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Chri…I mean, Holiday Cards & Promos


Tis the season for holiday schmaltz. Holiday greetings from clients and vendors are piling up on your desk at work — while cards from friends and family are over-stuffing your mailbox at home. It may be a commercialized tradition propagated by Hallmark, but nevertheless, it’s a significant example of mass-consumed graphic design.

I saw a whimsical piece on 60 Minutes II last night that prompted this thread…

The journalist pointed out that Xmas cards (oh to hell with being politically correct) use language that most of us never say or mean. Stuff like “May the warmth and embrace of the holiday season bring love and blah, blah, blah…” Honestly, wouldn’t it be great if cards were truthful, and said stuff like “Merry Christmas. I’m sending you a card, because you sent me a card last year.”? There’s nothing wrong with spreading holiday cheer, but it’s mass hypocrisy really.

Anyway…every year, I scramble to design a holiday card, promo, wrapping paper, etc. for our office. This year was no different. Inevitably, I’ll get promos from friends at other firms and Dammit!, some will be more clever and/or elaborate. It’s a very pressured, cutthroat business designing holiday cheer.

So let’s see some of your favorite pieces of design for the holidays. It can be for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, or New Year’s — storebought, homemade, whatever. Let’s see some cheer, Dammit!

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PUBLISHED ON Dec.18.2003 BY Tan
Darrel’s comment is:

Holiday cards are too much pressure for a graphic artist. I just decided to stop doing them. Everyone gets an email from me now. If I'm ambitious, maybe a bit of ASCII art.

On Dec.18.2003 at 09:12 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

You beat me to it Tan! I will scan and post shortly...

On Dec.18.2003 at 09:21 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> You beat me to it Tan!

See how cutthroat it is?

> I just decided to stop doing them.

...as Armin would say. Wuss.

but good point Darrel, examples of web/flash greeting cards would also be great...it doesn't have to be print.

On Dec.18.2003 at 09:28 AM
Adrian’s comment is:

Just send them this link.

On Dec.18.2003 at 09:41 AM
Lea’s comment is:

I made a couple of simple Christmas cards this year. There wasn't a fancy concept; I actually designed them based on the size of the leftover envelopes I had because I didn't have time to buy new envelopes. LOL.

Anyway, I know quite a few good illustrators; one in particular who made xmas card-related pictures. So I used them in my cards. Here are the illustrations I used:

Oh, Screw That $#!%

I thought we agreed on a $50 limit?

And for Tan: Have a Politically Correct Festive Holiday Occasion.

On Dec.18.2003 at 09:52 AM
Christopher Johnston’s comment is:

I've always felt that sending 5'x10' black velvet paintings of "Dogs at Cards" go over well. We have a couple left over Tan if you need one for your office? (hehe)


On Dec.18.2003 at 09:53 AM
eric’s comment is:

i agree that the pressure is a bitch. it's even gotten so bad now that i'm leaning on myself to BUY better and better cards every year. Guess there really is no salvation at the end...

before i gave up on making my own christmas cards, many years back, i did a handtinted sketch that i sent out called "man sucking christmas tree" i'll see if i can find that at home.


On Dec.18.2003 at 10:07 AM
Armin’s comment is:

We are sending out these hand-made (by the missus, I just lick the envelopes) cards. Very politically correct… unless you have a problem with ribbons and/or gitfs.

On Dec.18.2003 at 10:17 AM
jayna’s comment is:

Here's my work in progress. It's a little loud. Now would be a good time to turn your speakers down.

You'd think it'd be done by now, what with the company wanting to send it to clients prior to Christmas, but hey, that's not my problem. Well alright, actually it is...

How exactly does one suck on a tr.....yeah, nevermind.

On Dec.18.2003 at 10:23 AM
surts’s comment is:

This was a Xmas card that I designed last year before I left the studio. It was printed on a metallic stock from Curious.

On Dec.18.2003 at 10:45 AM
Davin’s comment is:

We've sent cards and the occasional present to clients before but it's always hard to gauge what's appropriate.

We got a couple of businesses sending us cards this year. One printing company, that we have never used, sent us a card and what we found odd was that it was a Halmmark Giftbox card. I mean, if you're a printing company shouldn't you make your own card?

That's just me being picky I guess.

