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.

How to get a press feature for your cards

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If you’re a creative type then you’ll know the power that comes with having people notice your work. Press features are a great way to get your designs in front of customers who are pre-disposed to like them and be keen to buy, as well as making your brand look great and spreading the word about your thortful designs! Here we’ve asked our resident PR expert Louise Rowlands to come up with her top tips on securing some coverage:

Choose wisely

Identify which local press titles would suit your card designs. Who is your target market? What do they read? How are your cards perfect for them? Once you’ve worked this out, find out who you need to be speaking to and put your designs in front of the right people! Who writes/sources stories or features at your key titles? It’s likely to be a reporter if it’s a news story or an editorial or features assistant if it’s a product feature. Do your research and find out what they’re looking for, and how you can connect with this. Work out where you’re most likely to get a feature too (as a story, or a product feature in the ‘shopping’ pages?) and how you can target your cards towards this.

How are your cards current?

How does your card design (or range) relate to the current zeitgeist? Is it for an upcoming occasion? Does it tap into what is on-trend? Journalists want to write about things which are relevant for their audience!

What’s your angle?

The first thing to ask yourself is what makes your design(s) (or you!) stand out, what makes it/them different from all of the other cards out there? Journalists are looking for a hook, so not just a product but a story behind it too. What inspired your design(s)? How have you made your brand unique or successful, how have you changed your own life or that of others? Being a creative person with some good card designs is simply not enough of an angle to be feature-worthy!

Have a presence

Having a thortful profile is not enough – you need to be easy to find across social media, and ideally have a website where you express some personality, and make your brand 3D. Journalists want to be able to search for you and find a real, authentic person or brand! Make sure you have your ‘story’ or USP featured somewhere, and incorporate a basic reference in your bio line if possible. This will not only ensure that your brand has a clear message, but also help to pique people’s interest when they read about you on your profile or the back of your cards!

Twitter is key

Twitter is a great tool for this task! Find out what journo’s are after by searching #journorequest, follow key journalists and publications you’re interested in and engage with them where appropriate to build a relationship. If you see an opportunity, tweet them!

Pitching to the journalist

Before you call or email a journalist it’s a great idea to create a 200 word pitch. Journalists are very busy and don’t have much time so make your title attention grabbing, then breakdown the story and angle for the journalist, and always finish an email with clear contact details. Journalists hate big picture files cluttering up their inboxes too, so it’s a good idea to include any cards or designs in a Dropbox link.

If it’s a struggle to get your cards featured directly, think about other options too: why not try offering a couple of your designs for photoshoot props – even if it’s only in the background you can still get a credit and/or link to your profile. And if you’re lucky enough to get a press feature? Make sure to let us know too, so that we can share where possible.

Louise Rowlands is an independent PR consultant: expert on all things PR, Social and Marketing. Find her on Twitter @Loulou300

How We Protect Our Creators’ Work

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Copyright and copyright theft is something that thortful takes very seriously! We know how hard you work to come up with those fabulous designs, so we want to help you make sure they’re in safe hands and aren’t liable to being downloaded, copied or ripped off 🙂 Here we run you through all the ways in which we strive to protect your work!

All of the images you upload are stored in their original format in a secure location. (It’s top secret – we cant even mention it here!) We then create five – yes, five! – different versions of the original design at a lower resolution and higher compression level, to be displayed in our mobile apps and on our website. Of course, the resolution used will depend on the device & screen resolution: the image used for an iPhone 4 is a much lower resolution than the image needed for an iPhone 6, but the main thing is that these images are not of a high enough quality to be printed at card-size.

The only time the original high-res image which you upload is used, is over the secure connection to our printers, when a card is ordered.

We have also made sure to disable the ability to right click on an image and save it, to prevent those sneaky people with ulterior motives from copying creators’ designs!

Our technical team are currently working to further reduce the quality of the image that we display on our website and apps too: our aim is to ensure the customer buying the card is satisfied with the quality of the image used (so that they’re still keen to buy your card!), but still restrict the ability of someone to copy a high quality image. The good news is that as it currently stands any image would be pixelated if printed directly off the website 🙂

Here at thortful we like to go the extra mile too, so we are also looking to implement a service called Tineye, which is a piece of software that checks all cards uploaded to our platform and informs us if these cards are displayed anywhere else on the internet. This service carries out a search on the web to see if any of our cards are being marketed and sold anywhere else, and therefore ensures that we do not sell work that belongs to someone other than the creator who uploaded it.

Hopefully you’re satisfied with the measures we’ve taken to ensure your designs are protected, but we’re always open to suggestions on how we can improve. Send us your feedback to team@thortful.com and we’ll do our best to make thortful a safe and secure space for you and your work!

