Thinking of you

This assignment will allow you to put into practice what you have learnt in all the projects and exercises you have done so far, in particular your ability to work through the design process and undertake creative problem solving in relation to a set brief.


Greetings cards are an illustrated, folded card usually in an envelope that express a range of sentiments – such as celebrations, congratulations, thanks, regrets and condolences. They are often related to specific dates such as St. Valentine’s Day, religious holidays or big landmarks in your life, like turning 21 or the birth of a child.

The brief

Create a range of cards for sentiments or events that are worthy of a greetings card, but are currently not catered for by card manufactures.

The cards could be linked to other calendar events, obscure Saints days, sporting calendars or any other happening that is worth celebrating or commiserating. You may wish to explore some of life’s other landmarks that currently don’t feature in greetings cards, like getting your first grey hairs, being released from prison or any other personal landmark someone might want to share.


Your will need to design the cover of your card and the message inside. You may choose to include the envelope within your design work as well as explore the possibility of pop-ups or other forms of cards.

At least three finished cards will be produced, which can either be unrelated or work as a series linked to the same sentiment. Base the dimensions of your cards on a size of envelope that you have available to you.

Work through the design process, documenting it in your research file as you go:

• Analyse the brief
Read the brief, identifying keywords, communication issues and design problems

• Research and develop ideas
Identify the primary and secondary research you need to undertake. This brief requires some lateral thinking: develop ideas that are unexpected, obvious and fun.

OCA Graphic Design 53

• Visualise your ideas
Use mood boards to explore the feel of your sentiments, visualise your ideas through thumbnails and create mock-ups of your cards.

• Critique your work
Write a short rationale for each of your ideas explaining your decision-making process. Evaluate your design work, try and include other people in this process.

• Finish your artwork
Create at least three finished cards that are of the highest visual quality that you can achieve at this time. Use appropriate DTP, image manipulation and/or illustration software to complete them. Remember to check for spelling, typos and accuracy.

Brief analysis

primary research

Greeting card, an illustrated message that expresses, either seriously or humorously, affection, good will, gratitude, sympathy, or other sentiments. Greeting cards are usually sent by mail in observance of a special day or event and can be divided into two general classifications: seasonal and everyday. Seasonal cards include those for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, graduation, Halloween, and St. Patrick’s Day. Everyday cards include those commemorating birthdays, anniversaries, or births; cards of condolence, congratulations, or friendship; as well as get-well cards, gift cards, bon voyage cards, and thank you cards.

greeting card history

he exchange of illustrated greetings among friends dates from ancient times. In Egypt the new year was celebrated by the exchange of symbolic presents, such as scent bottles and scarabs inscribed au ab nab (“all good luck”). The Romans exchanged strenae, originally branches of laurel or olive, frequently coated with gold leaf. Symbols of seasonal good will, such as a Roman lamp impressed with the figure of Victory surrounded by strenae, were inscribed with Anno novo faustum felix tibi sit (“May the new year be happy and lucky for you”). The acknowledgment of the new year with exchanges of good will continued in Europe through the early days of Christianity.

In the 15th century, master wood engravers produced inscribed prints which had the same intent as the modern Christmas and New Year’s cards. One of these, by Master E.S., shows the Christ Child with a halo before a cross and holding a scroll on which appears Ein guot selig ior(“A good and happy year”). During the 18th and early 19th centuries, copperplate engravers produced prints and calendars for the new year, and greetings by organizations, merchants, and tradesmen were common.

The valentine is also regarded as a forerunner of the greeting card. Its history is related to pre-Christian Rome when boys drew the names of girls from a love urn on the feast of the Lupercalia (February 15). The custom was introduced to England by the Romans and continued through the Christian era. In order to adapt the practice to Christianity, the church transferred it to the feast of St. Valentine.

