Vistaprint Christmas cards – behind the scenes
What does it take to make Vistaprint’s annual Christmas card collection?
The synopsis: Around nine months, 50 people – including researchers, strategists, trend specialists, designers, art directors, illustrators and more – thousands of customer samples and endless curiosity, inspiration and creativity. We chatted with four of the key players in the making of our Christmas card collection... check out their favourite designs and learn more about the creative process.
Remember – this year, your Christmas card means more than ever. It's a small way to deliver joy after a challenging year. Our 2020 card collection reflects the good that's come out of the past year: feelings of hope, gratitude and togetherness (even from afar).
Getting into character: Knowing what customers love
The key to understanding any good story is understanding the lead character. For the Vistaprint Christmas card collection, that means stepping into the customer’s shoes. As each Christmas season winds down, our strategy team looks at how customers reacted to last year's collection, what they were searching for and how they designed their cards. We look for trends in the photos people upload, like weddings, new babies or exciting travels – understanding the important life events customers want to share helps us create cards they love.
How do you figure out what our customers are looking for?
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 décor, stationery, floral design, typography design and more.
Jen Movitz (Creative Manager, Product Design): We research trends in popular culture, things like home décor and apparel. Then we work with strategy to look at customer data. This process helps us to determine what will be popular this Christmas season.
Do you get inspiration from friends and family?
Skylar Ridabock (Art Director): I definitely like to ask them 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 is helpful to use them as a sounding board.
How does Vistaprint cater to customers around the world?
Cultural awareness is an important part of the design process – it 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.
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's popular. We have a strategist based in Europe to specifically 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.
Jen: Many of the trends we identify have global appeal. For example, this year’s Hope and Joy collection will bring positive messaging to our customers worldwide.
"These illustrations were hand-drawn and I love the simple details and texture our designer Jake Crowe used. It feels like a warm, festive, winter village."
Setting the stage: 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.
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 a lot of inspiration from looking at home décor accents like rugs, pillows and wall art.
What other trends will we see in this year’s Christmas card collection?
Skylar: Customers will see a broad range of trends spanning across this year’s card collection. Some of the heavy-hitting trends you’ll see include greenery, rustic, hope & joy, colourful typography and intricate winter scenes.
Does Vistaprint introduce new trends? Or is it more about delivering what customers are looking for?
We try to push the design barrier while still giving customers what they want – so, each year, we offer traditional cards alongside more experimental and trend-forward options.
Katie: Our main priority is to deliver what our customers are looking for. We are constantly exploring new ways to execute these customer favourites. A great example is the rustic trend. Infusing an industrial or bohemian vibe can make the trend feel fresh without a huge departure from the trend itself. We also feel it’s important to showcase some new trends that might not be as popular just yet – customers can find these trends sprinkled throughout our gallery. We feel it’s important to have a wide assortment of styles and trends to match the needs of our diverse customer base.
This card is the perfect example of where a traditional concept meets modern design. The designer, Elly Brady, did a wonderful job taking the historic Swedish symbol of the Dala horse and making it fresh and modern through the illustration style and colours.
Putting pen to paper: 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: A lot of the designers on the team get inspired by looking at work from other fine artists, hand letterers, designers and 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 take a picture of it. I also follow a lot of designers and hand letterers on Instagram who inspire me daily.
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 using the Adobe Suite. Internal review and critique is an integral part of our design process. Designers are encouraged to show their work to some of the other members of our team to get feedback through every step of the process.
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 in, others do everything on their iPad or computer, some people hand letter most of their typography, 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.
"This sweet Santa pattern designed by Skylar Ridabock reminds me of wrapping paper. I love how the classic imagery feels fresh and fun; it makes me smile whenever I see it!"
The big twist: 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 their cards a truly unique and personal feel.
So much thought and creativity goes into each card. How do you leave room for the customer to add their personal touch?
Jen: Customers can upload photos, change colours and move many of the elements on our cards around. These features ensure that customers can add their own personal touch.
Skylar: Ensuring that every one of our Christmas cards feels personal to our customers is extremely important. We always design with the customer at the forefront of our minds. We leave room within the design for the customer to personalise their card. We do this by ensuring there are editable text fields on each card, that there's a space for them to upload one or more of their own photos and by providing different colour options for the customer to choose from. Also, the addition of embossed gloss and foil accents to our offerings give the customer another level of personalisation to their card.
Joanna: We've learnt 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 their cards. And of course being able to add their own photos is the most important part!
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 Christmas greeting they choose to add to really make the cards their own. It's 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 on one of the cards I designed is really rewarding.
Jen: It’s very rewarding to see customers create personal and unique cards with our designs. I love when I spot a Vistaprint design in the Christmas months.
Joanna: It’s so gratifying to see 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 Christmas special.
What’s your favourite 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 décor or floral trends can translate to a paper card. The second is seeing how our team of talented designers interprets certain trends and ideas and turns 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 customer-types. 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.
"I love this card designed by Al Rocklein because it truly captures the spirit of a cosy Christmas night. It makes me excited for the winter season and I think all the tiny illustrations are adorable. The theme is whimsical, but the use of a bolder colour palette gives it a more modern feel."