Designing for the Holidays

Designing for the Holidays

We all love the signs of winter: the first snow, the first peppermint latte at Starbucks – and the first holiday card that comes in the mail. As the season progresses, you’ll have a wall full of holiday designs, and your clients will, too. Those cards will be on display for a month or more; as a designer, that means it’s your turn to show off your amazing skills, and let your clients know how much you care.

Get Personal

You won’t have time to hand-craft a card for each individual client, but you still need to show them you care. You can accomplish this by creating a card that’s unique, interesting, and above all, personalized for your brand.

The first place to start is with the general feel and personality you want to convey. Do you have a more elegant and professional appearance? Then a classy, traditional card might be appropriate. Likewise, if you enjoy coming across as the casual, fun company, don’t be afraid to introduce more whimsy into your cards. Just think of your holiday cards as any other marketing material; if it fits your overall brand message, you can send it out.

From there, it’s up to your creativity and personality. A great way to get personal is to include pictures of you and your employees. This is especially important if you telecommute with most of your clients; giving them a chance to see the people they are working with will help them see you as an individual or group, not just a company.

A few years back, we designed a holiday card for a client based around this idea. We had each team member write a short, holiday-themed tweet, and give us a headshot. We then put together a mock newsfeed with all of the staff members wishing their clients an incredibly happy holidays.

seasons tweetings

Other, similar ideas include using employee’s faces on holiday ornaments, taking a winter-themed staff photo to send out, or even just including a digital version of each employee’s signature when you print the cards. You can also play with elements of your brand: string your logo with lights, make a gingerbread version of your mascot, or anything else that you can come up with. The more personal you can make it, the better.

Choose the Packaging

Once you have an idea for your card, you need to decide how to display it. Holiday cards are often used a decorations; they are taped to walls, rested on tables, and sometimes even hung on trees. Every part of the card, from the edges to the envelope, is a potential wintery design surface.

Your design should hit three main points:

  •  Even if you can only see the front, the design should still “work” and promote your brand
  • The material should be affordable enough to send to all of your clients, without looking cheap.
  • You should have room to include some form of personal message.

There’s a reason the standard, single-fold card is so popular: it meets all of these points, and leaves you plenty of room for creativity. But if you’re bored with that look, never fear – you have other options.

One often-overlooked choice is the postcard. Add a unique design to the front, leave room for a small note on the back, and you’re golden. Postcards are often cheaper to print, and even have reduced postage. And since you aren’t hiding it in an envelope, your clients will see it the second they check the mail.

Another way to play with your packaging is to design an online message. You can do this two ways: either by sending out an e-card, or by including a link (or QR code) to the design on a physical card. The second option lets you send out something physical and real to your clients, but still enjoy the freedom that a digital message offers.

Include Everyone

The stickiest part of designing holiday cards is deciding what to put on them. The fact is, many winter holidays have religious connotations to them, and you’ll have to tread lightly if you want to make sure everyone feels included.

In general, try to avoid greetings for specific holidays. Instead, look for a fun message that sends out a holiday wish to everyone involved. The standard “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” are fine, but you’re also welcome to get creative with your caption.

You can also go the other way, and include everyone by including everyone. One year, we designed a calendar-themed holiday card, and listed all of the December holidays. We included everything from Kwanzaa to Boxing Day, and learned quite a bit on the way.

december calendar

Ultimately, your holiday design should be two things: personal and accessible. As long as your design matches your brand, and reaches out to all of your clients, it’s going to be a hit.

Alexey Churchwell currently works for Phases Design Studio as a content and branding intern. Her education background includes art, literature, and more recently, copywriting.

Featured Image Credit: Jessica Bell

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