Ghastly greetings

Occasions such as Father’s Day provide huge commercial opportunities to the ‘gift’ trade. Matthew Valentine hears two different views from designer fathers

If there is one tradition which defines modern life more accurately than any other, it is surely our willingness to send our nearest and dearest crass and tasteless post on any “special” occasion which the marketing industry decides to develop for us.

This weekend sees a prime example – Father’s Day. It doesn’t matter how trendy you, or your father, are. Just try finding an inoffensive card on the shelves of any high street newsagent or card specialist and you could be excused for thinking that the media explosion which has made England, and especially London, so cool has somehow missed the greetings card industry altogether.

In a totally dysfunctional world these cards could be judged perfectly pitched. But if, shock horror, you actually like your father, you have few choices. So what do fathers really want from their offspring this Sunday? We asked two of them, and discovered one promoting the truly homemade and heartfelt, while the other wishes to instill in his son some good old fashioned consumerism.

Peter Carrow

Director at design consultancy Glazer,

Walk into any stationery shop, gift shop, supermarket or sandwich bar even – and it’s like sinking into the quicksand of Fifties stereotypes.

Such cards, turning up on my doormat or on my chest – usually accompanied by lots of cheerful noise and a pair of three-year-old’s knees – would presuppose that: I like golf; I adore dogs; I like to knock around in vintage cars (I do, but this is difficult with a family of four) and I have time to sit for hours dangling a line in the river.

In a manner that says a lot about card companies’ willingness to make the most out of a special day for us dads, you can receive a card not just from your son or daughter, but from your wife, lover, or even the dog.

The absolute bottom of the pile feature the most over-the-top production values that ensure “naffest card” equals “most expensive card”.

Flaps, foils, embossing, you name it, they have it. And often in various combinations.

Just a simple home-made gift wins it for me, with my son George putting his own carefully honed production techniques through their paces – pipe cleaners, egg boxes, finger paints and lots and lots of glue. Any commissions?

Simon Carter

Director of optimisation at Thumb Design Partnership

Something handmade is what I’ve come to expect on Father’s Day, but when you realise the amount of coercion it takes to get my nine-year-old son, Jack, to sit down and produce something, I’m not sure if it’s worth all the pain involved.

And I can remember how it felt. No matter how strong the bonds of paternal love, putting away your multi-feature Star Wars figure in order to squish about with crayons and paper just isn’t an attractive prospect to your average nine-year-old.

This year I think I’ll encourage Jack to hunt out something store bought and enjoy the pleasure of emotional consumerism. Nothing high-tack mind you – I think that kitsch, like sex, is probably something he should be allowed to happen upon as his own discovery rather than be introduced to it by his trainspotter father.

I’d hope for something not too syrupily disturbing: creepy sentiments and questionable foil blocking; or too jaunty – jokes about paternal laziness and alcohol consumption seem particularly popular.

The best result would be a really crap joke, like the one I saw that features an illustration of a fish with the caption, “Hey Dad, do you know what this is?” with the pay-off line, “It’s your Father’s Day cod.” Providing the joke is bad enough, the card will achieve its communication objective: my eyes will mist over and in a choked voice I’ll wheeze “That’s my boy.”

Latest articles