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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


Keeping Score: Business Cards vs. Smartphones

Oh the joy! One of our team members is running out of business cards. So of course our team starts asking questions. (Creatives are like this. Always questions.) With all the smartphone hoopla, do we even need a business card today? Don’t we just tap our phones together?

Okay, maybe we should do a business card that has a QR code. That will look up-to-date. But let’s be honest, no matter how you tweak that QR code, it’s not a beautiful design element. Digital watermarks would solve that problem, but...

Do we need business cards or not?
Of course we need business cards! When do you give out most of your cards? Yep, when you see people. And as a lot of business is done face to face, there's nothing like a really nice business card to break the ice when you first sit down to meet a client or network with a peer at a tradeshow.

Case in point: At a recent industry meeting I attended in San Francisco, most people pulled out their business cards for a swift and sociable introduction. Cards and pleasantries were exchanged, a few jokes and insights shared, and a new friend was made. Perfectly wonderful and productive.

On the sidelines, I noticed a young man fumbling with his smartphone frantically trying to enter his new BFF’s contact info. While he was typing, he couldn’t converse and missed out on some meaningful insights. Oh what a shame.

Business cards 1. Smartphones 0

Mobile Action or No Action codes

Even though QR codes continue to dominate the mobile-action market with a 68 percent share of activations in 2012, they are not the only player in this field anymore. The above share has decreased from a high of 80 percent the year before.

Options for mobile-action codes include QR codes, digital watermarks, image recognition, near-field communications, and augmented reality. But none of the business cards I’ve seen recently (and we get ample submissions to our features a mobile-action code.

In a recently published study on the topic, mobile engagement company Nellymoser found that “Nearly 10 percent of print advertisements studied contained some form of mobile activation in 2012.”

Even though 10 percent strikes me as low, I can see the appeal when it comes to advertisements. Scan the code and win. Scan the code for a behind-the-scenes peak. You get the drift. But these types of call-to-action might not be applicable to all businesses.

So for our cards, I’m still leaning towards NO mobile-action.

Business cards 2. Smartphone 0.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone. I love its many fine features, but will it replace my business cards? As long as we live in a world where people appreciate the visual and tactile experience that a great business card offers, and I’m given the chance to make a unique sir, I will not give up on my printed cards...even if they create a “bump-for-business-card exchange” app.

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