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Dash of Inspiration – December 12, 2011

December 12, 2011

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

Facelifts for Old Cards

When I joined GCU in April of 2009, I came with no experience for Greeting Card creation; certainly not the All Occasion type that are big sellers at GCU.  As most artists who’ve spent time in the gallery and art show environments, I sold my work on Fine Art Greeting Cards; those blank cards with the same art which was offered as Open Edition or Limited Edition prints, but had never attempted cards for specific relations and occasions. So my time at GCU has been a huge learning experience.

The cards that I create today are far superior in the quality of design layout and typography to those cards in my first year with GCU.  This does not mean that some of those cards never sold, in fact many did, but that doesn’t mean I don’t cringe when I see them in my store today.  I have always been my worse critic and as I’ve grown in all areas of my art and photography over the years, I often look back at work I once was proud of and am embarrassed to have it sitting next to my current creations.  Knowing that the ‘weeding process’ was in full swing, I began giving my old cards a facelift.

This week, I thought I would share my own redesign efforts to offer examples of what was considered, even if only by me during my own weeding efforts, designs with an unprofessional look along side the same card with it’s new facelift.  Perhaps this will inspire more of you to take another look at cards you created a year or two ago.  You should all see a significant change and improvement in your style of layout, use of text and overall design qualities.   Every time we create a new card we should be learning something new which we can apply to future designs and to these much needed redesigns.

Each of these examples has a link below it which can be clicked on, and you will be taken to a nice large view in Flickr so you can see the difference between old and new.

Image 1:


The reviewers beat me to this series of cards and many of these cards had sold (as is) both at GCU and elsewhere, but  the reviewers were right.  The photograph with the carpet and baby feet was not professional and not appealing.  Since these were returned to me to improve the image, I was able to swap the image out for the whole series with a much more professional looking photograph. While I was at it, improve the text and even the color . . . what was I thinking when I made these?  Surely you will all agree that what the reviewer saw made perfect sense and in returning it to me I was able to redesign the entire series with a much improved design.

Image 2:


This patriotic card series had unprofessional text effects; the unsightly ‘glow’ to get the text lifted off the background I now understand to be a technique which professional designers do not use excessively like I did.  Also the overall tonal values of this card and the denim background are flat and just not appealing.  My redesign of this series improved the saturation, but also used professional techniques for text layout.  The result is a much more professional looking design.

Image 3:


YUCK!  Again, why people are buying these cards is beyond me!  The sepia tone looks for like jaundice and the text is not only TOO BIG as if I’m yelling at the recipient, but once again I used that awful beveling technique which on text is rarely professional looking.  Wedding and anniversary cards either need to be very elegant or fun, anything in between is usually ignored by the consumers.  I now understand that text choice, color combinations and visual harmony are critical to standing strong against the competition for these categories and my redesign reflects what I’ve learned.

Image 4:


Oh, I cringe at this card and yet again it sold many times for male relations most likely because of the wording rather than the image and layout.  This image was from those days (well in the past now) that I played too much with Photoshop filters, in this case Posterization; a filter I never go near anymore unless I’m making a poster for a play or event.  About four years ago I stepped foot into art licensing world for getting my art on products and  learned the lesson about digital manipulation using these types of filters.  Professional agencies, such as Art Licensing & Publishing Companies see this as an immediate red flag that the artist is an amateur.  Unfortunately when I created this card, I didn’t remember that lesson!  The redesign has the imaged changed for a painting I’d done, but I wished to keep the nautical theme because the message was the key for this card and a MUCH improved text choice and layout.

Image 5:


This card series has also been quite popular.  I’ve sold about 250 cards on GCU alone between custom sales and original versions, but when I look at this series, once again I don’t see professional designs, whether they sold or not.  The overall design is cluttered with all the borders and the text on the background.  The typography is also unprofessional, both because of the beveling and because of the layout.  Again I realize that the main selling point of this series is the message, but this series is in-process as I write this with a facelift that softens the design, reduces the clutter and makes for a more elegant card that will stand proudly against the competition.