The paper valentine with inscribed sentiment dates from the 16th century, and the first printed valentine may have been the frontispiece of A Valentine Writer, a book of verses that offered assistance to the inarticulate and was issued as early as 1669. By 1800 hand-painted copperplates by such artists as Francesco Bartolozzi were in demand. These were followed by woodcuts and lithographs, all in quarto size, some further embellished with an embossed frame. With the introduction of penny postage and envelopes in England in 1840, the exchange of valentines increased, and the use of lace paper, delicately ornamented, became popular. In the U.S., crude woodcut valentines were produced by Robert H. Elton and Thomas W. Strong of New York but gave way to the lace paper delicacies imported from England. The less expensive creations of Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, first appeared in 1850.


Facts and Figures

Latest Figures from the GCA Market Report 2018

The latest GCA Market Report shows that in 2017 the UK public spent £1.7 billion on greeting cards.

The report, which covers sales January – December 2017, is the only research based on actual retail sales figures, with data confidentially submitted by UK publishers to market analysts Echo Research (formerly a division of Ebiquity).

The total retail value of single cards sales in the UK stood at over £1.506bn in 2017.

Everyday cards are now worth £1.163bn.

Nearly 100 million Christmas single cards were sold, bringing the total for the Christmas card market to one billion cards sold in the UK.

In addition, an estimated 900m Christmas cards were sold in boxes and packs worth around £230m, as well as millions of cards bought from online operators, such as Moonpig.

The greeting card card categories covered in the report are:

  • Christmas – (single cards only)
  • Open Birthday/Blank Cards
  • Occasions/Age/Relations
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Easter – Single Cards
  • Easter – Boxes and Packs

The vast majority of greeting cards are still bought in bricks and mortar stores, rather than online and they remain an important, highly-profitable product for all manner of retailers, being sold in one in six retail outlets.

Facts About the Greeting Card Industry

  • The greeting card industry is directly and indirectly responsible for the jobs of 100,000 people in the UK including: publishers; artists, photographers and image suppliers; verse and prose writers; printers; paper and board companies; envelope and cello wrap suppliers; specialist finishers; warehousing and distribution companies; trade fair organisers and retailers.
  • No other country has such a tradition of card sending or card display in the home – the sending and receiving of cards is an important part of our culture.
  • We buy more cards per person than any other nation – 33 each a year.
  • But the industry’s rule of thumb is that 85% of all cards are bought by women.
  • The UK card industry is acknowledged to be ten years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of design.
  • Greeting cards are stocked in more types of outlet than any other product – with one in six retailers stocking greeting cards.
  • There are over a thousand publishers in the UK, most of which are small businesses with fewer than five employees. Out of the 450 plus members of the GCA over 350 are small/micro businesses.
  • It’s a creative industry with strong bases in London, Nottinghamshire and the North, especially Yorkshire and Lancashire, where it has replaced many of the heavy manufacturing industries as a major employers.
  • Charities estimate that £50m is raised for good causes through the sales of charity Christmas cards each year.
  • Greeting card making is also the number one craft hobby, according to Crafts Beautiful, the top consumer craft magazine, which receives more enquiries about greeting cards than any other subject.
  • The commercial Christmas card was invented in 1846 by Sir Henry Cole, the chief organiser of the Great Exhibition, pioneer of the penny post and founder of the V&A Museum.
  • One of Sir Henry’s first Christmas cards, sent to his Grandmother was recently sold at auction for  £22,500.


What is currently being sold?

The easiest way for me to see what was on offer was to take a trip to the supermarket, Morrison’s. All large supermarkets such as Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s all sell Greetings Cards in their stores, and usually a wide variety, depending on the size of the store. Even some small shops like Londis and Costcutter sell a small selection of Birthday Cards. Here’s what Morrison’s had to offer…

As you can see Morrison’s have categorised their Greetings Cards making it easier for shoppers to select the card they require. There was a huge variety of cards from birthdays for all ages and family members to passing your driving test and getting a new house. With it being October at the moment I’m sure it won’t be long before a Christmas category is added.

An impressive selection from Morrison’s but then I decided to check what an online card manufacturer was offering. I chose to look at Funky Pigeon as I often order my cards from there due to convenience!

