When Visitors Were Carded
There was a time when everyone of a certain social status – upper classes mostly – carried name cards and showed them every time they visited a friend, neighbor or acquaintance. Visiting cards (also known as calling cards) were the social norm, the etiquette of 18th and 19th Century Europe (and those who aspired to be European in the U.S.A.). There were various rules attached to usage. A card left with a folded corner indicated that it was handed in person rather than brought by a servant. But all were saved and savored by the recipients as a record of status.
Typographically, visiting cards followed certain conventions. Usually an engraved or “social” script was used for the name, which was the only type on the front. Although a variety of stock images were available, as well as family crests and coats of arms. The cards were engraved and often embossed. The quintessence of graphic design (or rather printing) in the service of civility.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →