A holiday card is indeed a gift unto itself. To those looking for ideas or tips on how to elevate their Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or general holiday card game and make the best card in 2023, Jim Leahey, General Manager for Cards & Stationery at Shutterfly, suggests considering what personalized holiday cards mean to us in the first place. “They’re representations of who we are,” says Leahey, “and what we want to communicate to all the people we’re closest to in our lives—those twenty or one hundred closest friends and relatives.” Beyond that, and whether you lean toward something formal, candid, or whimsical, and whether your holiday card photo is professionally done or a selfie, Leahey says “a card should be fun to make and fun for people to receive.” Here we’ll dive deeper into what goes into a great card for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, and any other holiday.
The Best Layout For Your Holiday Card
If you’re making a photo holiday card, you’ll want to choose a template that fits the way you’d like to represent yourself and your year. For instance, you might have a new baby or pet or be a newly married couple or have a standout element in your life that, narratively-speaking, would lend itself to celebrating such things in the largest possible space and, therefore, with a single image. In this case, picking a holiday card template featuring one image and, perhaps, with a full bleed design, where the image is printed edge-to-edge, would seem the perfect choice. If, on the other hand, you have a big family and you’d like to give everyone their highlight or if you want to share an amazing trip you’ve taken to, say, Europe, or the Western part of the United States, you might be better off choosing a card template that allows you to share more memories and with more photos.
“If you have an even bigger story to tell,” says Leahey, “you may want to go with our gatefold card design,” which, factoring its front and back, offers six panels with which to express yourself. With its folding design and the extra real estate, the gatefold form factor lends a storybook feel to your holiday card. But Leahey points to another new, exciting option for those wanting a sense of expansiveness to tell their story, and that’s Shutterfly’s enclosure cards. These are great for those who’d like to share more holiday news, if not a recipe or a moving announcement or anything else that needs more space, and perhaps the best part is the ability to coordinate the design of one’s enclosure card with one’s chosen card itself.
A Cardstock To Match Your Holiday Greeting
One of the most important, if perhaps most overlooked, keys to making the best holiday or Christmas card is choosing a standout cardstock. As Leahey points out, “Holiday cards are special in part because they’re these tangible connections we extend to others during the holiday season,” and the paper itself should feel worthy of the creativity, time, and sentiment that the design and mailing of the card represents. Speaking of Shutterfly’s Signature smooth paper—our most popular cardstock at 140 lbs—Leahey says, and in contrast with less substantial cardstocks on the market, “it has the weight, thickness, and feel that shows that this is something important.”
New this year as well is Shutterfly’s luxe, double-thick cardstock—twice the weight and thickness of our 140 lbs cardstock. The result is a 280 lbs, double-thick cardstock worthy of center stage on the fireplace mantel. Leahey says that while card senders and receivers will instantly recognize the lasting, keepsake value of these cards, encouraging recipients to keep them around well beyond the holiday season, some might decide to print two versions of their cards—one on the Shutterfly Signature cardstock, and a limited number on the double-thick cardstock.
Design Your Holiday Card In Style
Leahey likes to imagine personalized Christmas and holiday cards as collaborations between Shutterfly’s internal design team, Shutterfly’s external design partners, and customers. The goal is to offer card senders enough designs so they can find one that matches their photo or one that, in its layout or conception, brings something special out of the photo or photos, but at the same time to keep the process of making a DIY holiday card easy and fun. Along these lines, many of Shutterfly’s holiday cards use our “greeting selector,” allowing the sender to change Happy Holidays to, say, Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. Likewise, many of our card designs feature a color wheel, allowing you to change a card’s background from, say, red to green or any color you’d prefer. Senders can choose from amongst numerous unique greetings and sayings, from funny to heartwarming, to give their holiday or Christmas cards special character, and the fonts themselves are often changeable, giving the card sender complete freedom to alter the typeface and so many other aspects of card design.
Looking for more ideas or tips or wondering how to boost your holiday, Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s card game in other ways? A great place to start is with personalized foil, in gold, rose gold, or iridescent. You may, Leahey says, want to put your family name in foil or even change the name space in the template to a lighthearted message or saying about you and your dog. The envelopes are just as customizable as the cards. Consider, for instance, adding gold liners to match your gold foil card, or going with full color envelopes—each an opportunity to make it a package that’s both personal and coordinated. “It can be as simple or as coordinated as you want,” says Leahey, adding that Shutterfly aims to present customers with enough design styles so they can find the best ones to represent themselves, their families, and their community circles. “But all of our designs are going to be beautiful, on-trend, and with enough options where you can choose something that really represents you.”
Taking Your Holiday Or Christmas Card From Good To Great
While some holiday card senders are traditional, others are family-oriented. While some are irreverent, others have a quirky sense of humor, and it’s often best when these parts of one’s personality and identity are represented in their holiday cards. Leahey, though, says that, no matter one’s approach, a successful holiday or Christmas card “makes the recipient feel connected to you when they receive it.” And a good DIY card design, he says, will play a role in allowing you to express yourself. That expression may be how you’re feeling at the time you make your Christmas or holiday card or the way you always are; it could be a snapshot from the year or a reflection of lots of things that made up the year. “It’s very personal,” Leahey says, “and it can vary year-to-year, depending on what’s going on in one’s life and what one wants to express.”
That said, Leahey allows that one of his favorite holiday card tropes features a pair of images, the first presented as “our holiday photo” and the second “our real life photo.” Referring to this flavor of holiday card and in the context of contrasts sometimes seen—and perhaps most prevalent in social media—where people are putting their best face on while the reality can be quite different, Leahey says that “when people are candid and transparent and honest in that way, it can be both heartwarming and funny.”
Another recent Shutterfly holiday card that stands out for Leahey is one released during the first year of the Covid pandemic and which featured the sentiment: “Well, that was crazy.” The photos people chose for it—them simply sitting on their porch or showing the craziness of everyone self-isolating at home and on top of each other—often highlighted the otherness as well as the mundane ups and downs of the pandemic. Similarly, a card newly-available this year features a unique greeting that reads: “Dear 2021: Really?” Leahey says that while the pandemic has clearly presented enormous difficulties for many people, “it’s certainly been unusual for everyone.” People, he says, are expressing themselves in different, interesting ways with photos “and we’re trying to help them find that balance of emotion—whether it’s a little bit of levity, a little bit of joy—celebrating the good things.”
Leahey recalls the experience of watching, in one of Shutterfly’s card manufacturing facilities, all the Christmas and holiday cards roll off the industrial printers—seeing, as he says, “card after card of memories come through—all getting out to the right homes and making the holiday season special.” For Leahey and millions of Shutterfly customers, every holiday card made equals a cascade of joy sent and received.