Monday, February 07, 2011

Art and Greetings Cards

Examples of cards from the Tigerprint site
topic: Mother's Day Classic
Did you know that people in the UK spend more on greeting cards each year than they do on tea or coffee?

It's a business worth £1.5 billion - and that's a 'b' not an 'm'.

When I first became interested in the art business, one of the things which intrigued me was how people got their fine art accepted for the more obvious commercial uses - such as fine art prints and posters promoted by the major companies and greetings cards.

This post is about gaining an insight into the Greeting Cards business - including how to enter your art in a competition to design greetings cards for Marks and Spencer - the fourth biggest seller of greetings cards in the UK.  It covers:
  • the Greeting Cards Association
  • the Spring Fair - at the NEC in Birmingam.  This is the place where new greetings cards get launched
  • Tigerprint - competitions to design cards for M&S

The Greeting Cards Association

A useful site is the website of the Greeting Card Association which has a page dedicated to information for artists.  Here are some of the useful points that it highlights:
  • there are an estimated 800 greeting cards publishers in the UK
  • an 'own brand/bespoke publisher' is a publisher which designs for a specific retailer's needs (such as Marks and Spencers)
  • some publishers will use employees to design cards while others will use freelance illustrators/artists and others a mix of both
  • timelines for publishing and ordering mean that, like fashion, the production of cards predates their launch in the shops by quite a few months.  The cards for the Spring will generally be launched the previous summer.
  • this is a list of all Greeting Cards Association members who are looking for freelance artists
The Spring Fair
Spring Fair International is the UK’s largest art and framing show, and first on the international calendar. It’s an essential event for thousands of retailers and the perfect place to find quality originals, new signings and limited editions from international art publishers, top UK brands and independent artists.
This is the week of the Spring Fair at the National Exhibition Centre.  It's an event for buyers and it opened on 6th February and continues until 10th February.  This is the UK's biggest retail fair and it includes sections devoted to Art and Framing (ie reproductions) and Greetings Cards
Buyers come to source It’s the place to find framing machinery, mouldings and materials, quality originals, new signings and limited editions from international art publishers, top UK brands and independent artists. 
Art and Framing
Join the world’s leading collection of greetings publishers and designers. Britain is the creative hub of the global greetings card industry, and Spring Fair International is its annual highlight. No other show in the world compares for breadth of product or design - so if you’re in greetings, you need to be at Spring Fair International.
Greetings and Stationery
See Greetings & Stationery exhibitors here.  These give you a sense of the cards which are offered as retail merchandise.


Vivien Blackburn highlighted a blog for me last week which begins to answer some of the questions about greeting cards.

Tigerprint is a blog which hosts competitions to find suitable images for greeting cards produced by freelance artists.
The Tigerprint business was formed in 1996 to supply exclusive cards and wrapping to Marks and Spencer. We now design and manufacture over 1500 new products created every year.
Down the left hand side of the blog you can see a number of the monthly competitions.  These vary - some are focused on photography, some on art.  What you can see on each link is a gallery of images sent into the competition.

Examples include:
The blog also provides profiles of artists designing greeting cards and examples of their work.

What did strike me after reviewing all this information is that greetings cards market is dominated by illustrators rather than fine artists.  


  1. This is an interesting topic! It's big business because we all still like to send cards, but I wonder how people feel about the selections on offer. Whenever I'm looking for a card I'm usually standing with a lot of other people looking uninspired going over and over them in case I've missed something worth buying. I love M&S but those cards look to me like wallpaper samples - dull, bland, generic etc. Personally I think the manufacturers need to take a few risks, inject some excitement into them. There are some wonderful artists producing great cards but you really have to look hard to find them.

  2. I totally agree Felicity

    I've been watching Tigerprint as one of my students has been designing cards and sending them in to them.

    Few of those chosen would appeal to me for the reasons you've given. Bland, not desperately contemporary at all - just boring.

    I'm going to have a go when the topic appeals to me though

  3. The greeting card business seems to be in the mids of the big digital change.
    When I look at cards available in real shops I get the impression that the traditional publishers stick to their "old" recipes and do not dare to take a risk. Thus they probably will miss a lot of the trendy business that is generated via internet.

    Tigerprint is a great example!


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