HOW TO SPOT A TREND

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If you’ve seen any Pack a Punch Designs on thortful then you’ll know that they are all based around current trends and themes, from the dangers of auto-correct, to the collective female obsession with Tom Hardy.

But how do you spot these trends? Sophie, the brains behind the brand, gives us the lowdown on identifying all things ‘of the moment’.

WATCH TV

It sounds obvious, but take time to catch the latest drama or the next big boxset on Netflix, so you’re ahead of the game. Alternatively, TV shows that have been around for a few years (think Peaky Blinders / Game of Thrones / Stranger Things / The Walking Dead) will have already formed a dedicated fan base and could no doubt be big sellers. Then you have cult classics, such as The Office, Friends and Absolutely Fabulous, that will forever be cemented in the hearts of their avid followers, despite the fact they have not aired on the big screen for a long time. TV is such a big part of our lives now, and unites us around common interests. I’m not ashamed to admit that my current conversation ‘icebreaker’ is “are you watching Love Island?”! I love the feeling when I receive a card that is based on a TV show which I invested my time in: it re-ignites my love for the programme and also shows that the sender put a lot of thought into their choice.

GET DOWN WITH THE KIDS

Slay. Lit. Bae. Squad. On fleek. Hashtag *insert noun here* goals. Yes, I’m talking about modern-day lingo. Despite the rise in social media and us millennials being constantly glued to our phones, writing ‘Happy Birthday’ on someone’s Facebook wall just doesn’t cut it, especially if you see them on a regular basis. It’s time to bring the phrases that originated on social media to the world of greetings. In order to appeal to the younger generation, you need to resonate with them, and what better way than with the art of language?

WHAT’S GOING ON?

Pay attention to the news and let your creativity run wild. The world is forever changing and somebody’s 5 minutes of fame could be your next big selling design! Who can forget yodelling boy? He sang in Walmart and the next thing you know he’s on the Ellen Show and launching his first album. We all love a ‘regular person turned famous’ story.

Also, politically themed cards are yuge (sorry!) at the moment. Trump cards are EVERYWHERE and they’re selling like hotcakes, regardless of whether you like him or despise him. Then you have the issues of feminism and LGBT rights. With International Women’s Day and ‘Coming Out’ parties on the rise, the occasions and people you can cater to are endless!

EXPLORE HUMOUR

The rise in popularity of rude cards simply cannot be ignored, and although they’re not to everyone’s taste, a shared sense of humour is essential in strengthening friendships and relationships. If you feel comfortable enough to unleash your crude side then do it! Even if it’s erring more on the side of ‘cheeky’ rather than ‘f*ck-sh*t-w*nk-b*llocks’. Is there any better feeling than knowing you’re helping people make their loved ones laugh out loud by purchasing one of your designs?

MODERN-DAY SENSATIONS

You can’t go wrong with a card based around modern-day phenomena, right? Vegans, social media, memes, and Love Island, to name just a few. These subjects were unheard of years ago but have now skyrocketed into our lives making them the perfect basis for relatable greetings cards. People want cards that they know the recipient will identify with and want to keep as a memento, and you have the power to create them!

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Find Pack a Punch Designs here.

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How to use thortful to promote other projects

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Michelle Hird has brought us greeting card designs for over 18 months now with her HELLO LGBT brand. However, over the past year she has been working hard to introduce Binx the Jinx into the world. Binx the Jinx is a new children’s book, written and illustrated by Michelle Hird, and released in August; it’s core message is one of love and respect for others. To promote her book further she has illustrated a collection of Christmas themed greeting cards to share on thortful.

Why using your card designs to promote other projects is a good idea?

After all the fuss of promoting my book once it was released and things died down, I wanted to keep the same spirit I had when it was all so fresh. Binx the Jinx is one of my biggest accomplishments and inspires me everyday. Using the character Binx throughout my artwork keeps me motivated and encourages me to keep things alive. I love finding new and different ways of expressing my character and using Binx for my new Cat Christmas Card Collection is a great outlet for that.

