‘Tis the Season to Follow the Brief: Designing Holiday Greeting Cards
Some briefs are uninspiring from the get go. Here’s how to be proud of your work even with the most mundane briefs.
Sometimes, a designer and a brief just don’t seem to hit it off. Every creative has the occasional brief that does none of the raising-interesting-questions or calling-for-visual-problem-solving. Instead, some projects deal with a problem that has already been solved, revisited and reimagined countless times before. These briefs are as old as time, constantly reiterated until they’re taken for granted, just like sunset photos or inspirational quotes on landscape backgrounds.
According to Wix designers Yotam Kellner and Dafna Sharabi, the best way to go about uninteresting briefs is to humbly acknowledge them as what they are. “I try to look at cliché briefs as an opportunity to let go and liberate myself as a designer,” says Dafna. “I decide right off the bat that it’s not time for a profound or groundbreaking concept, and that’s okay. As a result, I’m free to focus my efforts on execution.” In other words, when the idea is mediocre – it’s the visuals’ time to shine.
Freedom from the burden of originality
Since not all designers can practice the same degree of zen with their uninspiring briefs, Yotam and Dafna decided to conduct a speedy workshop on the topic, for the 2018 Playground web design program alumni. Earlier this week, the program’s recent graduates reunited for a short hands-on session at the Playground center in Manhattan. The objective was to tackle an exceptionally unexceptional brief – creating a holiday greeting card. The holiday season, with its annual dosage of red-and-green, string lights and candlelight, snowflakes and snow sleds – has been approached by almost any designer imaginable, starting with the greatest (such as this take on the holidays by Keith Haring), to the commercial (like this McDonald’s ad by Leo Burnett) and everything in between.
With such a wide variety of content under the same topic, is there any room for new greeting cards? Can a fresh voice still be heard? If you ask Yotam, it’s best not to get caught too up with soul-searching questions. “We kept the workshop short – it was just a few quick hours, which helped us skip over the part of the process where designers can afford to grow frustrated with the brief and lose track,” Yotam explains. “If all you have are three or four hours, you’re not going to linger on the conceptual aspects. Instead, you’re much more likely to cut straight to production.”
In order to truly liberate workshop participants from the pressure of coming up with a mind boggling idea, Yotam invited them to play a game of free association. The workshop kicked off with a group brainstorming session, starting with the most obvious of nouns that the holiday season brings to mind: tree; light; snow; family and friends – the list of familiar holiday jargon goes on. But what might have been disheartening in other instances, was in this case a much welcomed exercise. The terms were written down and mixed up in a raffle, so as to randomly distribute the concepts between the participants. The raffle encouraged an ‘everything goes’ sort of attitude, a feeling similar to picking a concept out of an online random word generator.
Animating the holiday spirit
We’ve only just parted with our Halloween costumes, and the Playground offices are already embracing the winter festivities. Blasting a holiday playlist and seasonal decor, the workshop participants were quick to catch up with the holiday spirit and jumped straight into their design processes. By the end of the workshop a few short hours later, they all had fun, imaginative greeting cards to show for themselves. The cards are all digital, which means that they can be easily shared with family and friends online and on social media.
To make the most out of the digital platform, many designers chose to add cycle animations or loops to their cards. Fashion designer and illustrator Ivy Chen, for example, animated a group of marshmallows spending quality time together in a steamy cup of cocoa. UX designer Miki Twersky created a personal take on a Jewish Christmas, marked by a very non-celebratory serving of Chinese takeout. Others had fun with picking up different materials and experimenting with them on the go. Whichever the case, it was clear that the participants were able to see the assignment through without overthinking it, in order to complete their task just on time. And that on its own is reason to celebrate.
Text Eden Spivak