10 Inspiring Quotes for Creatives

Lacking creative inspiration this week? Need a little kernel of wisdom to get those creative juices flowing and help with those card designs? Then look no further! We’ve collected some of our favourite creative quotes to keep you feeling fresh and inspired 🙂

10 Inspiring Quotes for Creatives

Have you got any inspiring quotes to share?

We’d love to hear them! Tweet us @thortful.

Our Very First #thortfulillustrates Design Brief!

Psssst… In case you didn’t know, one of our original thortful creators Jon Higham teaches illustration to the rather lucky students of Sussex Coast College, Hastings! In aid of givingsomething back, a little while ago, thortful decided to team up with Jon and his students to give them a shiny new project: to design some AWESOME greeting cards!

Students brief

Eager-faced and pencils in hand, ten budding illustration students all arrived at the thortful office to receive a live briefing this week, and we want to share some insider info on what we told them! 

The brief was to design three cards, for three of the top-selling occasion categories across the industry: Birthday, Thank You and New Home. With this in mind, we gave them some top tips on how to create fantastic (and most importantly!) commercial cards. Check out this informative guide we created:

7 Tips for creating amazing greeting cards

Psssst… In case you didn’t know, one of our original thortful creators Jon Higham teaches illustration to the rather lucky students of Sussex Coast College, Hastings! In aid of giving a little something back, a little while ago, thortful decided to team up with Jon and his students to give them a shiny new project: to design some AWESOME greeting cards! Eager-faced and pencils in hand, ten budding illustration students all arrived at the thortful office to receive a live briefing this week, and we want to share some insider info on what we told them :) The brief was to design three cards, for three of the top-selling occasion categories across the industry: Birthday, Thank You and New Home. With this in mind, we gave them some top tips on how to create fantastic - and most importantly commercial - cards! Check out this informative guide we created: Biscuits were eaten, cards were studied and assessed, and ideas were mulled over, but to see the finished results you’ll have to wait until October! Hopefully the project will offer students some valuable work experience so that they develop the skills and confidence to work professionally, not to mention help them to get on board as thortful creators and conquer the greeting card market… Stay tuned to our social accounts for some behind the scenes shots of our students working on their designs in the build up to the submission date!

Biscuits were eaten, cards were studied and assessed, and ideas were mulled over, but to see the finished results you’ll have to wait until October! Hopefully the project will offer the students some valuable work experience, so that they gain some insight into the skills and confidence needed to work professionally, not to mention help them to get on board as thortful creators and conquer the greeting card market…

Stay tuned to all thortful news with our social accounts for some behind-the-scenes shots of our students working on their designs in the build up to the submission date!

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#ImageOfTheDay

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#Picoftheday today is from our very own Joel Newman – not a professional, but someone who can knock something lovely together in ten minutes while bored in the office (lucky we caught him). If this sounds like you, maybe you ought to sign up here and keep an eye on us over the next few weeks…

Stay tuned for regular updates. If you miss us terribly, (understandable), hang out with us on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

#ThortfulDesign

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We love women creators here at Thortful, especially when they’re creating for a good cause. Following on from Sarah Strandoo’s accessible budget-oriented Shakespeare covers yesterday, today’s #ThortfulDesign was created by Noella Ekezie’s design company, Ellae Creative.

Based in Lagos, Nigeria, Noella works with a team of three other creatives (Scott Lizama, Adebisi Faridah Adebiyi and Adedayo Agboola). The group of four have collaborated with NIKE, Citibank, Exxon Mobile, and most interestingly, initiatives for the empowerment of young people and young girls in Nigeria. The design above is an example of that.

Ellae worked with Kachifo schools, an affordable start-up school chain, to create a strong and sunny brand message centred on supporting children and preparing them for a bright future. Ellae and Kachifo Schools’ collaboration is one of many between Noella and similar NGOs. You can see them all here at her Behance page, or check out Ellae’s company website here.

Stay tuned for regular updates. If you miss us terribly, (understandable), hang out with us on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

#ImageOfTheDay

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For our #imageoftheday today we thought we’d feature a less-prominent but very talented photographer. Ish Viot manages the lodge for Sanctuary Retreats in the Serengeti, Tanzania, moonlighting as a creative, and we can’t seem to find him anywhere. Can you help us out?

Check him out at his Behance page for more fabulous images.

Stay tuned for regular updates. If you miss Thortful terribly, (understandable), hang out with us on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

#ImageOfTheDay

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Image by @TimMcKennaPhoto via Dronestagram’s photography competition. This is our personal favourite, but they’re all stunning and incredibly #thortful!

Stay tuned for regular updates. If you miss Thortful terribly, (understandable), hang out with us on TwitterInstagram and Facebook