Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
What does it take to make Vistaprint’s annual Christmas card collection? Around nine months of work, 50 people — including researchers, strategists, trend specialists, designers, art directors and illustrators — thousands of customer samples, and endless creativity. We chatted to 6 of the Vistaprint team members who are integral in the making of our Christmas card collection. Here, check out their favourite designs and learn more about the 4-step creative process.
- First, we get into character to discover what customers are loving.
- Then, we do trend research to set the stage for this year’s Christmas card collection.
- It’s time for the designers to get to work.
- Finally, customers get creative and add their personal touches.
Step 1: Getting into character & discovering what customers love
Understanding the lead characters is key to any good story. For the Vistaprint Christmas card collection, that means stepping into the customer’s shoes. After each festive season winds down, our design strategy team looks at how customers reacted to last year’s collection, what they were searching for, and what they used to design their cards. We look for trends in the photos people upload, like weddings, new babies, pets or exciting travels — understanding the important life events customers want to share helps us create cards they love.
How do you figure out what customers are looking for in a Christmas card?
Katie Raabe (Manager, Product Design Strategy): We decide which new cards to create by looking at which cards were most popular last season and which new trends are popping up this year. We find inspiration in home decor, stationery, floral design, typography design and more.
Jen Movitz (Creative Manager, Product Design): We research trends in popular culture, things like home decor and clothing. Then we work with the strategy team to look at customer data. This process helps us determine what will be popular this Christmas.
How does Vistaprint cater to customers around the world?
Joanna Alves (Creative Manager, Product Design): By looking at Christmas and design trends around the world, we are able to get a good idea of what is popular. We specifically have a strategist based in Europe to analyse what our customers purchase and to obtain customer feedback. We also have Product Designers around the world who provide feedback and their design expertise.
Cultural awareness is an important part of the design process — this involves listening to feedback, observing how customers use our cards, and being aware of different festive customs, like sending New Year’s cards in France. We have translators from all over the world who can help us understand cultural nuances and cater to all of our customers.
‘This is one of my favourites. I love the boldness of it. It’s fun, the implied cut paper appeals to me and the doves are festive but ambiguous and could be abstract leaves. The added texture is a nice touch.’
Creative Manager, Product Design
Step 2: Setting the stage with trend spotting
We’re all influenced by the things we see around us. So, to create card designs that delight, it’s important to be aware of what’s on trend. We try to push the design barrier while still giving customers what they want — each year we offer traditional cards along with more experimental and trend-forward options.
What is trend research and what does it involve?
Jen: Trend research is taking a deeper look at the aesthetics of popular culture. We pull from a range of resources such as fashion, interior, surface and print design, paying attention to colours and patterns. I find lots of inspiration looking at home decor accents like rugs, cushions and wall art.
Joanna: We sourced trends two new ways this year. We shared the duty internally — a group of 6 senior designers researched and identified several trends. Each designer made a mood board to share with the group, which was a cool exercise to do remotely. Internally, we identified trends like cottage core, terracotta and unexpected plaid.
Then, we worked with an agency who commissioned several art experts to source worldwide design trends that we interpreted for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and New Year. Some of these included geometric illustrations, botanical block prints, hand-drawn retro fonts and playful checks.
What other trends will we see in this year’s Christmas card collection?
Joanna: Taking all of our research into consideration, we identified 6 themes that we think our customers will identify with: bold abstracts, cosy comforts, evergreen elegance, festive type, minimalist joy and New Year cheer. We’re approaching Christmas this year with a more ‘trend-forward’ perspective in addition to our traditional design favourites.
Does Vistaprint introduce new trends? Or is it more about delivering what customers are looking for?
Katie: Our main priority is to deliver what our customers are looking for. We are constantly exploring new ways to execute these customer favourites. We also feel it’s important to showcase new trends that might not be as popular just yet — customers can find these trends sprinkled throughout our gallery. It’s important to have a wide assortment of styles and trends to fit the needs of our diverse customer base.
‘This card is the perfect blend of traditional Christmas greenery with a modern twist. I love how the design incorporates the berries and terracotta-coloured leaves, which is a very trendy colour this season. The subtle integration of blue along with the hand-drawn patterns makes this card fun and different.’
Step 3: The designers get to work
So, the team has gone through months of research and planning, but the story has only just begun. Now it’s time for the card collection to start coming to life.
How do the designers get inspired?
Skylar Ryan (Art Director): A lot of the designers on the team get inspired by looking at work from other fine artists, hand letterers, designers, even children’s book illustrators. I get a lot of inspiration from interior design trends, finishes, patterns, textures, and from being out and about in the world. If I see a pattern I like on a notebook while shopping, I’ll snap a picture of it. I follow a lot of designers and hand-lettering artists on Instagram that inspire me daily, too. I also like to ask my family and friends for their opinion on my designs to get an outside perspective. My parents are both small business owners as well as Vistaprint customers, so it’s helpful to use them as a sounding board.
Jon Decelles (Art Director, Product Design): Sometimes I seek out specific inspiration that makes sense for the project I’m asked to work on, but in my own life I tend to be drawn to things I liked as a child. I love ’80s pop culture stuff and surround myself with things related to that, but I also sometimes get inspired by local artists and things like vintage or vintage modern packaging and signage.
How do the designers work?
