through that basic ritual, exchanging
business cards, hundreds if not thousands of times.

Yet when I gave my card to people, their eyes lit up, their expressions changed, and I
was questioned about it.

My card doesn’t identify me as a self-made millionaire, nor does it glow in the
dark. What is has is my photo on it in full color—the same photo you see at left.

“How did you do that?” was the usual question.

My answer elicited almost universal surprise.

Such is the impact of photorealistic color, even among the technocrati.

Precedent for this exists, of course. For at least 20 years, employees of Eastman Kodak
Co. have toted business cards that were actually photographic prints. Selling pictures is
Kodak’s game, but the impression the cards made was—and is—substantial.

In the 1980s, the photo business card, which usually cost 10 cents each in lots of
1,000, was favored by real estate agents, car sales reps and entrepreneurs. Agents or
print shops sold the cards, and it took a week or three to get the finished product. If
you wanted to make a change, the whole process—and cost—would be repeated.

The rise of personal computing and desktop publishing, from the Apple Macintosh (circa
1984) to Microsoft Windows 95, made it possible for computer users to create and print
their own business cards, and do it fast. Templates and paper from companies such as Paper
Direct Inc. and Avery Dennison gave users a range of options for ad hoc card production.

On a recent visit to a federal agency in Southern California, a smart PC user almost
certainly produced the card I received at his office.

The addition of a photo to a business card, even in the most stratified of situations,
can be a real plus. In my case, it sparks conversation. For a manager in government,
it’s a way to really put a face on what can seem a faceless bureaucracy.

Of course, a photographic business card need not bear the photo of an individual. It
could show a building, such as a state capitol, or something related to the job performed
by the individual.

But the combination of text and photo on your business card creates a stronger
impression on the recipient than a text-only card.

Creating such a card once took a lot of time, but today it can be done in minutes. All
that’s needed is inexpensive—less than $100—software such as Adobe Photo
Deluxe or CorelPrint Office, photo-quality perforated card stock from Kodak or Avery
Dennison, and the requisite printer and ink.

The software has templates for business card layout and printing; the paper will help
render a great image.

And at your next meeting, you can be the subject of discussion as everyone wonders how
you were able to take a common stationery item and make it something extraordinary.  

Mark A. Kellner, of Marina Del Rey, Calif., has been writing about information
technology since 1983. E-mail him at m_kellner@earthlink.net.

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