Ask any graphic designer if they collect business cards and I'd put a few quid on it that they'd nod eagerly.
Well, I managed to combine this collecting habit with another hobby, travelling all over the show to eat at fancy restaurants.
At this level the chefs clearly want to extend their creativity to as many 'touch-points' with the customer as possible... When done well, the business card is a powerful tool to anchor their brand to an amazing memory in their customer's minds.
So, without any more waffle, I will start my list... This is in no particular order. I don't rank them, I just try to enjoy the beauty in each. I hope you can do the same.
(Apologies for the shoddy lighting in some. It was a grey day today, and the lightbulb in my office is mingin')
1. Restaurant Story, London
I love this card. It's so tactile...
And the type, I don't reckon it was faked digitally. There's some years in those letters. It feels like a story that has been passed through the ages. I can smell old books just thinking about it.
The typography feels like it was taken directly from a privileged Victorian child's bedtime storybook... And the quirky little illustration is just painfully English... It's amazing!
2. é by José Andrés, Las Vegas, Nevada
é by José Andrés is a secret restaurant. And I mean that quite literally, it's hidden.
It's in the back of Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan Hotal behind a curtain... And consists of only a bar for 8 diners, for an entire sitting.
But enough about the place... I just love the sparseness of these cards. That was the first thing that appealed to me.
It's brave to put so little on, but so effective. Just having an email address builds up mystery and TELLS THEIR STORY. If you want to eat there you must research how to do it. I love that.
Also, worthy note of the expressive é on the front. Beautifully drawn. It's got energy and flair. It makes me feel happy looking at it.
3. The French Laundry, Yountville, California
This is probably the most celebrated restaurant in America, and is certainly respected as being amongst the top 50 in the world... In my opinion, top 10. If not purely for experience. There is NOTHING like it.
These cards are a nod to the art of fine dining in France. In fact, the location was chosen because the climate almost exactly matches the south of France.
The simple and refined peg on the front is a beautiful symbol to represent a restaurant. They want it to feel like home.
A picture, especially one this bad one, can never portray the quality of the feel of this paper. It's beautiful. Some love has gone into the sourcing of it.
The details are letter-pressed, with the peg being embossed. The use of touch is a powerful tool when everyone focuses on hand held devices... On certain jobs, like your business cards, it's well worth spending a few extra quid to be remembered. Little tip for you there. It'll be on your invoice (Hat-tip to my pal Guy from Blab).
4. T & Cake, Almondbury
Obtaining this card was like a designer/food geek pilgrimage.
Michael C. Place from Build has been an idol of mine for probably 15 years. He was the genius behind Designers Republic, who did some of the most iconic graphic design in the mid-tolate 90s. I'm showing my age now.
This card is gorgeous though. I think I'm safe in assuming it's foil blocked onto a GF Smith Colourplan stock, probably 540gsm... But I could be wrong.
The logo on the front though. It makes me emotional. The type has so much funk, restraint and flair all at the same time... The ligature (join) between the A and K is unlike any I've seen before.
The wine's kicking in now.
5. Noma, Copenhagen
This is by far the best dining experience I've ever had. By a country mile.
It was considered the best restaurant in the world for at least 4 years (google it or something)... And I can't argue. Rene Redzepi, the genius behind the food is a true artist. In the Picasso or Warhol sense. He's a nutcase.
After a brutal 14 hour shift in the kitchen, he goes off to his canal barge on the docks and cooks for hours more in his development kitchen. The man is a machine.
The cards are a pale blue grey and have a dreamlike film noir noise to them. It appears to be steam, evaporating... It's a marvel at one of the processes of cooking. An transformation from one state to another... A reduction to a pure essence.
That's what the cooking is about. Purity. And I get that from the cards.
The reverse is pure, functional Scandinavian design.
It's there to show you some information.
So it does, with zero fuss.
But there's an arrow to remind you to look at the beauty on the front.
6. Little Social, London
This card is just pretty.
It's a playful little restaurant by one of British most gifted chefs, Jason Atherton.
Hugely French inspired, this business card is artisan, playful and refined at the same time.
I don't have a lot to say, other than admire the execution.
Katz's Deli, NYC
I know what you're thinking, but please bear with me.
Katz's Deli epitomises the New York in Films.
It's actually the place where they filmed THAT scene in When Harry Met Sally.
When we went in 2014 it had 126 years of history... Not many places can say that can they?
It's an institution and is part of the fabric of the city.
The card feels like it was made in a backstreet print-shop over 50 years go and they've just kept reprinting it with the dates changed on the back, and maybe a phone number every decade or so.
I love how functional it is.
The calendar on the back makes it 'handy' so you'll keep it... Old school marketing. I love it.
So, what collating this has made me realise is how many people miss the opportunity to directly put their brand into the hand of a potential customer. Why would you want this to be forgettable? You literally 'press the flesh' when you hand it over. Do you want to anchor this to something forgettable and dull, or to something that could spark a conversation about you?
I'll leave you with that thought.