Assignment 2 – Research

My first step was to break down my research into two categories.

Primary Research:

  • Visit local shops to see the current range of cards and which types of events/sentiments are catered for.
  • Ask my friends and family if there are any events or landmarks that they would like to buy cards for but aren’t currently on sale.

Secondary Research:

  • Research the history of the greetings card
  • Research principles of good greetings card design
  • Find examples of current greetings card shapes, styles and sizes.
  • Find out which events/sentiments/milestones are already catered for
  • Research the target audience and the greetings card market in general.
  • Look for examples of more radical/quirky card designs

The History of the Greeting Card 

The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese, who exchanged messages of good will to celebrate the New Year, and to the early Egyptians, who conveyed their greetings on papyrus scrolls. By the early 15th century, handmade paper greeting cards were being exchanged in Europe.


The British Museum holds a Valentine’s day card from the 1400’s but exchanging greetings cards first gained popularity in the 19th Century. In the early to mid 1800’s cards were exchanged between the elite and wealthy but they were all handmade, hand delivered and were very expensive. This is thought to be one of the earliest printed Valentine’s Day cards…


It was published on 12th January 1797 by John Fairburn of 146, Minories, London and includes a verse printed around the edge:

Greetings cards gained mass popularity in the 1840’s following the first issue of the postage stamp and improvements to print technologies and paper production. Sir Henry Cole established the first printed cards and in 1843 published sets of ‘Christmas Cards’ designed by John Calcott Horsley.

By the early 20th century card manufactures were beginning to recognise a range of different events and as their popularity increased different styles and ranges were developed. Technical developments in colour lithography and digital design revolutionised the greetings card industry further with electronic and photo cards gaining popularity alongside the more traditional folded card.

I wrote some notes on what makes a good greetings card…


and then found a very useful article by designer Arthur Piccio – ’11 Tips to Consider When You Design Your Own Greeting Card – which summarised and consolidated the information I’d gathered.

The “top third” rule was something which I hadn’t really considered and is particularly relevant to greetings cards – when cards are displayed in standard racks in the shops only the top third of the card is generally visible and therefore needs to include image or text which is eye-catching and invites and interests the browser to look at the whole card. I will definitely think about this when I start sketching possible card design ideas.

The Greetings Card industry is huge and approximately 2 billion greetings cards are sold annually in the UK with a market value of £1.7billion. Greetings Cards are stocked in more types of shops than any other product – in fact every 1 in 6 shops sell them in some capacity. Cards are generally divided into two main categories – everyday and seasonal. Birthday and Christmas cards top the best selling lists in each category respectively. Trends in design styles split between high technology digital cards featuring lights and music etc and handcrafted artisan cards providing a more traditional and mixed media line.



85% of all greetings cards are bought by women and so the key customer target audience is adult females. There are many cards aimed at either men or women but even those aimed at being received by a male are primarily bought by women.

I went to my local shops to get a feel for the greetings cards that are currently on the market and I created a Pinterest board which has some good examples of more unusual cards both in sentiment and style.

A friend recommended taking a look at Love Layla Designs website ( …. they are a team of graphic designers who specialise in unique greetings cards that aim at giving people a giggle. They have designed a range of cards including several for lesser known occasions including ‘Travel’, ‘Divorce and Break Up’, ‘Charity Cancer Cards’, ‘LGBT’, and ‘baby showers’.  The cards rely on typography and simple iconic imagery to communicate the sentiment. I think they work well because people can connect and identify to the card’s messages.


Once I had got an idea for the types of greetings cards currently on sale I started to think about possible sentiments or occasions that weren’t catered for. I conducted some research on social media to find out where people felt the gaps in the market lay.


I then made a mind map to combine my own thoughts and the feedback from my research.





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