The Art of Manliness blog recently (well, actually, a couple of years ago) had a post on how the Victorian custom of calling cards had died out, and lamented the fact:
During the heyday of calling cards, using a business card for a social purpose was considered bad manners. Today, while business cards are great for making business contacts, they still aren’t really suited for social situations. They probably have your work number and work email, and not much else on them. Think of all the times you meet someone you’d like to see again. Handing them a business card is too stiff and formal.
While this is true, a Victorian-style calling card will not fit all the situations we are confronted with in our modern world. This is a common failing of the Victorian aesthetic, which emphasised form over functionality. To achieve form and functionality, we must turn to Edwardianism. And since this is the twenty-first century – Saivite neo-Edwardianism.
What does this involve? Among other things – taking advantage of technology. To abandon Victorian straight-lacedness and adopt the more genial and creative values of the Edwardian era. To respond to problems with appropriate solutions and not with an arbitrary code of etiquette. Just as King Edward himself changed fashions to suit his waistline rather than change his waistline to suit his fashions, so too we must change calling cards to reflect the situations in which we will use them. And in this era of desktop publishing and printing on demand, that means a visiting card or calling card for every situation.
I can think of cards for at least six different situations. These are:
- The visiting card your employer gives you, if you are working as a salaried professional (or even a professional working on commission, come to that). You have no control over this. The email on it is your work email. The phone number on it is your company phone. And unless it’s your own company and you decide the logo and card design and suchlike, there is not much you can do to customise this. All one can do with this sort of card is to accept it and move along. Back when I was a salaried yuppie, I tried for three months to get cards printed in which my designation was ‘Corporate Ho’ but my boss refused to approve anything except ‘Associate Purchase Manager’. Then I moved to Bombay, where I was in the Corporate Head Office on a project. It finally looked like I could get away with a business card that said ‘Corporate H.O. – Special Projects’. Alas, because it was a special project I was working on secondment in a business unit that was not actually my cost centre, and nobody could decide who would pay for my new business cards. Before things could be sorted out I had quit. Such is life.
- The visiting card you make for yourself if you do freelance work and meet people to pitch to them. So if you’re a consultant or writer or photographer looking for clients, you have a website that shows your portfolio or lists your past work and satisfied clients, and your visiting card includes that, your dedicated email for freelance work, your LinkedIn profile, and a dedicated mobile number for this. A dedicated mobile number may seem a little extreme, but it’s three thousand rupees extra at most. Or you could put a dual SIM phone. What is there?
The card then reads:
Writer at Large
I met Shefaly last year. She’s a freelance consultant, and she got her business cards printed by Moo. They were plain back with only her website address in white text. Very cool.
- A visiting card to give to shops and restaurants and sales agents and suchlike. It’s useful to get marketing offers and freebies, but not at the risk of subjecting yourself to spam. The solution is simple – create a dedicated email address for all your consumer transactions, and use that whenever you have to fill in a feedback form or purchase order form. If you want to be really ninja about this, you could get a dedicated mobile number for this as well, and use a cheap-ass Maxx Mobile that you’d switch off when you didn’t want to be disturbed with assorted personal loan offers. And then you can put the dedicated shopping email and mobile number on a visiting card, and drop it in the bowl whenever a shop or restaurant invited you to do so to get special offers. If you wanted to kick it up a notch, the card could include your monthly free cash flow, so the shop would know when not to bother sending you offers on things you couldn’t possibly afford.
- If you’re single, a visiting card to give to interesting members of the suitable sex. This card would have your name, personal phone number and email, and perhaps a link to your facebook page. To make it more effective, it could include a short testimonial from your best friend, or a description of your attractive qualities. Like “Consumer Banker of Repute”. Or “I drive a VW Polo”. Or “Skilled kisser. References available.” You get the idea.
- A card which you attach to presents or cash envelopes. This sort of card is actually wildly popular in Delhi. Actually, we take it for granted so much that I was astonished when Namy Roy and Muggesh asked if it was a Dalhi thing. This is a Dalhi innovation that works, and which the rest of the country should adopt. This card usually contains your family name (or the names of everyone in the family), the house address, and nothing else.
- And of course, a personal visiting card; with your personal phone number, personal email id, links to your blog or twitter id or facebook page, and so on. Your address, if you’re comfortable giving that away. If not, you could leave enough white space to write it down for the people you did want to give it to.
Visiting cards are only the beginning. To really unleash the neo-Edwardian aesthetic, we would abandon Facebook walls for personal email and even handwritten notes when possible. Handwritten notes in turn would call for personalised stationery, which too should be customised to purpose as much as the visiting cards described above. A world in which we send letters on high-GSM cream-coloured paper, with custom embossing depending on who you were writing to and why, is a much better world than the one we have today. We should do our utmost to create this world.