Designers worried about the current enthusiasm for DIY design being driven by print-on-demand and social networks should take heart from Moo, an initiative that draws on aspects of both, but puts design and personality firmly in the picture.
Moo is the brainchild of the company’s chief executive and founder Richard Moross, who recalls, ‘It came from something I’d noticed with my younger sister. She had all these different technology-centric ways for her friends to contact her, like an instant messaging screen name, a blog, different e-mail addresses and a mobile phone number, but the only way for her to give out this information was very old fashioned – she was writing it down on a piece of paper.
So I started thinking about business cards and how they’re really the oldest social networking tool on the planet. They just haven’t been updated in hundreds of years and so weren’t appropriate for social situations like those my sister found herself in. So the Moo MiniCard was born.’
Half the size of a regular business card, with text details on one side and an image on the other, the Moo MiniCard puts self-expression in the hands of the user, but the whole experience is mediated by good design. Users can have their own images printed on the cards, or select them from Moo groups at partner sites like Flickr and Bebo, or put together packs from a fast-growing and broad range of designs and illustrations on the Moo site.
As well as the cards, there are sticker books, greetings cards and even little iPod-esque felt card holders. For Christmas, there’s a whole range of illustrated greetings cards by the Moo design team to add to the general image selection on offer, by the likes of London textile designer Rachel Cave, Canadian artist Marc Johns and Spanish illustrator Blanca Gomez.
The site, the products and the user experience have all been designed with care, and the branding work is lively and fresh without being exclusive. ‘We looked very closely at the entire user experience, all the way from the home page through the product design and shipping, and made each step along the way very personalised and simple,’ says Moross. ‘So you hopefully enjoy the process of making your Moo cards in addition to getting the best quality possible, while being able to customise every single card in your pack.’
From the outset the idea was driven by design. ‘Design, but more specifically innovation in design, is a key differentiator for Moo,’ he adds. ‘We’re operating in a 500-year-old, commoditised and fractured market. To stand out we have to be remarkable at a product level.’
Moross has big plans for Moo in the coming year – including inviting designers to sell their designs on its range of products, with a share of the revenue on every sale – but none that take him away from his design-led approach. ‘Great design can change the world,’ he says. ‘We believe that by developing simple tools to help everyone be a little bit creative, we can empower a new generation of consumers to produce personal, one-of-a-kind print products that are radically different from the offerings of traditional publishers like Hallmark or American Greetings.’ Yay! As Moo might say.