MOO, and the re-invention of the calling card

20 September 2006

So I’m only the umpteenth person to say that I’ve just ordered a whole bunch of MOO minicards. Having seen them from some friends already, I can tell you that the quality is great, the size is lovely, and the colour repro is spot on.

What I find really interesting about them, though, is that MOO describe them not as “business cards” but as “calling cards”. I really like that; it’s an important distinction, and a nice reminder of the origins of what we now call business cards. They’re tools of etiquette, ways of seeking permission to see someone and also permission to engage with them. They’re also a signifier; in the old-fashioned usage (seeking permission to see someone) the card with a name on is presented before the card’s owner is even permitted inside the house.

And, as Wikipedia points out, we exchange business cards to swap not only contact details, but business interests. When I look at the cards I have, even though many of them are from friends, it’s still a reminder of what they do rather than who they are. We all have so many ways to contact us now – mobile, email, IM, VOIP, MySpace – that it makes sense to resurrect the idea of cards precisely for personal usage. No business strings attached, no implicit sell; just me, my name, my number.

That’s why I really enjoyed reading the comments on this Techcrunch post about MOO, which Tom linked to.
Handing out photographs as business cards is confusing, difficult to read and unprofessional,” writes one commenter – but he misses the point, because these aren’t really intended as “professional” tools. The fact they can be used as business cards is, in fact, a nice side effect, and several commenters in that thread point out the value of photographic cards for trade purposes. But really, they’re just ways to remember who people are, and perhaps how to contact them.

I love the revival of a simple, physical identifier in an age when we’re drowning in digital identifiers that we keep losing. I also love that it’s designed for constant, ongoing delight (rather than just an immediate “wow!”). I guess that comes from the certain satisfaction in pulling out a physical thing you’ve had a part in making. Chris remarks that “the best thing is that each picture has memories and stories attached”. He’s spot-on. Every time you give one away, you’re not only giving away an identifier – my name, my number – but also a descriptor – “here is a photograph I like, which I took, which in part describes me through my taste”.

I’m looking forward to receiving my free set, and then I’ll set about getting some more. Demand will no doubt be huge, but I’m sure Stef and the team will cope. More to the point, I can’t wait to see what else MOO are going to do in this field. There’s so much exciting content around the web (besides text), waiting to be dumped out – I commented on the value of hard copy at Reboot in June. As such, surely there’s never been a better time to be in the print business?