More Christmas cards are sent each year than every other holiday combined, so it made sense to me to use this as the perfect opportunity to promote my book, gain exposure for my character and (through thortful!) earn some extra pocket money in the process! The fact that my main character is a cat is another bonus; according to the Telegraph, ‘we are obsessed, sharing more than 3.8 million cat pictures and videos every day. That is more than twice the number of selfies – 1.4 million.*’ Although my audience may be quite specific – there is clearly a huge market out there.

How fellow creatives can do this

According to a feature from Writers And Artists; the UK population spends more than £1.3 billion a year on greeting cards** – so we already know there is a massive market to sell our cards, to people with all kinds of different design preferences. Do your research, take a look what already exists, what is trending and what works. What kind of cards do you buy for others or do your family/friends buy? As a starting point; I spend an hour or two scrolling through the online card shops (thortful included!) or going out into independent art shops for my own market research. Using this method helps my idea process and helps me determine what designs will be strong enough to sell. However, I do think it is important when creating new cards for thortful, to use whatever subject you are instinctively drawn to. Whether that be humour, beautiful fonts, cute animals, photography – this will automatically make you excited to start inventing new ideas. Once you understand who your target audience is and have found your niche – you are one step closer to creating, strong, sellable cards!

Why it can be effective

Since August, Binx the Jinx is now recognisable to my friends and family, my social media outlets, bookstores where I have given readings and he has also been advertised across posters on London’s Baker Street. I am slowly starting to gain an audience for Binx, which is another strong selling factor and so it makes commercial sense to expose him through such a popular holiday. 

Like me, once you get your burning ambition for your new collection, there will be no stoping you! Naturally you will be thinking of what your character/characters can be doing next. The same goes for typography, or any other art form you chose –  ask yourself, what story will you tell next?

How useful thortful is in this process

thortful have been incredible at listening to my ideas, and even though they can be quite vague, they have helped me find solutions. I have only had my Cat Christmas Card Collection up for 24 hours and I have sold 10+ cards already!

Through the help of my publishers, who have constructed a social media marketing plan to target their own/mine and thortful’s social media audience at key times, using the promotional imagery I have supplied to them. I try to get involved in the promotion process as much as possible by liking, sharing posts that are made and interacting with people who start up a conversation. Capturing my existing audience whom have already purchased the book and hoping to buy greeting cards to match or simply to support me as an artist. Through the use of social media and features such as this, I am hoping to gain new cat loving customers. 

I hope this helps inspire you if you’re either procrastinating or in a bit of a creative slump! Having done your market research, believing in yourself and your ideas will certainly help you build the strongest, most cohesive, sellable line you can. 

Merry Christmas,

Michelle

Sources:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/pets/essentials/why-cool-cats-rule-the-internet

**https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/artists/advice/179/preparing-your-portfolio/identifying-your-audience/the-greeting-card-industry

How to use trends to inspire your card designs

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Hi, my name’s Nicole and I’m the owner and designer at Native 21! I’ve teamed up with thortful to give you a few handy hints and tips on following trends to inspire card designs…

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Keep your ear to the ground

Is your Twitter timeline filled with Great British Bake Off puns? Facebook flooded with witty and relatable memes? Don’t just endlessly scroll, take inspiration! Social media isn’t compulsory, but it’s a huge bonus. Be sure to follow and like the popular news and media pages and get a feel for the latest trends. What are your friends sharing, what content are the media pages posting, or are you seeing posts about ‘great episodes’ of ‘that TV show’ over and over?

Personally, I’ve only ever seen 2 episodes of Game Of Thrones (I know, I know) but we’re all pretty aware that it’s probably the most popular TV show ever. It’s because of this I see Game Of Thrones cards doing so well as it has such a large audience and fanbase, even if I have to research who ‘Jon Snow’ is and when winter is actually coming!

Find the niche

Don’t be scared to experiment with creating a design that might be a little niche or ‘out there’: that’s exactly what customers are looking for! How many times have you wished for something really unique, only to find no such thing exists? Be your own Dragon’s Den success story by creating something new and exciting. Controversial, slightly rude and even explicit cards also work wonders as you definitely wouldn’t find those on the high street, but they will be sure to put a massive smile on the recipient’s face (or more likely, an awkward laugh when they open it in front of the entire family). Celebrity figures adored by the millions and Hollywood heartthrobs also make for brilliant designs, but have you ever seen that certain someone on the front of a birthday card? If not, what are you waiting for!

