Richard Moross wants you to know that business cards are alive and well. As the CEO of MOO, the company that pioneered those clever mini cards with do-it-yourself design options, Moross says the business of printing may be 500+ years old, but it's doing quite nicely, thank you very much.
Since its founding in 2004, the company has a seen its compound annual growth rate exceed 100%. MOO.com now has hundreds of thousands of customers in nearly 200 countries and printed 50 million business cards last year alone. Moross is expecting that number to double in 2012.
Which is why Moross brushes away talk that exchanging cards is going to go the way of the horse and cart. Not only does he order and give out thousands of his own cards every year, Moross maintains, "The more connected to the web we are, the more precious the real world is, so it is important to make a connection."
That connection comes in the form of a handshake, a look in the eye, and the passing of the card. "It is hard to generate trust virtually and convey your personality through a Skype call," Moross explains. Though he says, "we sell the most boring products in the world," Moross notes that business cards are resilient for a number of reasons, not the least of which is simplicity. "You don't need to upgrade the OS. Everyone understands what it is, and it just works."
For all their genteel simplicity, MOO's cards captured the attention of some pretty tech-heavy businesses. Recent partners include Airbnb, whose hosts are encouraged to use MOO cards to showcase their digs to prospective guests, and Facebook. Moo’s Facebook Cards are personalized featuring any of your Facebook Timeline Cover Photos on the front and a custom quote (or favorite status update) on the back.
These collaborations drive home Moross's fascination with the way design on the diminutive bits of paper can break the ice, build relationships, and strengthen a brand. He sat down with Fast Company recently to discuss how he gets maximum impact from a mini card.
"I give out thousands of cards but I take a lot, too. I'm an avid collector. I mainly take pictures of places I've been and meals I've eaten and use those on my personal cards. There's a story behind each [image]. For instance, I had octopus raw and shredded in Bangkok once. It looked disgusting but it was marvelous. Those are the things that people find memorable when they rifle through the cards they got that week and they remember you."
Ice Breaker, Not Deal Breaker
"Typically I give my cards out at the beginning of a meeting; that way the recipient can put it in front of them, and, if there are multiple people in the room, no one forgets anyone's name. I like to lay all my cards out on the table and have people pick their favorite. Each one is different and it makes for a really fun introduction."
Make a Useful and Productive Tool
"We mostly print flat rectangles, so it's pretty straightforward at a fundamental level. But there is a very specific reason for the size. When I first designed [the mini card] I did in the shape of a regular business card, but stripping away all the wasted white space made it more personal. Because it is a strange aspect ratio there is some cropping you get to do [when using your own photos]. The fact that you are going through the editing process is quite liberating. You get to really show who you are."
Photos for Everyone!
"There is a camera in every device now and the proliferation of photography stored on the web—Facebook is the largest depository on the planet. To get people to use [their own photography] in business and personal cards is a powerful application. It is almost like a subversion of the cheesy real estate photo, you can suck the photos into MOO's website and do pretty low intensity design work, and it's very memorable and impactful."
What Not to Print
"Other than something illegal, pretty much anything goes. We have had some customers order trials of...offensive graphics, and we block those users. Most of customers are creatively inclined and we are often delighted by the types of cards people make because we hand check everything."
"I think business cards will prove more resilient than books. We are in the identity business and the next stepping stone will include the ttransfer of information [from the cards] into devices. There is still something important about real-world tokens, though. MOO's mission is not just to transfer information, but to keep it."
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[Image: Flickr user Richard Moross]