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Opinion: Bright founder shares her views

Vicki Willden-Lebrecht on Bright Agency celebrating its 21st birthday at PG Live with futureproof plan

 

“In a world saturated with cookie-cutter templates and generic graphics, it is craftsmanship and quality that comes out on top,” believes Vicki Willden-Lebrecht, founder of Bright Group International, which represents artists and authors, providing designs for many greeting card and gift companies, book publishers as well as film and tv businesses.

As The Bright Group puts the finishing touches to its stand 327 for Progressive Greetings Live – which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday, 4-5 June – it is celebrating its 21st birthday, and Vicki shares her take on the greeting card scene as well as how she is futureproofing her business.

Above: Vicki Willden-Lebrecht, founder of Bright Group International
Above: Vicki Willden-Lebrecht, founder of Bright Group International

“In an era dominated by digital communication, it could be argued that the fate of traditional greeting cards hangs in the balance. Yet I see incredible resilience and adaptability from the industry in response to this quickly-evolving landscape.

“The industry has already responded to the demand for ecologically-friendly cards using recycled materials, biodegradable packaging, accepting the fate of flitter. I have every confidence we will witness a similar revolution in response to the world’s taste evolving as we see Procreate, Canva and Instagram democratise design.

“As the founder of an agency, our success has always been our ability to react and respond and meet the design needs of our clients, championing them to find originality and quality artwork.”

The Digital Dilemma

“With the option of e-cards, social media messages, and instant communication platforms, one might expect the traditional greeting card industry to falter. What’s more, Canva, Procreate and Instagram are empowering individuals to create their own masterpieces with just a few clicks.

Above & top: A design by artist Richard Jones, represented by The Bright Agency
Above & top: A design by artist Richard Jones, represented by The Bright Agency

“What we have found in this influx of immediate, cheap design is that it may be the very thing that will keep the creative and illustration industry alive.

“In a sense, social media means everyone has become an art curator. With a catalogue of images at their fingertips, individuals are significantly more adept at discerning strong design and artistic talent. They have become attuned to nuances of colour, typography and layout. And they’re not afraid to seek out products that reflect these newfound preferences.

“The consumer is consistently exercising their visual acumen and developing personal tastes, so in a world saturated with cookie-cutter templates and generic graphics, it is craftsmanship and quality that comes out on top.

Above: A trio of designs by Sarah Long, represented by The Bright Agency
Above: A trio of designs by Sarah Long, represented by The Bright Agency

“Take Sarah Long, a digital artist whose work is, by nature, more vulnerable to imitation. But it’s her unique line, distinctive form and deliberate palette choices that consumers continue to gravitate towards. It’s this artistic intuition that cannot be replicated.

“Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, mass-market, cheap design simply cannot deliver an authentic, heartfelt message. In the realm of greeting cards and gifts, where personal connections are paramount, the allure of human drawn and created illustration is making a powerful comeback. Consumers are attuned to quality design.

“An excellent example of this is Richard Jones. His illustrations stir the soul in a way perfectly suited to convey heartfelt sentiments. As the world’s tastes are altered through social media, we see this as the direction card artwork is headed.

Above: A design by Richard Jones, represented by The Bright Agency
Above: A design by Richard Jones, represented by The Bright Agency

Growing demand for authenticity

“To ensure our agency stands side-by-side with the greeting card industry, we’re embracing significant changes to meet this growing demand for authenticity. In many respects, we’re already ahead of the curve.

“When Bright was founded 21 years ago, we made a bold choice: we selected artists with unique potential, not just standard jobbing illustrators for the greeting card market. Our artists work across a multitude of industries.

“We passionately believe that, for artists to reach their full earning potential, they should embrace all sectors and, as an agency, we successfully work across publishing, licensing and design, and advertising.

“It’s a welcome opportunity for our illustrators as they love the greetings and gift market. Not only does it increase their visibility in retail, but it adds a further dimension to work and they have such pride in seeing their designs across quality products. What’s more, the breadth of work we offer our creatives means our clients can have some autonomy of that artist within their sector.

“In light of new consumer trends our portfolio will only showcase the finest in authentic artistry. We support greeting card publishers to meet the growing trend for transparency and answer the consumers’ demand to centre the artist.

Above: Artist Mary Atwood’s work was the basis of the product range Bright developed with Harrods
Above: Artist Mary Atwood’s work was the basis of the product range Bright developed with Harrods

“Buyers care about the lifecycle of their product. We uphold principled practices throughout our operations, ensuring fair compensation for artists and promoting environmentally-friendly production methods wherever possible. By aligning with publishers who share these values, we contribute to a more ethical greeting card industry as a whole

“Our illustrators have a multitude of styles, work from on-trend briefs with retailer feedback and are working across publishing, design, film and TV and editorial. This means you won’t see standard or rigid stock images. Our artwork has energy and soul as our core business is to develop key looks, collaborate and do exquisite work that becomes High Street bestsellers.

“A great example of this is the work we did for Harrods. We want to support our clients doing large ranges with specific looks from our artists, such as Mary Atwood. You won’t find us using the same artist or style across multiple extended ranges or brands for competitors. We know the value of exclusivity.

Above: Some of the final products in the Harrods range which featured designs by Mary Atwood, represented by The Bright Agency
Above: Some of the final products in the Harrods range which featured designs by Mary Atwood, represented by The Bright Agency

“Despite challenges posed by digital alternatives, the global greeting card market is projected to maintain steady growth in the coming years. According to recent market research, 94% of the UK adult population has bought at least one card in the last year, which is up on previous reports – I believe quality design will support that growth.

“As we navigate this brave new world of consumer taste and design appreciation, one thing is clear: the future looks brighter and more beautiful than ever. And, while digital innovations continue to reshape consumer behaviour, the timeless appeal of physical cards endures.”

The Bright Agency will be exhibiting at PG Live next week (June 4-5) at London’s Business Design Centre on Stand 327.

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