Your own (funny!) take on it

The best trend-led designs are those that bring a new (humorous) perspective to a character or theme. What is the character known for, or what do they typically do or say? Think about how you can spoof this in your design, or poke a little harmless fun at the character, whilst still relating it to a card-sending occasion where possible. Puns work really well here, but you can also use illustrations to the same effect.

Blast from the past

Just because it’s not all over your timeline, doesn’t mean it’s not still relevant. Think back to that TV show you watched as a teenager, that cult classic that still tops everyone’s favourite movie list, or something that screams ‘throwback’. Don’t just wish a Happy Birthday, give the gift of good ol’ nostalgia.

Hashtag #RELEVANT

Be proud of your creations and share with your Instagram followers! Using relevant hashtags – whether this be trending celebrities or memes – will allow new people to find your designs and head straight to Thortful. Tag that celebrity or news outlet because you never know who is scrolling through.

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Don’t let your cards just be plonked on the mantlepiece with the other plain obligatory greetings cards – stand out! In essence – eat, sleep, meme, repeat – and you’ll do just fine!

Find Nicole’s cards here.

Zoe Brennan: How to Design a Bestseller

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At Zoe Brennan we know the benefit of having a best-selling design. Here’s how you can too.

Let’s start with an analogy. Picture a football team. You have your defenders, midfielders…okay, we’ve exhausted my football knowledge but you get the point: there’s loads of different players. Now let’s focus on who’s up front- the striker. Without them there’s no goals, no glory. They’re the one that gets lifted in the air, their name chanted as the final minutes tick down. They turn a team that can hold their own into a winning team.

Enough with the football analogy: what I’m saying is it’s okay to have a decent line up of designs that can go the distance but everyone really needs a few big hitters that will catapult them to the next level.

Every design can’t be an out right winner. (I wish they could be. Believe me) There will always be those who out perform the others, it’s just the law of averages. So, how do you go about creating a bestseller?

 

Think Seasonally– big card buying occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc. are going to be your rocket fuel. Our Financial Burden card out sold our other designs by over 6000%. (Yeah, I know, mental.)

 

Be On Trend– there’s always a focus for comedy. Sometimes it’s meme-led, other times it’s purely topical (be that political, celebrity focused or lifestyle-led for example). Try following a few humorous pages on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll soon spot what the big thing is right now. How can you put your own spin on it?

The same idea goes for what’s in aesthetically- follow blogs, grab some books, and get researching what’s coming into fashion.

 

Be Relatable– when designing for specific occasions think about what really gets you, what grinds your gears or floats your boat. You’ll soon find others feel exactly the same way and when a design speaks to someone directly they’ll snap it up in a heartbeat. Design the card you want to buy.

 

Plan in Advance– Christmas doesn’t start when the tinsel comes out; ideally, you should have seasonal designs done about six months in advance. I know it feels wrong to be finishing festive designs when you’re still wearing shorts but it’s the best way to get maximum exposure. You’re more likely to stand out if you’re ahead of the game.

 

Take Chances– be different. You might think your idea is too niche to work but that’s exactly what customers are looking for. Follow your heart and think outside the box. No one likes to see the same thing again and again.

 

If you’re thinking of starting to design cards but feel overwhelmed, don’t worry about having hundreds of awesome designs. It’s perfectly feasible to have just a handful of carefully crafted designs and still reap the benefits. Get it right and that might be all you need.  

Find Zoe Brennan cards here.

Redback Cards: why it’s worth being on Thortful (even if you’re already a pro!)

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So… you’ve spent years establishing your card business through blood, sweat, tears, fears, small steps, big wins, hell yeah’s, oh no’s, epic emails, microscopic lunch breaks, Pantone crises and a LOT of coffee (plus a couple of G n T’s!). Why bother with thortful?

Well, because it’s a no brainer.