On Dec.18.2003 at 11:11 AM
Lea’s comment is:

Wow, Michael, you used to work at the same studio my friend is working at right now! Ka-razy! Small world, eh? Nice card, btw.

On Dec.18.2003 at 11:52 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> I mean, if you're a printing company shouldn't you make your own card?

Exactly. Because I'm a designer, everyone expects "design-ee" cards from us. If you're a printer, photographer, any kind of creative for that matter, expectations are raised.

Btw, as far as storebought goes, the MoMa xmas cards have always been great. Don't know who designs them though.

On Dec.18.2003 at 11:53 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> > I mean, if you're a printing company shouldn't you make your own card?

The printers we work with send the lamest cards, I think they are all store-bought too. I wonder what a Dickson's holiday card looks like?

On Dec.18.2003 at 12:24 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

My artist mother makes a handmade card every year, this is the current one. She asked me to come up with some "language that most of us never say or mean." I said no.

In the end we compromised and she ended up liking my holiday message. Two family friends have responded in defense of Santa and his little helpers where as her previous cards never generated a response except with "language that most of us never say or mean."

On Dec.18.2003 at 12:36 PM
marian’s comment is:

Wow, Tan, how did you do that--I woke up this am thinking I would post this exact subject. Damn your eyes! (old Pirate Christmas Greeting)

Well I won't post what I'm sending this year because even though Armin may be insensitive to the fact, I hate to spoil the surprise for ... er ...

Anyway ...

Metropolitan Printers has, for several years in a row, produced wonderful seasonal promotions. I just happen to have photos of one from a few years back: 3 printed, diecut christmas ornaments which came flat in a tin--all of which I have faithfully kept.

Last year (or was it the year before?) They printed a small-poster-sized reproduction of a page from Gutenberg's bible, complete with gold foil and embossing. It was gorgeous, and I have that somewhere, too, but not handy.

This year from them I received a disappointing, boring and relatively unattractive desk calendar. I strongly suspect this is a consolation prize and that the bigger firms are getting something better.

Another printer in town send the most hideous calendar every year that is poster-sized and rolled around two pieces of rough cedar sticks (top and bottom) with jute string to hang it. They've been doing this forever, and as it sports their old logo from 5 years ago, I suspect that they somehow bought a 20-yr supply back in 1990. Last year I complained and told them the bitter truth: that it goes directly into the fireplace. This year I received the same card as last year.

At digitopolis we usually did a calendar. We were into those CD-case desk calendars for a while (because my partner loved them) but last year in addition to that we sent out a brilliant (i thought) desk-blotter calendar, which is viewable, explained and mourned here.

Last year, myself, I split a print run with a small printer doing another of those CD-calendars (because that's what they wanted--it's the last time, for me). Sorry, to be all linky, but it is viewable here.

Merry Christmas. I'm sending you a card, because you sent me a card last year.

Damn! you mean I have to wait until next year to reap the rewards of this year's mailing? I was kindof hoping people would be guilted into hastily stuffing something into an envelope next week.

On Dec.18.2003 at 12:56 PM
marian’s comment is:

Oh my god Kiran, how do I get on your mother's mailing list?

On Dec.18.2003 at 12:59 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Well I won't post what I'm sending this year because even though Armin may be insensitive to the fact, I hate to spoil the surprise for ... er ...

Marian, just now (15 seconds ago or however long this comment takes to write) I got your card. VERY cool!


Note to self: stuff hastily something into an envelope next week for Marian.

On Dec.18.2003 at 01:31 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Oh, insensitive? Marian, you hurtin' my feelings girl.

On Dec.18.2003 at 01:32 PM
pk’s comment is:

there's some printing company here in chicago that used to regularly send thirst these YOOGE holiday posters. like 4 feet by 5 feet or some ricockulous (which means "more ridiculous than ridiculous") dimension.

they were fantastic early 60's advertising-era illustrations of santa and the easter bunny in cmyk on white crappy glossy stock. i always wondered what other holidays they did. i have four santas and three bunnies. looked forward to them every year.

they make great interior decor for the pop-inclined (which i am, but i don't think su would be amused, so i haven't tried to put them up since we've been together).

