Greeting cards make a comeback
Forty years ago, the sending and receiving of Christmas greeting cards was one of the steps in declaring adulthood and establishing one’s own home. Part of becoming an adult was communicating the year’s events to family and friends.
In the Christmas letter that went with the card, there was some bragging about the good things in one’s life but it was also a vehicle to let people know about deaths or difficulties.
As Christmas became more about persuading consumers to buy, greeting card companies understood this. They grew their sales by offering greater varieties of cards, including boxed sets and charitable cards. Businesses began sending greeting cards to each other as a thank you for the work done together that year.
What had once been an important personal act of communication between the sender and receiver morphed into another job to do.
Today many of us use Facebook or Instagram to communicate the daily details of our life and to keep our network of family and friends up to date. Without any effort from us, Facebook even produces a video of a “year in our life” based on our postings. Where then does the holiday greeting card and Christmas letter fit in all of this digital communication?
A new vibrant craft industry
Large greeting card companies have seen revenue declines. But a smaller, vibrant craft industry in cards has emerged, and surprisingly, it’s attracting a new, younger customer. While the two generational cohorts before them valued the convenience and speed of digital communication, those born between 1981 and 2000 seek a slower and personal way of doing things.
Part of the reason for this is that adults under 40 years of age grew up with the many risks associated with digital information and devices such as fraud, loss of privacy and identify theft. This group has surprised many with their preference for retro technologies such as beautiful pens, paper books, paper bills and vinyl records.
Regardless of Facebook or Instagram, we still long to have a hand in summing up the year’s events and sharing them with others. Thus, the digital age has also seen a growth in self-produced greeting cards. Instead of a letter documenting the year’s events, a single photo or photo montage are selected by the sender to convey the year’s events. Creating a paper card, writing a letter, or sending a picture postcard means we have an excuse to engage with the images in our digital “shoe boxes.”
The meaning of paper: more than the message
The resilience of paper documents, including greeting cards and Christmas letters, has been a surprise to many.
Those who created digital content systems assumed that they could figuratively scrap the data off the paper, dump the data into a digital system and discard the paper. In reality, the paper was perceived by many to have meaning beyond its function as a data-carrying device.
Information presented on paper provides signals to us, the reader, about the importance of certain information, break points and is presented as the author intended. There is no computer, tablet or phone altering the author’s design and layout. Paper is the “device” that provides consistency between the writer and the reader.