Here’s why:

  • It’s an attractive, intuitive, contemporary website platform that screams ‘We’re a quality company who are going to send you a quality product’ and without any fuss to boot. That’s exactly the kind of thing we want for our customers!
  • We can easily be responsive with our designs and modify them according to sales. Also we can test the market with our cards and see what new designs prove popular before we publish them.
  • It’s a valid (and very fair) revenue stream. We’re a business after all.
  • No hassle. As an established company we are regularly producing designs for print anyway. Being able to upload new designs in a few minutes makes you think…’Why on earth not?’
  • The greetings card market is huge. Millions of cards are sold every year and we don’t feel selling our cards on thortful detracts from other aspects of our business, instead it helps us to further engage with customers.
  • They do all the work for you. Marketing, tick. Advertising, tick. Online presence, tick. Customer service, tick. Fancy website, tick. Printing and posting, tick. That sounds like pretty good value to me!
  • They’re super nice people. This goes a long way in our book!

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Redback Cards create fun and contemporary cards for all occasions. Find their cards here.

cardshit Swear Profanities Will Liven Up Your Designs

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Hearts and flowers are not for everyone, we know that here at cardshit. The noughties and the twenty-tens (as we are apparently supposed to be calling them) are all about being rude, crude and bold about your feelings. So why should the greetings cards we send be any different to the banter we have with our mates?

No one can dispute the desire in the market place for sloppy, soppy birthday cards with rhyming couplets and fluffy messages, extolling sentiments that you would never even be caught dead actually thinking, never mind saying out loud. Nowadays though, there’s a trend towards being honest with each other: people are getting a bit of confidence and shouting their feelings from the rooftops, no matter how crude and unrefined those feelings are! This means it’s high time to consider expanding your range beyond the greetings cards your granny would send, and embracing the potty-mouthed greetings cards of the future.

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We all enjoy a bit of banter every now and again, and it’s been well documented that taking the mickey out of each other in a harmless, playful way actually strengthens friendships and can be a sign of endearment if done in the right way. At cardshit, gone are the days of minding your P’s and Q’s, as we know that feeling comfortable enough with someone to trade insults with them often just means that you really feel at ease in their presence and count them as a true friend. 

In fact, using insults and being crude to one another as a way to show affection goes way back to Shakespeare’s time, and his most famous works are positively littered with enough hilariously rude nicknames and banter to rival any school classroom. (Watch this space for our next design, ‘Happy Birthday you elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog’.)

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Speaking of the classroom, a 2015 study by the Language Sciences Journal in America actually found that people who use swear words tend to have a higher level of intelligence than those who don’t. According to US-based psychologists Kristin and Timothy Jay, using swear words is not a sign of the “poverty of vocabulary” (the assumption that swear words are being used in place of more intellectually acceptable words), but rather people who have a wide vocabulary of profanities also have a wide vocabulary in general.

Aside from showing high levels of intelligence, swearing, being rude and insulting one another has also been proven to have a painkilling effect; a recent study from Keele University in England found that letting go and shouting out the worst expletive you can think of generally does have a numbing or painkilling effect, which explains why we are often heard shouting four lettered words when we stub a toe, or hammer our thumb by accident. It is believed that this pain-killing effect comes from our innate ‘fight or flight’ response being triggered by the audacity of the swear-word, which increases our heart rate and in turn, helps to numb the pain. So the next time your designer ignores your brief, relieve said pain by turning the air blue and let loose with your finest four letter tirade.

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When it comes down to it, being a bit uncouth can be a whole lot of fun, and sending your mate a rude greeting card sparks a reaction that you just don’t get with any other card. In this modern age of smartphones, the internet and instant gratification, we all crave something a bit unique, something a bit extra, and something that genuinely piques our interest.

So it seems being crude is the new being nice. Why not embrace it and consider how your new ranges might get a little ruder, or if that’s definitely not your cup of tea, try sending your mate a rude birthday card this year instead. If they don’t ex-communicate you, you’ll know that you’re BFF’s.

Article by Lee Thomas, founder of cardshit. Find cardshit cards here!