Greeting cards are a lot of fun to design & illustrate… each individual card is your opportunity to tell a short story. It’s like illustrating for a poem within a larger book…you get ONE chance to sell that story. Here are some tips to make your greeting card designs more marketable.
1) Don’t be scared to illustrate the obvious subject matter : Just because you think there are tons of Santa cards out there, doesn’t mean it can’t be revamped. There is always a market for the big icons of the greeting card season… designs are cycled out once the sales start to go down, and often need to be replaced by the same subject matter, just with a modern kick.
2) Design for a Vertical layout : Vertical layouts are hands down the most popular layout for greeting cards for two reasons, 1) they are easier to view in racks, and 2) they don’t fall down like horizontal cards do.
3) Top Third Rule : Cards displayed in racks are often overlapping, so the top 1/3 of the card is often all that you have to grab the attention of a shopper. So make that top 1/3 of the card count, keep it mostly free for typography, or make sure characters are easily seen . Use your hand to cover up the bottom of your card. If the message still comes across, well done! If not, revisit the design.
4) Avoid illustrating people : The moment you illustrate a person on the front of your card, you may exclude certain markets. There are markets for ethnicity specific cards, but you will increase the marketability of your card by avoiding illustrating people altogether. Try substituting people for animals, or give the people non-skin-tone colors like blue or purple for humorous cards.
5) Leave space for type : Illustrations that do not take into consideration space for the caption heading and / or a little bit of verse on the front can often be passed up by publishers. Make sure you leave some areas of your illustration free of strong texture / illustrated elements so that type can be clearly and easily read. Use a piece of acetate with black and white lettering on it to test legibility, or scan your illustration and place type on it with InDesign.
6) Consider Recipient Gender Balance : Cards are typically broken up into three groups…masculine, feminine, and general. Feminine cards are typically easier to design, as there is a plethora of cute fuzzy fluffy flowery imagery out there to play with. Masculine cards are much more difficult, and can unfortunately tend to be stuck in the rut of being more serious and heavy looking. General cards are those that can be given to either male / female recipients.
7) Make your illustrations easy for designers to work : with by Including 0.25 inch bleed around your illustrations.
8) Don’t mix religious iconography : A big faux pas in the card industry is to introducing non-religious icons in your religious designs. Take Christmas for example…if you are designing a religious greeting card, you should avoid all references to Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, etc.
9) Keep in mind Your Target Audience : is not only the person receiving the card. You also have to consider who is buying the card. Often times, it is a lady buying the card, be it some one’s grandmother, mother, auntie, daughter, friend, colleague…women make up about 80% of the greeting card target buying audience. So when designing cards, keep in mind who will be picking up the cards and appealing to how THEY feel about the person they are sending the card to. If you can’t picture any of your female friends picking up the card, you might miss the mark on that design.
10) Ask for feedback on your designs : An easy way to know if your design is hitting the mark is to ask your friends and family. Make sure to not explain what the card is about, just hand them a mock up of the design. If they don’t “get it” then you should reconsider.