As I continue to weed my own designs and improve them with all that I’ve learned over the past couple of years, I hope that by offering these examples of my own embarrassments I might help some of you see your own cards with new eyes; or inspire those of you who haven’t found the time yet to dig in and see what treasures you can create with a few tweaks on those old designs!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2011 9:31 am

    A excellent post, Doreen. I am also weeding my way through my earlier cards. Sometimes the “tweaks” are substantial!

  2. December 12, 2011 9:45 am

    Great post Doreen, I too just went through for a weed out and need to get at it again! I love the way you reworked your cards to freshen them up. Thanks for showing us even though you had a few cringes!

  3. December 12, 2011 1:16 pm

    Oh Doreen, do I have my work cut out! Thanks for the inspiration to get it done, and it is so helpful to see how and why you made the changes to each card. I am adding ‘time to update cards’ to my Christmas wish list 🙂

  4. December 12, 2011 2:07 pm

    I just wanted to tell you that this was a very informative piece. Thank you for sharing this information.

  5. December 12, 2011 2:37 pm

    Thanks, Doreen, This post is extremely helpful and inspiring. It’s amazing and instructive to see how you took the same or similar elements in the first design and re-worked them to make a much more appealing card. Cathy

  6. December 12, 2011 2:37 pm

    Wow! This offers wonderful insight on self-critiquing, and your redesigned cards are stunning! Thanks Doreen, we’re grateful that you took the time to share your expertise with us. 🙂

  7. December 12, 2011 3:56 pm

    How in the world do you find the TIME!!

  8. December 12, 2011 5:08 pm

    Great post Doreen and I join you in feeling the same way about my old cards. Yuck to many of them. It’s a big job to revise any collection but well worth it. My favorite is #4. Truly a different card. Yup, it’s all about the message when designing cards. It is the most important element.

  9. December 12, 2011 9:42 pm

    Wonderful post and great changes to your cards Doreen!
    I’ve deleted about 200…and made many changes to others since we’ve improved on Marketability.
    More like “What was I thinking” than Yuck. Yuck can be fixed, what was I thinking on the other hand just needed to be “Self-Declined”, lol.
    Although it’s time consuming with more than 6,000 in my store, well worth the process to have more marketable cards than not.
    Thank you for all the great advice, and to everyone helping us work towards the same goal!
    Janet Lee

  10. Priscilla Starling permalink
    December 12, 2011 10:48 pm

    Hi Doreen! As usual you have offered the GCU artist a wonderful look into the world of card creation, and how looking back at our own early card creations let us see how we have grown in our artistry, or should have! We ALL need to ‘clean house’ and throw out the bad ones and update cards that can be saved.



  11. Audrey Ascenzo permalink
    December 12, 2011 11:06 pm

    Nice explanation of your process. A good point you make is that cards can sell even with art/design problems. But a well designed card with a great message can be timeless and keep giving sales indefinitely. When you are willing to see your mistakes and learn how to
    rework and correct them, you become a better artist. Great job Doreen!


  12. December 13, 2011 2:05 am

    Very helpful. Hopefully, all of us improve with time and experience as you have done. As a photographer, my biggest problem is finding royalty free artwork to combine with my photos and make a good design. Purchased Serf Draw Plus in hopes of learning to draw, but it doesn’t do much. Any suggestions for others like myself who need help with the artwork (versus the photos)?
    Thanks. I always enjoy your dashes of inspiration.

    • December 13, 2011 2:53 am

      Hi Lloyd,

      Most of what you see here that accompanies my photographs and art are in the form of Photoshop Brushes, Patterns, and Shapes known as Presets. There are thousands of these available for commercial use. You can hunt down free ones, reading the Terms of Use carefully of course, or you can purchase a license to download and use them. These would be my best suggestion to combine with your photographs.

      I do my best to pass on great FREEBIES when I find them, both on my Facebook Fan Page and here in my weekly posts. So go search through the old posts and grab some great ones. You can also go to my ‘archive site’ and grab some from 2010 and early this year.

      This link is here:
      You’ll see a category list on the right side and you can browse through those to see if there is anything you can use.

      • December 13, 2011 2:59 am

        Thanks so very much. I have downloaded a few. I’m 77, and easily forget exactly what I have downloaded. I suspect I need to make a printed list that I can easily refer to.
        Thanks again.

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