On Dec.18.2003 at 02:17 PM
Andrew Pollsk’s comment is:

BAH HUMBUG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Dec.18.2003 at 02:44 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Marian I LOVE your desk calendar.

On Dec.18.2003 at 02:56 PM
marian’s comment is:

Thanks, Rebecca, I have hundreds of them.

Thanks Armin and sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. God knows I am among the most sensitive around here to stepping on people's toes, am I not, eh? (OK, Ben would probably dis-a-gree ... but). I just do so like (nice) surprises.

I just received the best cards of the season so far, hand-made by my niece and nephew.

YOOGE holiday posters

I was reading this as "You-gee" and wondering if that was some religious sect I was unfamiliar with (now I see it's Hee-ooge). That would be pretty funny though, "Happy Yooge Day," "Best Wishes for the Yooge Season," "This year we are making a donation on your behalf to the Yooge Gift Foundation." Send it out in October.

On Dec.18.2003 at 03:25 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> there's some printing company here in chicago that used to regularly send thirst these YOOGE holiday posters.

pk, the printer is Hennegan, out of Cincinnati. They're actually a very large national printer. I, too, love their classic Santa and Easter Bunny posters. We tape it to our window every year round those holidays.

The last time their rep stopped by our office, I made sure that I was still on their mailing list....come to think of it, I haven't seen this year's Santa yet. Dammit. Better make a call.

On Dec.18.2003 at 05:06 PM
franz’s comment is:

Wow Kiran, I love that card!

This is a great thread, perfect timing too - we just got this whole holiday card thing as an assignment in school. To make it more interesting we're not allowed to use any typography at all, except numerals (no "Happy Christmas" or "Happy New Year"s either), no photography and NO traditional symbols (christmas tree, stars, candles etc). Fixed paper size, maximum of two flat colors (including black).

I'm still searching for ideas (I have high hopes in this thread).. This is what I've got so far:

This is one huge technological achievement. You turn it and watch in amazement as the year changes in your very hands. Duh. People like it though, it's fun to play with.. The photos make it look worse than it is.

This one is supposed to play with expectations, you don't perceive it as a new year's card until you take a closer look and actually open it.. The new year's message kind of comes together through the juxtaposition of the two traditional greeting card motifs. My grandma didn't get it.

I think there should be more cards with storks flying over snowy landscapes.

On Dec.18.2003 at 06:56 PM
marian’s comment is:

Franz, I like your optical-bender 03-04 card. I'm sure it's been done, but I really like it anyway,

The other one though ... what happened to no symbols, no words, and no images? I'm not gettin' the cross.

On Dec.18.2003 at 07:43 PM
eric’s comment is:

On Dec.18.2003 at 08:04 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Creepy. Yet holidayish.

On Dec.19.2003 at 08:46 AM
eric’s comment is:

and the three armed angel wasn't creepy? either way, i'll take that to be an endorsement. wasn't really aiming for the Nickelodeon vote anyway -- just something surreal for friends and family.

On Dec.19.2003 at 09:01 AM
kyle’s comment is:

Our company sent James Brown to all of our clients. At one time we had over 100 of those things all over our office...it was kind of creepy at night.

My wife and I have hosted our family Christmas gathering for the past two years and we made fancy invitations (I'll post pics later). It makes for a nice little keepsake. This year's invite was especially popular—even my Grandma commented on the materials and construction.

On Dec.19.2003 at 10:24 AM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

The holidays suck. A lot of us Jews don't celebrate Hanukah any more. I'm asking you to face reality and move on with life. Santa is dead. Deal with it. With all our real love in this unreal season, W & M.

Above is part of an e-card my friend sent last week. Funny, yet brooding.

While I don't agree with him on the holidays suck issue, my family and friends send me emails like this or a Flash animation from someplace likeBlueMountain.com. A lot of people are opting for the quick and easy.

I'm glad to see so many people here who take this seriously. As a designer myself, I too feel compelled to make something. Or send something that's well conceived and well crafted. I've mailed out cards in the past, none of which I've documented. I will probably send out a 2004 card this year because I've missed the other holidays already.

But something tells me come January, I'll settle for the "2004" celebratory animation via email. Will that make me any less of a designer? Why do I take this so seriously?

On Dec.19.2003 at 11:32 AM
amanda’s comment is:

i like any excuse to do an illustration - especially christmas. This was our holiday card for Woodward Design this year, my husband, me and our kitty.

