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GCA Engages With The Next Generation, Hertfordshire Uni Students Embrace A Design Brief

As part of a mission to engage with the next generation of greeting card designers and publishers, members of the GCA gave an engaging presentation to Illustration & Graphic Design undergraduates at the University of Hertfordshire, which inspired and informed in equal measure. And, having whetted the students’ appetites to the important psychological and aesthetic role of greeting cards, they were issued with a brief for them to try their hands at designing a greeting card for Thinking of You Week, with the winning submission to be printed and go on sale in House of Cards’ shops.

The association’s Next Generation thrust is being spearheaded by Chris Bryan, joint general manager of Second Nature and vice president of the GCA.

“New designers and publishers are the lifeblood of our industry, bringing in fresh ideas and approaches, yet so many talented illustration students out there have little idea of the opportunities that are open to them,” explained Chris. And he knows better than most, as his own son Thomas is in his final year of an Illustration & Graphic Design degree at the School of Creative Arts, which is part of the University of Hertfordshire.

Dr Thomas Cuschieri, the senior lecturer in Illustration & Graphic Design at the University, immediately saw merit in the students being given an insight into the workings of the greeting card industry as well as them being set a brief with a chance to see their designs being made into real greeting cards.

In a pacey Zoom session, Chris, together with Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCAAdriana Lovesy, owner of Mrs Lovesy and GCA Council Member and Grace Elphinstone, marketing manager of Carte Blanche Greetings collectively explained how the industry works, the stories behind each of their companies, top tips for designing greeting cards as well as the potential as a career choice.

Above: (left-right, top to bottom) Dr Thomas Cuschieri (University of Hertfordshire), Amanda Fergusson (GCA), Chris Bryan (Second Nature), Adriana Lovesy (Mrs Lovesy) and Grace Elphinstone (Carte Blanche) on the Zoom lecture. (The students were not visible).
Above: (left-right, top to bottom) Dr Thomas Cuschieri (University of Hertfordshire), Amanda Fergusson (GCA), Chris Bryan (Second Nature), Adriana Lovesy (Mrs Lovesy) and Grace Elphinstone (Carte Blanche) on the Zoom lecture. (The students were not visible).

“The thing we all have in common is the passion for greeting cards, it is a lovely industry to be a part of. We hope at the end of our presentation, you may think about joining us – you will be made very welcome,” began Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the GCA before handing over to Chris.

“Greeting cards are a product that brings emotion and sentiment into someone’s heart. Everything we do is designed to be sent to someone to let me know that someone is out there thinking of them, whether a sad occasion or a happy one,” said Chris. He also highlighted how greeting cards are also reflections of life, the design styles, subject matters and words used “document history.”

Above: Chris Bryan explained about how Second Nature has developed as a business from founder Rod Schragger starting out by bringing back a suitcase full of cards from the States to sell.
Above: Chris Bryan explained about how Second Nature has developed as a business from founder Rod Schragger starting out by bringing back a suitcase full of cards from the States to sell.

As well as amplifying Chris’ message about the positive role greeting cards play Adriana Lovesy highlighted some of the key lessons she has learned since starting her business, from showing at trade shows to entering The Henries, joining the GCA to broadening your distribution channels.

“This is a great industry, but you have to stand out. Find your own style, know your USP and be true to yourself,” stressed Adriana.

Above: Adriana Lovesy stressed the importance of having your own look.
Above: Adriana Lovesy stressed the importance of having your own look.

Grace Elphinstone, marketing manager of Carte Blanche Greetings then regaled the students with the incredible entrepreneurial story of how Stephen Haines’ sold his motorbike to start the company, with just six card designs, but how its products are now sold in thousands of retailers, how Me to You has 96% brand awareness with Tatty licensed across all manner of merchandise. “But remember, all that started from a greeting card,” she concluded.

Above: CBG’s Grace Elphinstone explained how the group was started by an entrepreneur with a passion and six greeting card designs.
Above: CBG’s Grace Elphinstone explained how the group was started by an entrepreneur with a passion and six greeting card designs.

Students were then taken through the brief for the design competition, which will see them creating a suitable design for a Thinking of You card.

Open to both the final year and second year students on the course, they now have until April 21 to make their submissions. Entries will be judged by panel comprising Amanda, Chris, Adriana, Grace as well as Miles Robinson of House of Cards, Alice Buck of Loxleys and PG’s Jakki Brown. While Loxleys is to undertake the printing of the cards (for the winner and two runners-up), Enveco is providing the envelopes. Law firm Briffa was involved in checking the terms and conditions.

Thomas Bryan, student rep and son of Chris, shared student feedback on the GCA team’s presentation:

Above: Chris Bryan (right) and his sone Thomas.
Above: Chris Bryan (right) and his son Thomas.

“The presentation was an amazing insight into the greeting card industry and was very engaging. Unlike other external lectures, where companies tend to promote themselves, this lecture allowed us to see not only how different companies within the industry started out but also how they’ve grown”, said Thomas. “This neatly tied into the section regarding the different paths into the industry you can take as an illustrator, and again was both refreshing and enlightening as there was no corporate agenda, just a very simple explanation of the options”.

He was very enthusiastic about the brief, “leaving us all really excited as we haven’t had an opportunity like this before. It genuinely felt like a real opportunity for us rather than being used as a free/cheap resource for creative ideas. Many thanks to those who made it possible and for the opportunity to help out the future generation of the creative world!” added Thomas.

Details of the initiative are featured on a Blog post on the GCA website (https://www.gca.cards/how-to-get-into-the-greeting-card-industry/)

with extra information in the members’ area, including the presentation (https://www.gca.cards/gca-toolkit-for-student-presentations/)

“This is a wonderful start to our engagement with the Next Generation. What we hope is that other publishers can now start to forge relationships with other colleges, universities and schools so we can continue this journey,” said Amanda Fergusson.

Top: The University of Hertfordshire.

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