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Going postal: the annual overthinking of the humble Christmas card

Am I doing Christmas cards this year? I can’t very well not do Christmas cards, now can I? I should, shouldn’t I? This seasonal excuse for a spot of self-promotional mailing is too good an opportunity to pass up, surely? So how am I going to go about this?

Let’s think – what did I send last year? Wasn’t it some kind of half-considered hybrid of Pelican/Blue Peter nostalgic imagery? Perhaps the advent crown thing was a tad too obscure? (Do people even remember that awesome flammable tradition? How many 80s Christmases were destroyed by home-made coathanger installation infernos?) Now that I think about it, did anyone like that card? Is there any evidence that it brought tidings of joy? Or that it led to any work or interest or anything useful whatsoever?

If I am doing a card, what format should I go for? Traditional foldy-card-in-envelope? Or the universal language of communication between creatives, the mighty postcard? How about duplex? Ooh no, how about triplex? Maybe letterpressed? You’d have to keep that (and my oh-so-important contact details) hanging around on your desk for at least a good few weeks into the new year, wouldn’t you? What sort of monster would throw away something triplex and tactile?

How many cards do I actually need to get printed? Should I just hit my entire contacts list, or would it be better to set a sensible budget and get as many as I can, then send to the most important people? But then how do I make that decision? Do I have to sit here and rank people’s importance? Based on what criteria? Oh lord, am I actually going to sit here and make a naughty/nice list? Where is that sort of behaviour headed? – “So when did you first start experiencing these delusions of yuletide grandeur?”

Come to think of it, do I even have the correct details for all of these contacts? What if they’ve changed jobs or offices or work somewhere completely different now? How many lovingly designed cards are going to go astray or hit dead-ends? What is the use of all of these contacts if they might not even be contactable? Will I only find out once I’ve sent the damn things? Is this one of those Schrödinger’s Cat situations again? Are all contacts simultaneously good and bad contacts until I actually make contact? By making contact, am I losing contact? Are contacts better left un-contacted, untainted, unlost?

(While I think about it, should I send this card to friends and family as well? Or is it a bit odd to send what is essentially a promotional mailer to my gran? Is my work hijacking the holiday a bit? Shouldn’t I involve the wife and the boy at some point? Won’t they want a say in who gets what? Shall we just buy some cards? Or am I too much of a control-freak-design-snob to let go of this one?)

What about those potential nice contacts who don’t celebrate christmas? Would a christmas card be offensive? Insulting? Culturally invasive? What’s the best way of saying happy Christmas without actually mentioning Christmas? Would season’s greetings suffice? Isn’t that a bit dithery and beige? Is there a polite and secular alternative that still retains some sense of joy? Wintermas? Festivus? Chrimblewangle?

Is this all a waste of time? Aren’t people going to be bombarded with lots of this stuff in the post over the next couple of weeks? Is my card going to get lost amongst countless others? Am I setting myself up to be compared to as many other designers in one go as possible? Do people really want all of this promotional snail-spam at this time of year? Isn’t piggy-backing on a joyful family holiday in order to ferment interest in potential clients just a tad cynical? Is Christmas really the time for all of this ugly self-promotion?

Or am I overthinking this? Wouldn’t my time be better spent highlighting the Radio Times and wrapping things in bacon? What if I just create something simple, nice, polite and festive and avoid all of this headache? What if I send it out to all and sundry and then worry about a proper look at me look at me mailer in the new year when people’s in-trays are a bit quieter? What if I …

Wait, when is the last posting date again?

Stephan Schmitz. stephan-schmitz.ch
Stephan Schmitz. stephan-schmitz.ch

Daniel Benneworth-Gray is a designer based in York. See danielgray.com and @gray

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