Skylar: Every designer’s process is unique to them, but many of the designers on our team start their design process by pulling inspiration first, followed by thumbnail sketching to get an idea of how they will approach the layout of their work. Then, they bring their idea to life on the computer. Internal review and critique is an integral part of our design process. Designers are encouraged to show their work to other members of our team to get feedback through every step of the process.
Jon: This changes based on the individual designer, but I’ll usually seek inspiration from artists and designers on Pinterest and Instagram. Sometimes if I am in a shop or out somewhere with my family and I see something that interests me, I’ll snap a picture with my phone and that will go into an inspiration document. From there, I’ll just kind of stir things around in my head until they start to congeal into workable ideas. I’ll also sketch stuff in a small notebook I keep on my desk, or throw together different pieces of inspiration in Photoshop or Illustrator to see if an idea will work outside my brain. After that, I’ll present concepts to my team and go through (usually) several rounds of feedback and edits until we arrive at something that will work well for our intended customer.
How personal is the design process?
Skylar: The design process is extremely personal to each individual designer. Even though there are certain aspects of the process that everyone has to go through, each member of the team has their own unique approach. Some designers hand-draw on paper and scan their work; others do everything on their iPad or computer; some folks hand-letter most of their typography; and others primarily use fonts. It’s the variance within each designer’s process that makes for such a diverse Christmas card collection.
Jen: I think the creative journey always feels personal. Our designers have a lot of passion for what they do, which makes them great artists. But they also know how to balance that with the customers’ needs.
Jennifer Nguyen (Art Director, Product Design): The design process can get very personal, especially since part of it is based on our feelings and what the card evokes. It’s hard not to be subjective because we can also be the customer we are designing for. As a designer, I feel it is my expertise to know what our customers want — part of that also speaks to my taste and what I would like. I tend to ask myself, ‘Would I buy my design if I were the customer?’
‘I love the overall simplicity and elegance of this card. The understated curved text is sweet and unexpected. And the arch-shaped photo grabs your attention allowing you a glimpse of a memorable family moment. This card would look stunning on any mantle.’
Creative Manager, Product Design
Step 4: Customers get creative
The best endings are the ones you can’t predict. And an essential part of the design process for Vistaprint Christmas cards is making sure customers can finish the story their way, so they can give cards that feel truly unique and personal.
So much thought and creativity goes into each card. How do you leave room for the customer to add their personal touch?
Skylar: Making sure that each of our Christmas cards feels personal to our customer is extremely important. We always design with the customer being top of mind.
Jen: Customers can upload photos, change colours, and move many of the elements on our cards. These features ensure customers and can add their own personal touch.
Joanna: We’ve learned over the years that customers purchase from Vistaprint in order to make their Christmas cards their own. We set up our templates in the most flexible way possible so that they can completely customise. And of course, being able to add their own photo is the most important part!
‘My top Christmas card this year is this moody green texture design. The soft, yet dramatic, illustrated paint strokes created by Mary Ellen display the perfect aesthetic to the moody green trend. The rich yet muted green really resonates with me since it is one of my favourite colours and how fitting it is for Christmas as well. Paired with a simple sophisticated handwritten typeface, really brings the elegance of the design.’
Art Director, Product Design
What’s it like seeing what customers do with the designs?
Katie: It’s always so fun to see which colour options customers are drawn to and what greetings they choose to add to really make the cards their own. Always exciting to see smiling faces and cute kids as well!
Skylar: I love seeing our cards out in the world! Seeing a customer’s family photos in one of the cards I designed is really rewarding.
Joanna: It’s so gratifying seeing customers add their personal touches to our cards. Using their family photo and greeting to make it their own makes me feel like I played a small part in making their festive season special.
Jennifer: It’s fun to see what customers do with our designs. It helps us to see a different point of view and helps to improve. It’s very satisfying, though, to see that the customer utilised the card in a successful way.
‘I think this is my favourite Christmas design so far this year. This one is by Brian Rutherford and I love the type treatment, and the texture in the retro stripes really sells the design for me. The original colour option is a nice palette of wintery greens but the other colour options are also really nice. Modern retro designs resonate with me and this one checks off all of the important boxes without overdoing it.’
Art Director, Product Design
What’s your favorite part of making the card collection?
Katie: I have two favourite parts! My first favourite part is doing the trend research to see how home decor or floral trends can translate to a paper card. The second is seeing how our team of talented designers interpret certain trends and ideas and turn them into unique, beautiful pieces of art.
Skylar: My favourite part about creating cards for our Christmas collection is the ability to design cards for such a broad range of design styles, trends and types of customers. No two cards in our collection look the same and it’s really interesting to see how each designer interprets a creative brief differently…and adds their own style to it.
Jen: I love the creative process. Getting inspired for Christmas during the hot summer months is challenging but really fun. Exploring typefaces, colours and patterns that will bring joy to our customers is very satisfying.
Jon: I get to think about Christmas literally all year round! I enjoy making Christmas cards because there is a little more creative flexibility…you get a little more time to create a nice illustration or little bit of artwork because with Christmas cards, the artwork is often the entire point of the product.
Jennifer: I love the research and finding inspiration and ideas when I start designing a new card. Although the best part is when everything comes together: the text, colours and layout. And the warm happy feeling the card gives you.
‘I chose this card as my favourite because it is bright and fun, while still evoking a classic Christmas feel. I love the imperfect lines used in the pattern that make it feel more casual and think it looks great with a black and white photo to make the colours of the card really pop!’
Manager, Product Creation & Experience