Create a Business Card for a Literary or Historical Figure

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When business people meet they exchange business cards. Business cards are a relatively modern invention designed to quickly introduce a person and provide at least a minimum amount of information about themselves or their business. Some individuals and businesses have simple cards. Others get very creative using business cards with unusual colors or shapes that reflect what the person does.

What if ____________________ (fill in name of assigned or selected character) had a business card. What would it say? Would ____________________ have a serious, formal card or something fun and whimsical? What title might ____________________ use to describe themselves or their job? What pictures would you expect to see on their business card?


Create a business card for ____________________ . The card should help others know and remember ____________________ . Ideally it should convey a sense of who ____________________ was and what they did.

A business card generally focuses on a single facet of an individual or business. If ____________________ was known for many different accomplishments, single out just one of those activities for their business card. You may choose to focus on a well-known aspect of ____________________ or on some lesser known achievements or interests.

  • Collection of business cards from family, friends, local businesses.
  • Business card design books and portfolios (optional).

  • Classroom or Library Reference Materials.
  • Access to Internet Resources such as Desktop Publishing - Business Cards (optional).
  • Page Layout Software with Business Card Templates or Software specifically designed for business cards.
  • Scanner, clip art books, digital photos, graphics software (optional).
  • Perforated business card stock, card stock, or plain paper (plus scissors or paper cutter if using non-perforated stock).
  • Printer able to handle chosen paper stock.


Many of the items in this list are optional. You must decide which ones are appropriate for your business card.
  • Name of Individual.
  • Name of Business or Organization.
  • Address.
  • Phone Number.
  • Fax Number.
  • Email Address.
  • Web Page or Social Media Address (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
  • Job Title of Individual.
  • Tagline or description of Business or Organization.
  • Logo.
  • Graphic Image(s) (including purely decorative elements).
  • List of services or products.
The items listed below are to aid in designing your business card. Some may not apply.
  • Horizontal or Vertical Layout.
  • Emphasis on Business or Organization (name and/or logo).
  • Emphasis on Individual.
  • Emphasis on Title of Individual.
  • Emphasis on a particular part of the contact information (phone, address, email, etc.)
  • Size of Logo or other graphics — large (dominant) or small, etc.
  • Number of Colors.
  • White space (blank spaces) toward the middle or toward the outer edges.
  • Conservative typeface (such as those used in the stories in your textbooks) or Fun, Informal typeface (such as crooked letters, funny shapes, odd sizes, or type that looks like handwriting) or a mix.

Also see: 11 parts of a business card

  1. First, become familiar with ____________________ through books, papers, classroom discussion, or other research materials.
  2. Describe ____________________ in a few paragraphs. After deciding on what aspect of his or her life or activities that you want to focus, make a list or write a description that tells about that part of ____________________ life.
  3. Decide if you want a "serious" or formal card or something more light-hearted or informal. What is most appropriate to your subject?
  4. Using the Business Card Checklist, list the major components of your business card. Mark out any components you wish to omit from your card. If appropriate, come up with a title for ____________________ . To put everything you want on this small card you may need to come up with different ways to say the same thing. Look for shorter words in place of long ones. Use a single word in place of two or three different ones. Experiment with abbreviations.
  5. Look at sample business cards you or your class have collected. Identify those that have a style you might like to imitate or borrow.
  6. Sketch out some rough ideas of how you want your business card to look — including any graphics you think you want to include. (Your software may come with a collection of clip art; if you have access to a scanner you may be able to scan artwork from clip art books; if you have access to graphics software you may be able to draw your own graphics.)
  7. Using the page layout or business card software available to you, transfer your rough sketches to the computer. Your software may have templates or wizards that will provide you with even more ideas.
  8. Print your final design on business card stock, index card stock, or plain paper. Tear apart or cut with scissors or paper cutter as necessary.
  9. Exchange business cards with your classmates and teacher.


