Watch Mrs. Collins’s 2014 TypeCon presentation on the language of calling cards, Codes and Cards: Symbology from Victorian-era to Mid-20th Century Calling Cards.
The first 10 minutes are a bit slow going with loads of calling card visuals, context, history, etiquette, behavior and use. Then the it revs-up to a spectacular (and funny) ending.
Though rarely used today, calling cards have a rich legacy as social media and currency. Their roles in society presupposed the availability of resources and literacy, and were clear indications of class-types with the symbology of their use. The dictates of their construction signified particular details about their owners, and hence provides an interesting investigation for typographic and design cultural theory.
The presentation focuses on social behavior and how these cards function in day-to-day life. It illustrates codes inherent in calling card specifications, including: dimensions, paper type (color, weight, finish), font use, engraving position, ink color, printing type, and the use of embellishments. The presentation concludes with examples of this profound cultural richness by showing two notable examples, the infamous 2000 business card scene from Bret Easton Ellis’s American Phycho is one.