Is it worthwhile pursuing a career in greeting cards? How do you get involved in the greeting card industry? What are the options?
The UK greeting card industry is a world leader, a home-grown fashion industry. New publishers start up all the time and existing publishers are always looking for new designs. It is a vibrant multi-skilled industry with people entering from many different backgrounds, including fine art, graphic design, textile design, font and calligraphic design.
This section pulls together the relevant resources on this website, to help you decide whether to make greeting cards your chosen career path or part of your portfolio of interests.
Researching the Industry
These are the perfect place to immerse yourself in the industry, see the latest range releases and meet card publishers. This is a very friendly industry and people are generally very happy to talk. However, for students it's a good idea to visit on the last day of a show when publishers' stands are less busy. There is an etiquette - it's important be aware that publishers have invested money in their stands to exhibit their wares and their reason for being at the show is to meet retailers and sell cards.
Our Exhibiting at Trade Fairs section lists the main UK trade fairs for greeting cards. Entry is generally free, but you will need to register online in advance.
Some GCA members run competitions to find the next generation of card designers. This can be the perfect way to gain experience and win your way into having your designs stocked in shops around the country.
Member publisher Paper Rose/The Art Group is currently running a competition 'On The Cards' through Plymouth College of Art, Falmouth University, Nottingham Trent University, De Montfort University and University of Derby and in association with GF Smith, paper merchants and The Sherwood Press, specialist greeting card printers.
Now in it’s second year, the aim of this greeting card design competition is to raise awareness within the student population of the vibrancy of the greeting card industry and to encourage the most talented and innovative designers into choosing greeting cards as a potential career path.
What’s really unique about this competition is that it provides an opportunity to learn about the whole process from design, through production and finally to retail.
The competition winners will have support from Paper Rose in developing their idea and from G. F Smith in selecting their paper stock. They’ll also have the opportunity to have their designs put into production by Sherwood Press and stocked by Paperchase.
Although currently only open to the above universities for 2016, if you are interested in potentially being part of the 2017 competition, please ask your university to contact Reggie Pugh or Kate Vines.
For further informiation, including the 2015 winners' case studies see the On the Cards website.
Internships and Work Placements
Internships are invaluable way to gain experience of how card publishing companies work. You can search our Members' Directory for those offering internships or work placements. We are encouraging our members to list opportunities with their companies on this website.
If you're an aspiring illustrator/card designer, good way to start out into the industry is to submit designs to publishers. This industry thrives on new design, so publishers are always on the lookout for new talent. Many advertise for submissions on their websites. For full information about how to go about this see our section for Artists.
Publishing Your Own Artwork
A publisher pulls together everything that goes into the making and selling of greeting cards. The great news is that, with the advent of digital technology and print on demand this can now be done on a shoestring. A publisher's roles include: product development - the artwork/designs themselves, the selection of the board (or substrate), the organisation of printing, which is normally carried out by a specialist print company, the sourcing of envelopes and cello bags, and the marketing, sales and distribution of the product. Our Starting Up resource gives detailed information on how to start up a card publishing business.
Despite being such a huge industry with lots of opportunities, very few colleges promote this industry to students. Here are the answers to the questions most frequently asked by students
- My lecturer has put me off entering the industry saying it is oversaturated. Is it worthwhile pursuing?
In the UK we buy more greeting cards per person every year than any other nation and this industry thrives on new design. It is a mature and very compeitive market, but there is always strong demand for new designs.
- Would working within the greeting card industry be enough to support me financially?
This depends on how good you are! There are plenty of artists who are making a good living from greeting card design.
- What are the people in this industry like?
This is a very friendly industry. Even though everyone is competing against each other in a crowded market, it is also a supportive community where people talk and share information.
- I want to start up a publishing company of my own, but am unsure of how to begin.
Our Starting Up section provides in-depth information and advice, including information on the Ladder Club Seminar, a very reasonably priced one day crash course in greeting card publishing.
- As a new publishing company, how can I promote myself?
All GCA members have their own page in the Members' Directory on this site, which is used by retailers to source new products. Progressive Greetings is our official journal and the leading magazine to the greeting card trade. Published monthly, the magazine’s Innovations section showcases the latest ranges and products and artists are featured in the Art Source section. These sections are both free publicity for publisher or artist being featured.
- As a publisher, how many designs should I ideally have when lauching my company at a trade fair?
To exhibit at a trade fair, you should have between 50-60 designs in total across a number of card ranges. This gives retailers a wide range to choose from and enables them to cherry pick designs.
- I have some ranges that are very different in style from each other, would this be a problem?
Your ranges should sit well when placed together, for example you wouldn’t place a very rude range next to a cute one.
- What is the best way to gain better knowledge and experience of the greeting card industry?
Internships, work placements and trade fairs make for the perfect glimpse into the industry.
- Are companies like Clintons and Paperchase classified as publishing companies?
Generally publishers produce and retailers sell, but just to confuse the issue, in this increasingly hybrid world some of the multiple retailers also publish their 'own brand' ranges. However, the the independent card and gift shops will be unlikely to do this and will purchase products from publishing companies to sell to the general public.
- How do I protect my designs?
Please see our section on copyright.