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Thursday, May 13, 2004 04:11 am

Card shark

The template the city’s using for its new business cards

Last week, when Mayor Tim Davlin announced the appointment of Ralph Caldwell as director of Homeland Security, Caldwell didn't get a raise or any tangible perk. "Just more responsibility," he said, at a council meeting that night.

But Caldwell, already assistant chief of the Springfield Police Department, admitted the new title did bring one benefit: Gold foil. It's in the city seal on his new business cards, and it's a status symbol only the mayor and department directors can get.

The gold and navy blue foil version "is considerably more expensive than the regular printed seal version," according to an April 16 e-mail from Communications Director Ernie Slottag to city employees. But Slottag says he doesn't know exactly how much more expensive. The city contracted with a local firm, Global Printing & Graphics, to produce the cards, and Global ran "several thousand sheets" of card stock with the gold seals last year.

"We decided to hold that for directors," Slottag says. "Everybody else will get just the regular seal."

City employees who lack gold foil status get plain white cards printed in flat "reflex blue" ink. "In this way, we will maintain a look of conservatism by showing that we are managing the taxpayer's funds well and not squandering them on expensive looking business cards," Slottag wrote, in his April e-mail.

The purpose of the e-mail was to announce an effort to standardize city business cards for the first time in recent history. Previously, each department designed their own cards, and some departments let individual employees create their own.

Caldwell, for example, was one of a handful of high-ranking officers whose cards were designed by a friend at a local ad agency. Along with the standard information, his card featured a gold police badge and, across the top, the red and blue stripes seen on SPD cruisers. The stripes were faded slightly at the ends, giving the illusion of a speeding car.

"There were probably two dozen different looking business cards of different styles and designs. It was really just a hodgepodge," Slottag says. Some incorporated the old city seal, featuring a line drawing of Municipal Center West. Some had the new seal, featuring Abraham Lincoln and the Capitol. Other cards had no seal at all.

The new template dictates a small city seal in the top left corner, the words City of Springfield in the top right corner, and the employee's name below, with space at the bottom for addresses and phone numbers. In a departure from the tradition of punctuating phone numbers with parentheses and dashes, Slottag decided to adopt the style common in Europe, which he calls "the universal dot."

In his e-mail, Slottag called this uniform design "critical branding" for the city to "make identification easier as our employees interface with the public."

Still, for the sake of economy, he encouraged all employees to use up their existing cards before ordering new ones.

Caldwell says his new cards are necessary when he's meeting with other agencies involved in homeland security. But he still likes his old Springfield Police business cards, and keeps a couple in his wallet at all times.

"I like them. They're more colorful," he says.

Of course, even Caldwell's cop cards aren't the snazziest. Todd Renfrow, general manager of City Water, Light and Power has not just one gold foil seal but two -- one for the city and one for CWLP.

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