I’ve been experimenting with DIY thank you cards as a creative outlet. For years, my sister and I have added personal touches to Hallmark envelopes by creating elaborate designs suited to the occasion. Last year, when she legally became old enough to drink alcohol, I drew a wine bottle with flowers springing from the top. When I finished, it occurred to me that I’d drawn a closed bottle, but that’s neither here nor there.
I wanted to take my work a step further, so I cut and folded my own envelopes and inserted polka dot liners cut from a large sheet of scrapbook paper. To create the cards themselves, I measured out 3.5” x 5” notecards, realized I couldn’t find my paper cutter, and resigned myself to manually cutting each rectangle. My goal was to maintain a cohesive design element between the envelopes and the cards, so I focused on the seafoam green liner for inspiration. Ultimately, I settled on drawing Echeveria plants because I love the way the fleshy robin’s egg blue leaves transition into rosy blush-tinted tips.
As I was working, I thought about NPR’s article last month on Hallmark’s struggle to stay relevant in the digital age. With the advent of the quick and thoughtless “Happy Birthday!” Facebook post, e-cards, and other means of digital communication, the greeting card industry has been jettisoned into that desolate pit of obscurity known only by other relics of bygone ages. We are a nation of consumers, governed by capitalist commandments. We hold fast to the fallacies that Thanksgiving is naught but Black Friday Eve and generic labels are a sin. We throw cash at all our favorite brands, but $4 greeting cards are viewed as superfluous expenditures.
For most people, greeting cards are a waste of money. I keep all the cards I receive in shoeboxes, so I was surprised to read multiple comments on the NPR article stating that people generally throw them away after reading. With all the “You Know You Were a 90s Kid if…” listicles and I Love the [insert decade here] VH1 shows, it’s apparent that we are obsessed with nostalgia, and yet have no time for sentimentality.
Perhaps the real issue is that our nostalgia is rooted in narcissism, rendering sentimentality worthless in the digital age. People love looking back into their own past, but they have no use for boxed remembrances. Physical cards are essentially direct messages from sender to recipient. Unlike publicly visible social media messages, they aren’t meant to serve as exhibition. They aren’t sharable or likeable; they’re inadequate social barometers.
Card companies like Papyrus have responded to the decline in sales by creating 3D cards with unique designs. Rather than hoping to sell high volumes, it seems as though their brand strategy is to depend on society’s lust for commodification. They’re appealing to people who find exclusive cards irresistible, regardless of their cost. Like the Etsy shopkeepers who create handmade cards to supplement their own income, I know I’m hammering one more nail in the card industry’s coffin with each card I make. When I reach a level of wealth that enables me to spend $10 on a sentiment, I’ll return to the card aisle. Provided it’s still there at that time.