As expected, Funky Pigeon has a huge selection of cards. But it should because that’s what the business is for, whereas a supermarket is essentially for food and drink so Greetings Cards won’t be top priority for them. Plus with online manufacturers you can get more personal by adding your own message, name and picture if you desire. On the down side you do tend to pay more for cards online than you would in store. Based on the cards I buy the price difference is only about £1-£1.50 different.

Secondary research

Firstly I spent some time searching ‘Days of the year’ on Google to see what days there were that I wasn’t aware of. It turned out there are many more than I thought. For example today’s date (24/10/19) is ‘Mole Day’. I mean, who would know that?


I had an idea of Star Wars day (May 4th) in my head and checked to see if that was on the website which it was. Being a big fan I knew that this would definitely be one of my designs. But then I had to decide which others…

what cards?

So firstly I jotted down the ideas I had come across for the cards that I would actually consider designing…

I ended up choosing Star Wars Day, Harry Potter Day and Starting your own Business…

Star Wars day

I chose Star Wars Day (May 4th) because I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I knew that by choosing this day I would have a challenge to design something that would do it justice. I scoured shops and the card manufacturers like MoonPig and Funky Pigeon to make sure there wasn’t any existing cards for the occasion. I think that this card would do well on the market as the amount of Star Wars fans there are is incredible.

Harry Potter day

I chose this day (2nd May) because, again I’m a fan. I think this card would have an even larger chance of selling if it was available to buy. I might be speaking as a fan here but I don’t think many people don’t like the Harry Potter films/books. I had an idea in mind for this design which was fairly simple which I hoped would work.

congrats on starting your own business

I ended up choosing this card because I think it’s such an achievement for someone to open there own business and pursue their dream. Plus my partner is hoping to open up a Coffee Shop in the near future so I’d love to give her a card for that. Also, I think it’s becoming more common for people to start up their own business in this day in age, and with there being every other ‘congrats’ card currently on the market, I feel this one could work too.

mind maps

I started to mind map each card to get the ideas flowing…

At this point I had some rough ideas of what designs I could use for each card. I thought I needed to have a look at some imagery on each topic of card to get an idea of what colours and text could be used. I created a Mood Board on Pinterest which helped greatly with further inspiration.

the designs

Star Wars day

I began to rough sketch some design ideas I had into my sketchbook…

These were very rough sketches just to get a feel for what could be possible when going onto the actual designing and selecting suitable imagery. I started to think, as a fan, what would I like to see on this card? I thought to myself, I ‘d like to see Darth Vader as he’s a classic Star Wars character, and that would definitely draw me into looking at the card. In my head I wanted the background to be Galaxy like, with stars. Then somehow incorporate his head onto that background and possibly play with the colours red and blue to symbolise the light and dark side of the force. I knew that the font should be similar as possible to the real Star Wars font which is bold and a dark yellow shade. With these ideas in my head I began another quick sketch with a bit of colour and shading to put my ideas to paper…

I then searched on Google for Galaxy images which turned out to be difficult to find one with a good resolution. I found one I really liked but the resolution wasn’t great when I enlarged it to a card size. Darth Vader images which was a minefield until I amended the search to Darth Vader Mask which lead me to one I thought I could work with…


I then tweaked the galaxy image making it as clear as possible but then decided to shrink it and crop it to then copy and paste to make the background up of three images of better quality. My next hurdle was which font to use. None of the standard ones were very fitting so I went onto Typkit so search for more suitable alternatives, to which I found a few. They were all quite different but could pass for the theme. I was torn between the top two fonts…

After asking family and friends for feedback on which font looked best on the background I went with the majority (which was luckily in my top two) the second one down. The bolder more visible font. It looks more like the actual font Star Wars uses which is a bonus. Once I had the font sorted I placed the image of Darth Vader onto the Design. I lined the image up so it was central but it looked a bit ‘plonky’ for my liking and didn’t really flow with the background as much as I hoped. To combat this I changed the opacity of the image and as a result made the background look darker and more space like and the image tied in better as you could almost see the stars through Darth Vader.

