I just discovered - I'm a bit late to the party, I know - the coolest cartoonist slash designer slash doodler. Andre Jordan is a depressed Brit with a super dark sense of humor and a powerful pen. Behold:
I'm not big into the mass-market greeting card companies like Hallmark, American Greetings or Clinton Cards. I'll be the first to admit that they have some really funny ranges [like Shoebox], but who really needs yet another stupid design showing a shooting star with the exclamation 'you're a star!' scrawled on the front? Yet they serve the mass market well, so who am I to judge [as if that's ever stopped me before...]?
I read an article in the Sunday Times newspaper about a Ukranian entrepreneur who runs a very successful greeting card publisher here in the UK called Riverside Cards. They are so 'mass' that I've never even heard of them, but there ya go. They sell $6 million worth of cards a year, which is small fry next to Hallmark's $4 billion, but his story reflects how the greeting card market is in so many ways still a cottage industry.
I'm not a big gadget person, so I don't spend hours on Firebox like many males I know. But I did see this Carve Your Own Message and I think it's really clever. I would have ordered it if Valentine's Day wasn't... oh, three days away... good thing I have some other good Valentine choices.
While the concept of an e-card is anathema to paper lovers everywhere, I do confess to finding them [sometimes] useful. If you can't send an actual, physical, beautiful card, I guess an e-card is the next best thing. The most important thing is to let someone know you're thinking of them, no matter how you do it.
E-cards are like regular cards in that there are so many cheesy, schmaltzy and over-the-top designs it's unbelievable. If I see one more Blue Mountain design I'm going to rip my eyeballs out.
Personally, I like the notion of designer email stationery rather than an e-card you have to retrieve off of a website. The only place I've seen this is at iomoi - let me know what other designers are out there.
I remember seeing Iomoi's ecards years ago, and I'm glad to see they're still at it. They offer a range of designs and their interface is simple and easy to use. You choose the font and type color and they'll even check your spelling. They also sell original - paper!- stationery products and address labels.
What's Good: super simple, good personalization options
What's Not: designs can sometimes be on the cutesy side
Unlike Iomoi, who offer e-stationery, SpreadingTheLove offers e-cards that the recipient has to view on their site [like Hallmark, American Greetings, etc.]. They play the "green" card by positioning emails as environmentally friendlier than paper greetings, and while they probably have a point, I'll never give up pen and ink.
I can't quite figure out what their deal is. Their mailing address is Spain, their phone number is from London and their prices are in dollars. Go figure. They offer a lot of designs by many different artists, which I like, but their site design is crap. I get a headache just looking at it, which is a shame because they have some interesting functionality.
I particularly like the option of scheduling the email for up to a year in the future. I can see someone who is hyper-organized [not me by a long shot] sitting down one afternoon and creating birthday emails for the next three months. God love 'em. The site also allows you to store addresses and offers a reminder service for key dates you don't want to forget.
I couldn't test it though, because I kept trying to send myself a free card - as advertised on the site - and they kept telling me I had to subscribe first. Um, I thought free meant... free... silly me.
What's Good: good range of clever, and different, designs; clever functionality
You've just gotta love a company called Polite Cards. It would be rude not to, right? And, as they so humbly declare in their catalog, they're really nice.
Turns out they actually are. I had the pleasure of meeting Jack and Mike, the brains behind Polite, at a trade show where they offered a humorous respite from a long day of walking the aisles. They publish just my kind of cards: funny, edgy and clever collections of artwork from some very interesting artists.
They have good taste in New York restaurants and hotels, which alone is reason enough to like the guys.
These cards are by artist David Shrigley. I know the photos aren't the easiest to read, but squint your eyes because it's worth it. Here's how Polite's fine catalog copy describes Shrigley:
[David Shrigley's images] are thought-provoking too, a sort of ambush on your conscience that will direct an anglepoise lamp into your core and make you confess your deepest darkest secrets.
What the hell is an anglepoise lamp?
And these are from Bob & Roberta Smith:
and, just when you thought that the world was too copy-heavy, here are some surreal postcards by Vincent Fournier:
What would you write on the back on these, I wonder?
I got the coolest thing ever the other day: a handwritten rsvp.
I couldn't believe it. There it was, right before my very eyes: a beautiful little note, stamped, addressed and delivered right to my front door. So maybe I'm overreacting just a tiny bit, but think about it - when was the last time someone rsvp'd at all, let alone by hand?
Proof that the English are indeed so very civilized.
I met Vicki Eggs at a summer fair in Cambridge. She was selling her handmade greeting cards and ever the paperphile, I found myself ooohhing and aaahhhing in no time. She's a clever photographer, and her designs feature shots she's taken on various jaunts overseas. I'm particularly drawn to - no surprise - the photos she's taken in America.
She uses real photo prints [no scans here, thankfully; I'm not anti-scan but real photos add more depth] and inserts them into die-cut windows that frame the shots really well.
We met for coffee and had a bit of a chat [as they say on this side of the Atlantic]. She's relatively new to the business, and she's working hard to get her name out there. And it's paid off: she just signed a deal with a large publisher who is going to distribute these cards as well as license a range of Vicki's other designs. I'm going to use Vicki as a case study on how an artist builds their own stationery brand, and I'll write regular posts to see how she's doing and what she's dealing with at any given time. She's off to a strong start.
Everyone thinks, or would like to think, that what they create is unlike anything else out there but it's pretty rare to see something completely novel. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find a couple of things at the Top Drawer trade show recently that I hadn't seen before in some way shape or form.
it's plastic by any other name
These little square cards by Stooshie Design feature a 3-D perspex ring that frames a particular design element [in this case, a Scottie dog]. Perspex, by the way, is British for acrylic. They are created by Linda Carlin, an incredibly sweet Scottish woman who educated me in Scottish slang. A stooshie, you see, is an argument or fracas, as in after one too many pints, their lively debate degraded into a right stooshie by the end of the night. It's a bit of a strange name given that Linda hardly seems the argumentative type. Whatever her mood may be, she does make cute and - better yet - original cards.
put it together
I've never seen a card made out of jigsaw puzzle pieces before. Maybe it's been done before and I just missed it - wouldn't be the first time - but I think this is clever. While the White Cotton Card Co.'s designs aren't really my style, I like the way they execute this concept and it's fun.
They've tested the cards and reported that they don't cost anything extra to send and the postal service will deliver the envelope full of puzzle pieces without a problem. Will wonders never cease.
Last week I attended yet another trade show in London. For such a small place, England hosts a disproportionately large number of gift and design shows. This most recent one is called Top Drawer, which is a smaller show of higher end, cutting edge home accessories, jewelery [or jewellery as it's spelled here] and paper products. There are no seminars, no big events other than the exhibition; it was small and manageable and a really pleasant day.
Since I'm a sucker for brightly colored profanity, these cards stopped me in my tracks:
They are the handiwork of Laura Bowen and Jack Gardner of Room 7, a small design team from Somerset. Jack wrote a book called words are not things, which is a collection of aphorisms written with the express purpose of provoking thought. I'm not typically not a fan of the Tony Robbins and Dr. Phil-style of navel-gazing, but I have to say that this book did what it set out to do: it made me think. That's some accomplishment for a tiny little book, since thinking isn't something I do often or well.
I'm not entirely sure what it is about a collection of interesting thoughts that inspires a greeting card to scream 'fuck', but strangely enough it works.