The Origin of Zed Cards – The 1980s and 1990’s

by mhendrix1968

Decades ago, sed cards were not affordable to print, and design tools were limited. Most new models lacked the cash to order zed cards, so they started out with a simple 8×10, monochrome glossy photograph with a thick white border. Vital stats were attached to the reverse side in plain text.

I can still remember those days of you’re, printing dozens of copies of the identical boring shot. Time and time again. These 8×10 pictures from the photographer were also relatively expensive, and this got in the way of the model mailing them out. Models usually sent them to agencies who were probably going to offer them work, or to casting agents who were likely to use them. Models definitely missed out on a bunch of assignments due to the fact that they couldn’t afford to pass out these headshots to enough people.

Later in her career, a model would become more successful and bring in more moola. This would allow the model to order a B&W zed card created by an comp card print offset printer. Only the most profitable models in The big city could afford full color. Offset printing necessitates a lot of cash up front, but the cost became more reasonable if a group of hundreds or thousands of zed cards was done at once. At this point, a model would have plenty of cards to hand out – and the model could easily afford to give a card out to anyone who could be at all interested in talking to the model. The sed cards were even inexpensive enough to use the post office to send to directors around the region, enlarging a model’s reach.

The zed cards of old were a certain way because of the technology and costs involved with printing. This meant a single picture on the front and a handful of pictures, each a quarter of a page, on the back of the card. Space was also kept open on the other side of the sed card to include details for the model and contact information.

Printing technology prevented the images on the back of the sed card from overlapping in any way, and you couldn’t use any fancy backgrounds or layouts. All zed cards were thus printed on a white background, with thick white borders. These borders also enabled the printing press to grip the zed card as it went through the printing process. They couldn’t stretch the image to the edge, the way modern cards and designs do. Even though printing technology has come a long way, the sed cards we use today are still based pretty firmly on this traditional design, which was born of necessity.

If you’re looking for a modern comp card InDesign template, check out Rockin’ Photogs. They’ve got a couple free templates that you can download and work with.