Custom holiday card designer appeals to global audience

By Cindy Atoji Keene
Christmas begins in early May for Mary Ellen Campisi and 22 other Vistaprint designers; that’s when the creative team launches into the production of over 300 holiday cards. The new designs – whimsical scripts with fun phrases, handcrafted motifs, unexpected colors – are rolling out this fall by the Lexington-based online print supplier. While brick-and-mortar card stores are shuttering, customized greeting cards ordered online on sites like Vistaprint grew dramatically from 2009 to last year, according to MarketResearch.com. “Consumer preferences and tastes are constantly changing, but even with all the digital noise out there, staying connected to loved ones through cards and letters is still important,” said Campisi, who is also the company’s trend specialist, continually researching ideas for new greeting card concepts.

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Q: Today you can send a unconventional cards during any occasion – when a pet dies; to a cubicle co-worker or when a same-sex couple marries. In your research, how have you seen cards, both holiday and others, being redefined?
A: One of the biggest trends we’ve seen in holiday cards is the combination ‘Announcement Holiday Card.’ Many people are combining birth, marriage, or new home announcements as part of their holiday card. I personally did a birth announcement-holiday card after the birth of my daughter – she was born in November. Social media and technology have also influenced design. Hashtags, acronyms and abbreviations are becoming more common, especially on ‘tween and teen invitations and stationery.

Q: What’s the process of how a card is designed?
;A: Our process begins with in-depth research on both design trends, and opportunities within our existing collections. What do our customers love? What are we missing? How are they customizing our designs? This informs many of the decisions we make. Designers then sketch and develop concepts to establish a look and feel based off identified trends and opportunities. Through peer reviews and more formal art direction reviews, concepts and illustrations are then further refined until the design is approved and ready to go “live.” The process is lengthy and thoughtful, and every new design that ends up on our site is created for a specific reason.

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Q: What are the current design and printing trends for the coming holidays?
A: We have a holiday designer collection made up of 50 hand-picked designs that represent this year’s top trends. Customers can then customize the designs with their own family photos. There’s a strong focus on typography and mixed media elements such as faux foil, sequins, and chalkboard. Hand-rendered lettering, geometric shapes and simplicity were also a focus for this year. The top holiday seller last year, for example, was just a simple photo grid. New Year’s cards have certainly increased in popularity over the past few years and on a much smaller scale, we’ve also seen increased interest in other holidays such as Hanukkah, Diwali, Chinese New Year, and Kwanzaa.

Q: You also work with a smaller team of six designers in Barcelona that focus on the more locale-specific European trends. How are cards adapted for this market?
A: There is an aesthetic commonality among our designs but the key is also having a collection that has variety and is broad enough that it doesn’t just appeal to a specific audience or demographic. We like to have a little something for everyone, while still feeling on-trend and current. For the French, German or UK markets, we might make multiple look-alike versions but change the language. But there are a few that don’t translate well, and often a country has specific cards such as a Christmas hat (or crown) from a Christmas cracker for the UK; Christmas in Paris with an illustration of the Eiffel Tower for France, and Bleigießen Glückwunsche for Germany – literally, lead pouring – where lead is poured into water, producing a shape from which, supposedly, your fortune can be predicted for the coming year.

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Q: Who is your design hero?
A: Hmmm, it’s hard to say. I love designer Jonathan Adler’s style. Strong geometric shapes, lots of white, pops of color and patterns, while still feeling warm and relatable.

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