It’s the thought that counts.
No truer is this line than in the world of Hallmark cards because those babies are expensive. The paradox of Hallmark cards is that you’re trying to be thoughtful but you’re sending something that’s been printed for mass consumption! Please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Hallmark or special occasion/greeting cards in general, other than the price, and I feel that sending one beats not sending one; but if you want to stand out, you can do something unique at a fraction of the price.
At the core of any relationship is communication and when you’re sending a card, you’re really trying to communicate some feeling. It could be celebratory, as in a birthday or an anniversary; it could be condolences after the loss of a loved one; or it could just be a quick pick-me-up, as is the case with “get well soon” cards. Whatever the reason, a hand-written note beats a card hands down. It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be on fancy paper (though you can get a sheet from a crafts store for the fraction of a card), it just has to come from the heart. As we move from polished commercialism towards authenticity, handwritten notes are going to become more popular. When was the last time you sent or received a handwritten letter? Probably a while.
The simplest type of card is one where you evoke happy memories. The easiest way to do this is to print out a few photos from great memories, writing a few words about that memory, and including them in a nice card. Let’s take it one step further. If you have the photos on your computer, why not try a hand at making them a look older? Once you get over the fact that digital prints can’t fade or pick up watermarks, use Photoshop to make your photos look older than before. This tutorial  will explain how to fade the photo, add watermarks (like rings where someone set a cup down on the photo!), add “natural” looking scratches and smudges. It will take some time to do the Photoshop, but it’s a great way to make a memorable card.
Thank back to when you were a kid and the cards you would make for your parents (if you’re a parent and your kids are around that age, think of those cards). If you don’t remember and don’t have kids, walk around your office and look on the cubicle or office walls because those Valentine’s are probably still up. They’re not professional, they’re not polished, but they’re cute because they’re full of emotion and love. Chances are they cost far less than the typical $4.99 greeting card and they are unique. You can get as creative as you want with them, adding all sorts of props, papers, and patterns. One little trick I learned, if you want to make it a card look like it was made by a child, use your non-dominant hand to write or cut. 🙂
Don’t Limit Yourself to a Card
If you take nothing else from this post, take this: It doesn’t have to actually be a card. The first suggestion was a note, the third was to tune into your arts & crafts vibe to create something unique and special. Cards are merely the simplest idea out there, your imagination can probably produce a multitude of ideas that would make a $4.99 card seem boring. If you’re tech savvy, go the tech route – get a video camera and send a video message you can post online for them to watch. There is no limit to your creativity so don’t limit yourself to a card!
Do you have any creative alternatives to Hallmark cards?