A Story with a Twist: The Making of a Christmas Card

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

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, endless curiosity, inspiration and creativity, and an important twist.

The Full Story: Find out from the team themselves and get to know some of the faces behind the scenes.

What’s your favourite card this year and why?

There were so many amazing designs to pick from, but I loved this design because it’s playful and simple and of course gives me a reason to show off my best friend — my dog Lola.

Customer Strategy Lead

I love the direction the designer took with this design and the decorations really stand out against the background, which is not a typical Christmas colour.

Content Writer

I absolutely love this Christmas card design by Joanna. It stood out to me immediately. I haven’t seen anything else like it in the market. The bold emerald watercolour texture is so uniquely beautiful!

Mary Ellen
Creative Director

I like the varied typographic styles used. The way these lock up the phrasing and the fun style make this this one my favourite from this year’s collection.

Designer & Art Director

The unexpected colours and beautifully illustrated fruit make this card standout. I love the way Jon, our designer, took traditional elements and executed them in a very modern way.

Creative Manager & Trend Specialist

"It’s all about the emotion of sharing."

Getting into character: Knowing 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.

"Inspiration is literally everywhere."

How do you figure out what our customers are looking for?

Alyssa: Every January we start looking at how customers reacted to last year’s collection, what people were searching for and any trends in how they used the cards. For example, we might see people uploading pictures of their wedding, new baby or family holidays. Understanding the important life events customers want to share helps us create cards they’ll love.

Do you get inspiration from friends and family?

Alyssa: Definitely. It’s funny because I think my sister and mum are really stylish, but the things that appeal to them in Christmas cards aren’t always what I would expect. So it helps me take a step back and think of other customers. Also, my sister had a baby last year and when I looked at our customers' searches, I found that “baby” was a top keyword! These insights inspire you to dig deeper into things.

How does Vistaprint cater to customers around the world?

Rich: Cultural awareness is an important part of our design process. This involves listening to feedback, watching how customers use our cards and being aware of different festive customs, like sending New Year’s cards in France. We’re lucky to have translators from all over the world who can help us understand cultural nuances and help us cater to all our customers.

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.

"No cookie cutter approach."

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 décor accents like rugs, pillows and wall art. Plants are a great example of this. Succulents, ferns and traditional botanicals are everywhere right now; people love to bring the outdoors in and you’ll see lots of this reflected in our collection.

What other trends will we see in this year’s Christmas card collection?

Mary Ellen: Bold metallic textures, winter botanicals and minimalist designs with a lot of white space and simple typography. We did some beautiful art-inspired brush stroke patterns, a few designs based on interior design trends with geometric shapes, as well as some simple rustic backgrounds.

Does Vistaprint introduce new trends? Or is it more about delivering what customers are looking for?

Mary Ellen: We love to push the barrier, while still being true to what customers want. We’ll do some more traditional cards, then be a little more experimental with our more trend-forward designs. We don’t always know if it’ll work, but we’ll try it anyway!

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.

"A starting point for inspiration."

How do the designers get inspired?

Mary Ellen: Once I receive the brief, I do a bit of my own research and pull together any ideas I’ve been collecting while out and about; then I’ll start sketching by hand.

Brian: A few of our designers will also paint on canvas using traditional methods such as watercolour, or acrylic, then scan in their artwork for digital rendering.

How do the designers work?

Brian: Once I receive the brief, I do a bit of my own research and pull together any ideas I’ve been collecting while out and about; then I’ll start sketching by hand.

Mary Ellen: A few of our designers will also paint on canvas using traditional methods such as watercolour, or acrylic, then scan in their artwork for digital rendering.

How personal is the design process?

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.

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 cards that feel truly unique and personal.

"Once it leaves the designer’s desk, it no longer belongs to them."

So much thought and creativity goes into each card. How do you leave room for the customer to add their personal touch?

Mary Ellen: That’s one of the most important pieces: creating these beautiful cards, but also allowing customers to manipulate them. For every card, we create multiple colour groups and make certain elements removable. Some people want the entire card to be a photo of their family, with a simple “Merry Christmas” greeting. So, we make sure they can move the text around to make it work.

Brian: Ultimately we’re designing for customers, so it’s essential they’re able to express themselves in a way that feels personal to them.

What’s it like seeing what customers do with the designs?

Jen: It’s so great to see someone take your card design, make it their own and know that they felt proud to send it to their family and friends. Christmas is such an emotional time of year, so it’s a great thing to be able to be part of that experience.

Mary Ellen: Some people just make a few small changes and it looks beautiful, while others completely transform the card. And that’s great too. We’re really just giving them a starting point for inspiration; then they can do with it what they will!

What’s your favourite part of making the card collection?

Jen: I just love the creativity, thought and planning that goes into creating our collection.

Alyssa: My favourite part is seeing how the trend research informs and inspires the designers. It’s fascinating to see how the designs come together based on the information in our brief.

Rich: Seeing a brief you’ve written flourish into the design you had originally envisaged but better. It’s also great to see a new design you helped create appear in the top selling templates for that year.

Brian: I really enjoy taking all the trend research and turning it into something customers will want.

Mary Ellen: While I enjoy the whole process, there is nothing better than seeing the final product. A truly cohesive collection created by dozens of designers is a remarkable thing!

Related articles

How to take the perfect photo

Need to take expert shots for your Christmas card or photo calendar? We help you out with tips and tricks that will make your subjects look better than ever.
Read more

How to write the perfect Christmas card

Tips to share this year season's greetings with business partners, family and friends; check our card etiquette to write impeccable Christmas wishes.
Read more