Greeting Card Designer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotWhen you stand in front of a rack of cards trying to pick out the best one for a special occasion, you're looking at the work of greeting card designers. These creative artists use their skills to create affordable art that serves a purpose: telling someone you care.

Heather Castles designs greeting cards and she says her responsibilities vary. Sometimes she works on designing cards starting with the concept.

She also updates existing lines of cards. She does this by creating new products, writing new verses or touching up the graphics. She might create new graphics to balance cards within an existing line. She also reapplies artwork to other products such as matching gift wrap.

Some greeting card designers write the verses in the cards. Others only provide the illustrations.

dotMost greeting card designers have a background in graphic design or illustration. Images for greeting cards are being created more and more in digital format. The artwork is prepared using computer software such as Adobe Photoshop.

dotThe ability to send e-cards has not changed the job of traditional greeting card designers very much. Creating e-cards is a niche that doesn't make much money, says greeting card designer Ian Challis. Sending the card is almost always free.The only way to turn a profit is from advertising on the e-card site.

Castles believes the e-cards won't threaten traditional paper cards. "With social networks such as Facebook, where you can send digital flowers or presents or greetings, acknowledging special occasions is getting easier and easier. And because e-greetings are so easy to send, it lowers their value."

She says the perceived value behind a traditional paper greeting card tells the recipient that they are worth the time and cost to send that card.

Challis says people are still buying cards. "But they're buying a lot less than they used to." Baby shower and wedding invitations are still a big market. But party invitations have fallen out of favor.

Challis started out in the greeting card business in 1998. He says people used to buy cards and stationery as a hobby. The market is not as strong these days.

"Young people are not trained to send cards anymore," he explains. He remembers as a child he would have to sit down and write thank-you cards to friends and relatives after Christmas or his birthday. "That era's over."

dotMost greeting card designers are self-employed. They work from home offices and set their own hours. Some do the marketing and manufacturing of the cards themselves. Most will license their designs to a manufacturer. Greeting card manufacturers carry and distribute different card lines from many different illustrators.

There is some work for greeting card designers at design firms, publishing houses or large greeting card companies. But a lot of the work is outsourced to freelancers.

Challis works from a home studio. Every work day is different for him. Meeting deadlines is an important part of the job. He has to act quickly to get his work out the door. Some weeks he has little to do. He uses downtime to catch up on paperwork, brainstorm and work on creative development.

Greeting card designers may spend long hours at the computer. Illustration requires repetitive motion and attention to detail. Repetitive actions can lead to injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Greeting card designers should make sure their work area is comfortable and designed to minimize strain.

At a Glance

Show some emotion on paper

  • Most designers work from home as freelancers
  • You might do both the writing and the illustrating
  • A portfolio of your work and some related education will help you break in the field