Modern Uses of an Old-School Business Card

Make an impression at your next networking soiree by carrying your old-school business cards in a LEGO card holder!
Make an impression at your next networking soiree by carrying your old-school business cards in a LEGO card holder!

Heaven forbid you reveal any dinosaur instincts (whilst thundering the earth’s ground at a networking event) by handing out your old-school business card. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I know it’s not completely inaccurate from a millennial’s point of view.

Certain warning signs indicate you’re not a native of our mobile-obsessed, app-happy era: a business wardrobe dating back to Henry Ford’s launch of the Model-T, a (paper!) resume that still includes your snail-mail address and (landline!) phone number, and a vintage Rolodex (circa 1987).

Just because you’re old school doesn’t mean your business identity should remind people of an Easter Island moai. It’s good to get creative with your standard 3 1/2 ” x 2″ business card.

Before attending your next networking event and munching your way through another lunch, chew on these portable branding ideas:

But First–A Quick Overview of Business-Card History: Some sources believe the ubiquitous business card can trace its lineage all the way back to 15th-century China.

During the 17th century, visiting cards were used by members of royalty or the aristocracy; another member of the tribe’s footman would regally announce their arrival.

In the 18th and 9th centuries, this printed version of social etiquette morphed into a calling card.

A social call involved an elaborate protocol of announcing one’s self at the home of an upper-class lady or gentleman. You placed your card upon the ultimate status symbol: a silver card tray. Presentation of your calling card (on the aforementioned tray) by a servant was the crucial step before gaining entry.

For more details about your card’s transition from social call to business call, please read Sage Media Design’s curated article.

A Business Card Without Social Media Cred Screams “I’m Obscure–Ignore Me!”: These days, it’s tempting to rely solely on technology when connecting with new business-networking friends.

But there are good reasons for continuing to carry printed business cards. They’re compact and portable, they don’t crash at peak moments of usage or require recharging, and they can communicate creativity (or a unique selling proposition).

Current digital society demands more than a standard website URL and e-mail address on a piece of card stock. When next you reprint your business cards, be sure to add or update the social-media accounts that are your business hubs.

Me, I may never make it to Pinterest or Instagram. However, if you’re a photographer or graphic designer or practice some other visual profession, I expect you to help me to find you on your social-media accounts. After all, these are the places where you post virtual portfolios of your work.

Innovative Business-Card Ideas Are as Accessible as This Mashable Article: Obvious reveal–I love to write. But why should I bother imitating a great article or, even worse, plagiarizing the d@mn thing, when I can embed a handy link to the article? Yes, that was a rhetorical question.

If your business card is having an identity crisis, Mashable’s article will cure those doldrums; proceed directly to “30 Unconventional Business Cards.”

Some of my favorite suggestions for branding yourself in miniaturized portable format include:

  • the pop-up business card
  • your business’s URL captured as a Google search
  • the edible business card (but be prepared for your networking friends to consume your marketing budget)
  • the flexible “stretchy” business card
  • the humorous business card (see #29–“The Irishman”)


Experiment with Shapes/Textures, but Don’t Replace Your Card with Marketing Collateral: It’s possible I’m about to create some controversy. Troll me in the form of a comment, if you must.

Traditional business cards are a particular size (3 1/2″ x 2″) for the reasons mentioned earlier. And if you don’t scan the ones you collect into your computer, you’re probably storing them in some type of business-card organizer with a 500-card capacity.

Most of these organizers are geared toward standard-size cards. This shouldn’t prevent you from testing the networking waters with a business card of a different shape: circle, square, energy-exuding pyramid, doggy bone, leaf, origami, you name it.

Check out this delicious eye-candy article from Design Your Way for truly innovative ideas that will reshape your current card.

Also, glossy or matte card stock aren’t the only textures available to you. If transitioning to a plastic, linen, metal or other type of business card complements your profession, do a test trial with one batch and see what happens.

Here’s the potential controversy: Please refrain from transforming your business card into a full-blown piece of marketing collateral. Don’t hand out an oversize post card (or rack card or brochure or sales sheet) in lieu of your business card the next time you’re gallivanting at a networking event.

While printed collateral has many useful moments, it doesn’t pair well with a pocket or small handbag. It also doesn’t fit in an all-purpose business-card organizer. If I want your collateral, I’ll either ask for it or take one from the display table at the networking event we’re both attending.

(Do you know what happens to the marketing collateral you push into my reluctant hand, instead of giving me your business card? Spontaneous combustion, that’s what. Holy up in smoke, Batman!)

The Death of QR Codes on Business Cards Isn’t Vastly Overrated: When people started printing QR codes on their business cards, I admit I was initially fascinated by this concept.

Offering business peeps instant access to a website, a landing page, an exclusive offer of some sort, etc., via a “scannable” square of programmed code on your business card seemed très cool.

But when was the last time you scanned the QR code on a new connection’s business card? Exactly! I’m not saying you shouldn’t bother with QR codes if they’re popular in your industry or with your target audience.

Consider reading these Altitude Marketing and Marketing Land blog posts before slapping a QR code on your next batch of business cards.

If you intend to axe an existing QR code from your business card, use that empty real estate for something else. Possibilities include: your logo, promotion of your new app, a head shot, a unique icon that has a story behind it, anything but a box of scrambled code. Who’s with me?

Don’t Have a Cow–Moo MiniCards Might Be Just Your Size: Now here’s something I might play with soon: a business mini-card. While I’m not personally endorsing Moo as the only source of mini-cards, their origin does seem proprietary to the company.

(So that you know, square cards are also considered a type of mini-card.)

Approximately half the size of a standard business card, Moo’s MiniCards can be used for promotional/advertising campaigns, branding of giveaways and prizes, and other special occasions. Similar to VistaPrint’s options, you can customize a Moo MiniCard template with your information, or upload your own design.

They may look Lilliputian, but Moo MiniCards are visually striking and fit into a business-card organizer’s plastic sleeves. Yes, I’m suggesting you (sometimes) “go small” instead of going big…


When was the last time you updated the printed piece of 3 1/2″ x 2″ card stock you have with you at all times and dispense at networking events?

If your business card recently underwent a drastic metamorphosis, how did you change it? What was the overall reception/reaction by your new card’s recipients?

What are your thoughts and suggestions regarding innovative options for ye olde-school business cards? Pick a card, any card…

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print or web marketing and educational copy. Please call Lori Shapiro at 856-810-9764 or e-mail By All Writes LLC at  for a no-obligation project quote today!

2 Responses to Modern Uses of an Old-School Business Card

    • Hi Tobi,

      I look forward to seeing the printed result of any “food for thought” brainstorming for your business card. I need to follow my own advice sometime soon…