E-cardinal sin

There’s no substitute for the real thing – e-cards just won’t do at Christmas, so get designing and posting, and damn the deforestation, says Jim Davies

Christmas e-cards. Don’t you just hate them? They leave you underwhelmed and underappreciated – you’re reduced to just one line in a list of e-mail addresses, part of an annual chore that’s been dispatched with all the grace and goodwill of a surly checkout girl.

They leave you under whelmed and underap – preciated – you’re reduced to just one line in a list of e-mail addresses, part of an annual chore that’s been disp atched with all the grace and goodwill of a surly checkout girl. And to add insult to injury, there’s the inevitable sanctimo – nious sign-off line. ‘This year we’ve decided not to send Christmas cards to our friends and clients. We’re doing our bit for the planet, and the money we save will be donated to our favourite charity.’

Forget all that nonsense. Why don’t you just tell it like it is? ‘We don’t have a work experience person in this year, so there’s no one around here prepared to stuff envelopes and queue up at the Post Office. Besides, we can’t agree whether to go for the MoMA or Habitat designs, and we’re too busy popping corks and photocopying our wobbliest body parts to be bothered with the real thing.’

Christmas e-cards are the ultimate festive cop out. Far better to receive nothing at all than one of these digital doodoos. They’re the corporate equivalent of the old ‘round robin’ letter, with news that darling Amy is playing tuba for the English youth orchestra, while our eldest is doing missionary work in South America after coming down from Oxford.

There’s no attempt at personalisation, care, or effort – just the presumption that the reader is the teensiest bit int – erested in these seasonal tales of over-achievement. They are simply arrogance and laziness tied up with Christmas ribbon. Christmas cards – and I mean the good, old-fashioned deforesting type – have so much more class and meaning.

They reassure you that the sender has spent at least a few seconds thinking about you, even if they have no real intention of ‘meeting up soon’.

For design consultancies, they are the ultimate graphic expression of the season, a chance to limber up and flex the old creative muscles, to rise to the challenge of squeez – ing a few more drops out of the well-worn visual puns and symbolism. There’s a bit more Christmas punch swilling around the ideas tank than you might think – put your mind to it and there are 1001 ways to turn those reindeer, Santas and pine trees on their heads.

OK, we all know things are tight at the moment. The days of lavish blind embossing, spot varnishes and metallics are behind us for now. But money doesn’t buy you a good design idea. Indeed, the more switched on of you are making a virtue out of a necessity, creating witty, credit-crunchy takes on those familiar Yuletide themes, finding ingenious ways to create something that’s cheap but more than cheerful, making your ho-hohos go further.

Cards are part of the ritual of Christmas. They are a seasonal exchange of love and good wishes. It’s exactly because we take the time and effort to make them, buy them, sign them and send them that they have an intrinsic value worth more than the cost of the card and the stamp. The postman pushing them through the cluttered letter box, the anticipation of opening the envelope, hanging cards on red ribbons around the house, these small pleasures build to the crescendo of Christmas.

Season’s greetings to everyone out there. Consider this my personal Christmas card to you. It may not have your name at the top, but at least it comes on something that used to be a tree.

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  • Harry Wilson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    As a student of sustainable design this article shocks me. To hell with deforestation? This is not a comment that I feel comfortable reading. Christmas cards create a huge amount of waste every year and I feel that the way an alternative, however crude or impersonal, can be disregarded in this way saddens me. There must be other alternatives to the traditional postcard that allow for greater creative freedom than churning out clichéd, generic designs that we see on the traditional postcards today. In fact, I would suggest that the e-card is no less impersonal than the cards that are given and received every single year time and time again. I would be interested (and glad) to see alternatives to both the Christmas card and the e-cards being investigated further in the design community.
    Plus, on another note, I feel that this article shows an archaic way of thinking. E cards are a development of a tradition that shows movement and progress in an industry that has remained stagnant for many years. There will be an alternative for sending seasons greetings, e-cards are merely a first prototype as it were.

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