Doing personal work is fun & rewarding.

On Dec.19.2003 at 11:59 AM
Brady’s comment is:

Thanks for the great topic, Tan.

While this card is now three years old and for a former employer, it is still the favorite one that I have done.

This was done in 2000 during the whhttp://www.underconsideration.com/speakup_v2/images/buttons_post.gifole election debacle. My first thought was to make a blatant reference to the “hanging chads” as a form of confetti. Then I thought, “I, as well as others, are sick of this whole thing! Would I want to get a holiday card about that?” It then hit me that there was still some humor in the event that revolved around question of how complicated can a simple process - like voting - be? This translated into: How complicated can a simple process - like making confetti - be? The card looks official and I wrote the instructions in that mundane “official procedure” tone.

To see a larger, more legible version, click here.

We got a lot of response from the card. The great thing was it made no reference to the “hanging chads” or the election, yet some people let us know they liked the reference to those very things. Some said that they actually used the card.


I sadly have nothing to show this year since we are in the throws of starting our firm, which means money and time, are spent on other things. But, my partner and I really enjoyed the cards some people shared in this discussion. They have reminded us about how much fun they can be and we have been inspired to get on the ball next year.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

On Dec.19.2003 at 12:57 PM
Chris’s comment is:

Our card from a few years ago is still online (we also mailed it out). We did Flash and a corney snowflake effect that was popular that year.

Tornado Design Christmas Card 2001

On Dec.19.2003 at 05:50 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Ok, so here's my design for our office's last 2 xmas cards. I decided to make the cards as gift tags -- making it useful for the recipients as well.

2002's version

I did half of the tags. The others came from other designers in the office.

Here's a close up of my fave. The copy says "Block of wood toy. Carving, assembly, painting required."

2003's version. We rebranded, and our new logo has a ring of dots in it. So to fortify the brand (Sorry for the marcom speak), I used the dots to make snowflakes. Seemed appropriate for the season.

Here's the inside:

and outside


Jason -- I fucking LOVE that dead Santa photo. I love irreverent cards -- you should be able to laugh the most at Xmas time.

On Dec.19.2003 at 06:38 PM
Jason A. Tselentis’s comment is:

Thanks, Tan. You're right about laughing. During the holidays, I find myself acting very silly; it's the time when I need to.

I just got off the phone with my brother last night. Alex is a Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Representative and needs to send out greeting cards to all his doctors who prescribe the drugs he promotes. So he asked me for help because, "That's what you do, right? Make stuff?" Here's the 1st comp:

Pfizer's Viagra Pill spells out the year 2004.

The inside caption reads Hope your new year is looking up.

I want to work in a "limp" 2003 for a 2nd comp.

On Dec.20.2003 at 04:03 PM
Priya’s comment is:

i made some holiday cards last year (see them here) and am in the process of designing this year's cards. i moved to new york city two days ago so it's a bit slow now unpacking and all. this is a wonderful thread. tan, beautiful cards! so very classy.

i am totally feeling that confetti card as well. very nice work.

On Dec.20.2003 at 06:35 PM
Viviane’s comment is:

Tan — great thread! Love your gift tags and Marian's desk calendar! Armin — great cards, but so labor intensive... when I actually get around to doing a card, my list is always quite long, as it's often the only/annual piece of mail that I send to clients, old contacts, overseas friends and family...

A few years ago I did a flash card which is still online and which still garners accolades and the occasional project. Never found the time since to update or improve it.

Haven't caved in to actually buying cards yet, but every year is a new, more insane challenge.

On Dec.22.2003 at 08:50 PM
kyle’s comment is:

Here's our family christmas party invite from 2002:

I used a linoleum block and white ink to print the snowflakes. Some of the envelopes were covered with snowflakes, others had just one flake. The invites were printed on my inkjet on heavy French Frostone Arctic.

Here's this year's invite:



The outside was printed on paper with little sparkles and put together with silver screwposts. The inside pages (not shown) were printed on a nice, heavy vellum.

On Dec.22.2003 at 09:46 PM
David Wolske’s comment is:

Here's my Holiday Card for 2003. It's three color letterpress, edition of 50.

On Dec.23.2003 at 08:39 AM