When you give your teacher your business card, attach the following checklist with your answers.
  1. What is the focal point of this business card? (What part is supposed to catch the reader's eye first?)
  2. What job, role, or activity does this business card describe? Is this a commonly known or less known role of ____________________ .
  3. Is this supposed to be a formal (serious) or informal (casual) business card?
  4. Why did you choose these colors, graphics, text, layout, and style for a business card for ____________________ ?

"The business card... is kind of an extension of yourself. It's a little bit of giving yourself to someone else." — Ken Erdman, founder of the Business Card Museum, Erenheim, PA

It is not easy to condense a person down to the size of a business card but doing so may help you to focus on the most important aspects of someone. It can also help to develop your vocabulary as you search for new words to describe a person or their job. It should also be clear that it is almost impossible to tell everything there is about a person from a single piece of paper.

Note for the Teacher:

Download lesson plans in *.doc format


Do something different with the business card format.
The Business Card in Other Cultures
Some countries place a unique importance on business cards. During a unit of study on the Far East/Pacific Rim countries have students design and exchange business cards using the prescribed etiquette for those countries.
  • Hong Kong Business Card Etiquette
    Also called a Name card, in Hong Kong there are very specific rules — some of which directly contradict the way cards are used in the West.
    "Literally everybody has a business card in Hong Kong, from the chairman of a company to shop assistants, they are a way of life. Any employee who represents a company to outsiders should carry name cards. To Hong Kongers, business cards represent that a company is proud to be associated with their representative." Rory Boland, Guide to Hong Kong / Macau Travel
  • Japanese Business Card Etiquette
    Known as meishi, there is a protocol to exchanging cards that is more formal than in the US.
    "The worst thing that you can possibly do in Japanese business etiquette is to cram someone's business card into a back pocket or wallet in front of them!" Greg Rodgers, Guide to Asia Travel
  • Business Card Etiquette in Spain
    Print your card in Spanish on one side and English on the other, but always present it with the Spanish side up.

Victorian Calling Cards
The precursor to today's business card may have been the Victorian Calling Card. During a unit of study on the Victorian Age have students design and exchange calling cards using the prescribed etiquette of that time.
  • Calling Card Etiquette
    "It is generally understood that women leave their husband's cards. The custom is for a married woman calling formally on another married woman to leave one of her own and two of her husband's cards, one of his being for the hostess, the other for her husband...."
  • Fashions for Calling Cards (for Gentlemen) explains the meaning of folded corners on calling cards.
  • Mourning and Funeral Usages outlines rituals related to mourning and funerals during the Victorian age, including use of calling cards.

Multiple Cards
Sometimes a single business card is not appropriate for all aspects of a business. People may have different business cards for different occasions.

Allow students to create two or more different business cards each highlighting a different aspect of their school or extracurricular life or multiple aspects of an historical or fictional character. Discuss how individuals can have a variety of different interests and can present a different "face" depending on their surroundings and activities.

Business Card Design by Committee
Many companies have a single style of business card for all employees. Each employee has their own name and title on this "one size fits all" card.

Have students work as a team to design a single business card for the entire class (or school). Because each student may have differing opinions on what image their class should convey, have each student (or a representative for each major point of view) debate/discuss/support their point of view.

After agreeing on a single style of card, students can personalize their own cards with a unique descriptive title for themselves. Discuss the importance and/or pitfalls of uniformity.

Have students work as a team to design a single business card for an historical or fictional character. Because each student may have differing opinions on what image this person should convey, have each student (or a representative for each major point of view) debate/discuss/support their point of view.

Trading Places
Have students design business cards for each other. One student will interview another then design what he or she believes is an appropriate business card — perhaps 2-3 variations. Let the student then evaluate each of the cards that their classmate designed and describe what they do or don't like about each one. With the name omitted (or a fake name) see if other students can identify who belongs to which card (how well does it convey who that person is and what they do).
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