At this point I still felt like the card needed something more. I then went back to my Mind Maps and Moodboard and remembered I wanted to incorporate red and blue somewhere. Then I had the idea to find two pictures and place one each behind the eyes of Darth Vader. I searched Google for suitable images and managed to find two which were exactly what I was looking for to finish the design. I managed to find two images which each symbolised the light and dark side.

Sources: – fight

Harry Potter day

Similarly I rough sketched a initial ideas to see what I had to work with…

I developed an idea I had a bit further to see if it was going to be possible to design. I wanted it to be a simple design this time because I think Harry Potter is so famous that even his scar is recognisable to fans. I added a bit of colour to the sketch and annotation to look back on if I struggled with the design.

First I searched for Harry Potter images and came across just what I was looking for. Much easier than the search for a Galaxy. I found a simple yet easily identifiable image…


Once I placed my image onto the white background I started to think about what text to use and what font. I thought because the image is so basic, maybe I should put some text that Harry Potter fans could see from a distance as sometimes the top of cards stick out when they’re on display in a shop. I decided to use a Harry Potter quote from one of the films. I placed it above the image and then went through all the fonts to see which looked the most ‘Potter’ like. I chose the Font BlackBeard as it reminded me of the Harry Potter font. I coloured it burgundy to coordinate with the colour in Harry’s scarf. I then decided to have more text underneath the image saying ‘Happy Potter Day’ which is almost a play on words as it’s a card for Harry Potter Day.

The design was too plain at this point. I thought it needed more colour so I tried various background colours until I chose the same shade of orange as the scarf which completed the design…

Congrats on starting your own business

Initial sketches…

I then developed the best idea I had into a more in depth sketch. I liked the idea of the growth of the plant as it symbolises the growth the person who created their business has gone through.

I searched google for ‘plants growing’ and ‘growth’ and ‘seeds to plants’. I picked this image as I think looks professional and portrays the message of the card.


I cropped the image and placed into Photoshop. Similarly to the Harry Potter design, I wanted to keep this one minimalistic too. Due to the genre of the card, a ‘busy’ design could look tacky and not fit for the genre which would result in lack of sales if it went onto the market. I wrote the text and didn’t like any of the fonts available so went onto Typekit again and downloaded several I liked the look of. I picked one called Mono-45Headline because it had a professional feel to it and also made the card look contemporary. I coloured the text the same colour as the plant leaves to achieve consistency.

I wasn’t fully happy with the card like this. It needed something else. I went back to have a look at my initial sketches and saw the arrow to which I incorporated into the letter T in starting which made for a nice touch and took the card in a more positive direction (excuse the pun). I did play around with background colours but none went that well with the image so I stuck with white but I did create an orange border which added a bit of extra colour.


I kept the insides of the cards fairly simple. I kept the colours the same as the front cover for consistency. I added quotes into Harry Potter Day and Star Wars Day because as a geek myself, I’d quite like to see a quote inside. With the business one I just put another positive message inside.

Self assessment

I loved this assignment. It enabled me to experiment hugely with different fonts, backgrounds, images and effects. I can see how every exercise lead to this assignment as I’ve used tools that I learnt from them and put into practice here.

My favourite card is either the Star Wars or Harry Potter one. I liked getting creative and playing around with the positioning of images with the Star Wars one and was very happy with how it turned out. The Harry Potter one is simple yet effective. I only used three colours on that one and did think back to Occam’s Razor when creating it. Less was more on this design.

If I had to criticise myself I would say that the Business card is the weakest. In the back of my mind I’m still thinking is it too plain? or does it need that orange border?

Also I’ve learnt that research is so so important before designing anything. Even if you don’t think you’ve learnt anything, you have subconsciously.

Going forward, I do need to learn to time manage a bit better. Sometimes I dwell on things and try to change designs when they are finished. I need to know when to finish a design. I always want to improve my designs so it’s difficult to leave them alone. But for the first time, I didn’t want to change a design, which was the Harry Potter card. I felt I could keep picking at the other two designs, which could’ve potentially ruined them completely.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website at
Get started
%d bloggers like this: