Service of Paper that Calls to You

April 25th, 2011

Categories: Back to Basics, Communications, Details, First Impressions, Luxury, Nostalgia, Quality, Value Added


A friend, writer/editor Jim Roper and I share a passion for fine quality stationery-all sorts of paper goods.  His notes and gift bags of handmade paper feel as exquisite as they look. He gave me a box of Florentine cards a few years ago. I have sent most to special people but still have a few as I have a hard time parting with them.

Jim suggested I read Lesley M. Blume’s Wall Street Journal article, “Leaving the Right Impression.” It was about the trend for people to design and use calling cards-that’s what Blume says they are, well, called these days. My husband has always referred to business cards this way but these personal cards are different in that along with a name, they provide only one bit of contact information such as a phone number.

distinguish-yourselfBlume noted that the reasons for these cards on thick, wonderful paper ranged from distinguishing oneself in a job search to “the ongoing ‘heritage’ movement-a nostalgia-tinged societal turn toward objects that last, smolder with individuality and are well-made-which has made its zeitgeisty way into the world of stationery.” She continued, “And a personalized card acts as a quiet rebuttal to the white noise jabber-jawing of Twitter and Facebook.”

I get her first reason. Distinguishing yourself in positive ways is always smart. But I wonder why people [apart from mothers and loved ones] are going to keep these beautiful cards and if they do, where. I input contact information to my smartphone as soon as I can and have no room or place to store such things whether beautiful or merely practical.

More important: toomuchworkWill the cards require the recipient to work to find you? What if a prospective employer doesn’t want to speak with you and all that’s on the calling card is your phone number? In frustration, he/she may toss the card and move to the person whose email address is easier to find.

We increasingly need to know and share everything NOW. We Google, we link, we dash off a line at midnight on a handheld phone’s keyboard. I don’t think calling cards will buck this trend. The recipient may carry the card around for ages as a bookmark [if he/she hasn’t moved to a Kindle]. My bet is that in the end, they will have no clue who gave it to them.

I’m all for encouraging face-to-face contact in favor of hiding behind a keyboard. I can’t get over being asked to jot condolence messages on websites, for example. But calling cards aren’t the answer to social networking and texting run amok.

How do you distinguish yourself? Do you think calling cards are an effective way?


12 Responses to “Service of Paper that Calls to You”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    Everything Changes. “Back in my day” we were taught that the MORE contact info you provide to a potential client, or ANYONE, the better the expected results.

    Nowadays… I guess all you need is 1 e-mail or 1 facebook address!

    By the way, as long as we are on how things change…may I ask the “questioner” a question?

    What was the origin of the term, ”Importance of Earnest Service”? And why does it continue now as, “Service of….. etc”?

  2. Jeane Byington Said:


    Some things may be hip and it’s harmless to follow such trends. But I think if you want something–such as a job, a placement, a response or a new client–make it easy for the prospective boss, editor/reporter, customer service rep or marketing director to reach you. That doesn’t mean overwhelm them with all your handles and a list of phone numbers….but a card with just your name and phone number…uh-uh.

    To answer your good questions, I wanted to cover the topic of service in my blog. Service has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I didn’t want to call the blog Service. I think to be effective, service should be earnest. And I love plays on words. Oscar Wilde did the rest–the title of his play fit my plans with just a little twist.

    Consistency is the first reason I repeat the words “Service Of” rather than go all over the map as I did at the start. And I purposely stretch the concept with my interpretation of the service word to show how many zillions of ways there are to present most things. Service is a word that has so many meanings….it’s a gem. Thanks for asking.

  3. Diane Baranello, Coaching for Distinction Said:

    Jeanne, I agree with you and your friend, Jim … there’s something alluring about fine quality stationery … like the treasure of owning a fine, collectible book.

    I’ve found the best way to distinguish myself is in person…holistically…giving me the opportunity to let my natural energy, personality, facial expressions, vocabulary, pitch, pace and tone of voice, body language, image and so much more shine through.

    My business card includes my photo along with contact information (essential) and three words: Experience. Collaboration. Commitment.

    Business cards today are an essential part of successful networking … but they should be offered with humility and accepted with respect…then the process of exchanging business cards becomes memorable…and leaves the right impression.

  4. Jeane Byington Said:


    You should know, given your international experience training bankers. There are some things that work that you shouldn’t fool with, even on the finest paper in the world!

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    It’s good to see the return of the elegant calling card, an improvement on its cousin, the crowded business card. Simplicity is best, and basic information on where the bearer may be most easily reached is sufficient. I like it. The three previous words would have been enough, but since this is a blog, managed to scare up something more to say.

  6. Jeane Byington Said:


    Crowded is confusing and usually hard to read as the type is tiny and therefore as bad as a card with only one piece of info that forces the user to communicate the way you like best, rather than the way he/she prefers.

    What’s the one thing to include? I know people who love picking up a phone and others who hate it. If all you have on the card is your email address and someone wants to hear your voice, you’re cooked and out of the running. Who has time, patience or energy to check Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and other places to find the missing info?

    An alternative: A talented graphic designer can help make the card with key info look uncluttered.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Unemployed graphic designers will agree. A person who is not enamored of phones would be an idiot to dismiss what appears to be an ideal employee from consideration. Same for the person who dislikes email. It all boils down to how much one wants to spend, whether one would make two types of cards available, and whether one wants to appear “too expensive” handing out those fancy decorated cards. One also risks appearing affected or fey with the latter.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Problem is in this environment there may be five people who are all potentially perfect employees. Appearing to be difficult, or, as you point out, fey or affected in the wrong industry and you’re out of the running. Meanwhile the boss rejoices as there are now only four candidates to consider.

    If money is no object, your idea of having both cards and using your instinct may be best, but I am still anti-fancy card and suggest folks divert their money to buy handsome note cards on great paper to use in thanking for interviews.

  9. Jeremiah Said:

    I very much agree with you and Jim about fine paper. There is nothing that gives as much pleasure as a well written book, finely printed on quality rag paper and handsomely bound. I dread the day, coming soon, when we shall all be condemmed to reading only what appears on a TV-like screen in jangling telegraphease.

    I suspect I am one of your few readers, perhaps one of the few Americans still alive, who once upon a time actually had personal calling cards. They were small stiff and engraved and bore only my full name, no initials, no telephone number, no address, no anything else. You were supposed to use them, for example, when you made a formal call. A formal call at that time was one one which had not been previously arranged. You went to the door of the home of the person you were calling upon, knocked, and either a maid or a manservant, usually not the butler, answered the door. You asked whether Mrs. or Miss “X” were receiving, and almost always were told, “No;” turned the corner of the card; put it on a silver plate in the hall, and left. What did you get out of it? Sometimes, if you were lucky, you got an invitation to a fancy party with lots of good food and drink. Before the war, doing this at the White House could even get you invited to a White House reecption. Of course, now they’d probably lock you up if you tried to go near the place.

    Do I think strictly personal calling cards serve a purpose in modern America? No I do not. Using them would be as silly as expecting anyone, except possibly a doctor in a hospital, to use your last name when addressing you. Formality and societal structure are too far changed to make them serve any useful purpose today. Even though I still tend to accumulate other’s cards like crazy, I no longer carry business cards myself, and when I’m asked for one, I reach for a cocktail napkin. I think a cocktail napkin may just create a more lasting impression than most of the cards that are handed me.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I am giggling at your comment and wonder, given the cocktail napkin reference, if the rest is true or if you read this in a 19th century novel.

    The cocktail napkin industry will love you, in any case!

  11. Martha Takayama Said:

    Exquisite paper and elegant typeface on stationary or cards are aesthetic pleasures and indicators of taste. They also can be of social assisatcance.

    For personal use a calling card with at least one piece of contact information, whether phone or email, can smooth over any distracting search for pen, paper or any awkwardness or error in noting information in a social setting. It really is not important how long the card will be kept. It serves, if affordable, as a pleasing and graceful tool.

    The Japanese always use business and or calling cards for clarification in a language fraught with so many possibilities for spelling errors.
    However, for business purposes, less can also be more. Photos seem inappropriate for the a number of reasons. It is important to offer legible information that facilitates more than one type of contact, but without unnecessary distractions and flourishes, or barely legible type.

  12. Jeremiah Said:

    You asked if what I wrote was true about using a calling card when making a formal call. I did make one formal call in 1954, and have not made one since. I threw the rest of the cards away about forty years ago.

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