Anyone who expects to receive a holiday card from me this year should look away. Visit this post after you've received the card in the mail. Hahaha, who am I kidding? You know you want a sneak peek.
This year I got lucky. I got Minted from the Parent Bloggers Network. No, "Minted" is not like being wedgied. Rather, minted.com is a fabulous online stationery store with fabulous holiday photo cards.
These cards were designed from a variety of different sources (via a "design challenge".) Winners are available to purchase.
I had a difficult decision because there are so many amazing designs. Several designs are available in a variety of colors, plus any design can be personalized in color, font, wording, and so forth, so the options are endless - with one exception I'll note shortly. It took several days for me to narrow down my choices. I ended up doing mock-ups of four different cards before I selected the Cheery Winter Swirl Holiday Card.
One factor that complicated my decision was that I really wanted to include information about our family (a la the traditional family holiday letter.) Some of the Minted designs included an option for a "timeline." This clever take on the holiday letter is something I thought would be particularly exciting for those families who had specific events they wish to highlight: faster and more interesting than a lengthy letter.
But I wanted to highlight more general things, like the Cat's soccer success and Spliggle's gymnastics affinity, both of which don't have "dates" attached. As these cards are highly customizable, I decided that instead of four timeline dates, I'd have four "timeline" titles that were actually our names. I could then write a little paragraph about each family member's activities for the year.
Like this [screenshot, so enlargement links don't work]:
As much as I like the result, I really connected with the Cheery Winter Swirl. But - yes, you guessed it - this particular design didn't have a "timeline" option: just a flat card or a fold-over [blank inside.]
I wish all cards could do the timeline. For example, in the card I previewed above, had the mint background been red and the font set to match the Cheery Winter Swirl design, we'd be in business: no swirls necessary on the inside time-line unless the designer wanted to specifically create a layout for this. I would think (naive, I know!) that this very simple layout could work for any card (even the vertical ones could simply open up to have the timeline horizontal; I wouldn't mind tilting a card to see it.) But alas, while many designs have this option, many do not.
Once I made up my mind about the cards themselves, I had to decide whether to have plain envelopes, printed envelopes, or address labels. I selected gorgeous swirly address labels with our name and address printed in block letters above the swirl.
One thing that made me a bit nervous about ordering address labels, though, is that frequently such things are so shiny that one cannot use pen without creating a smudgy situation. Pencil is too light, and it is tough to find dry pens dark enough to make an impression (figuratively and literally.) I am pleased to report that the address labels I received from minted.com have a tiny bit of sheen to them - indicating quality and style - but are primarily matte, and can handle my favorite rather wet black pen. Although it required a bit of drying time, within a few minutes I could wipe my hand across it with no smudge.
Purchasing the cards was a tad bit nerve wracking because I wanted to make sure I had made The Right Choice. Finally satisfied, I placed my order. An email arrived two days later asking me to approve the proof. The proof wasn't attached. I wrote back and within 20 minutes, "Rick" apologized and attached the proof. He made an interesting modification to our card to accommodate our hyphenated last-name personalization. As he did this, I realized I wanted to drop the "s" (Because while "The*Harrisons" sounds fine, "Johnson*Harrisons" sounds a bit off; whereas just "Johnson*Harrison" looks classy, especially given the little star-as-hyphen the Minted designer created for us (instead of "The*Harrisons" like above)
And then the proof came back with a printed envelope rather than the way-cool address labels.
A bit sheepish on the "I want to drop the 's' in the family name" and "OMG I thought I ordered the address labels but maybe I didn't because you gave me the printed envelope," I wrote the designer back with the "I do not approve this proof" box checked. I felt guilty, but need not have, because within two days I received a new proof (and an apology about the envelope printing versus address-label mix-up,) and it was good to go. I need not have been worried about placing the order because I had an opportunity to alter the design even after the first proof (customers receive two free proofs; a third is $50.)
After I said "yes," I had a quick moment of freak-out because I noticed that one under-the-line letter came mighty close to the "All is calm, all is bright" text. I hoped they wouldn't run together, but crossed my fingers that the designer would nudge the two apart. The small size of the proof made it a bit difficult to tell what the spacing was like. (I understand why they don't do a larger one - we don't want folks just printing it off on their home computer.) Again, I need not worried, the finished cards look wonderful.
My order mailed four days after proof-approval (which was two business days.) I ordered on a Monday and the completed order was shipped the following Tuesday, and that had included the one proof modification - so most cards would likely ship same week as order. The package was beautiful - the cards were surrounded in shredded black paper, carefully cushioning them. The stack was shrink wrapped, as were the envelopes and address labels. Everything was carefully packed such that they would arrive unbent and beautiful. The insides were tied with a mint green bow and a sticker specifically saying the order was for "Kari" packed by "Rob."
The whole process was very personalized. I knew if I had any questions about the design, I could email "Rick." And if the package had been damaged in some way or packed crazily, I could blame "Rob." (Instead, Rob gets tremendous kudos for a beautiful presentation.)
The cards themselves are absolutely gorgeous. They are sturdy, high-end, and made from 100% post-consumer waste.
This amazingness does come with a price, though. These cards are very expensive. Even with the discount I received for being a reviewer, I spent more this year than I did on our cards last year, which in many ways were comparable in quality, design, and customer service.
The ultimate question: will I go to who we used last year, or use minted.com the next time I need to order cards?
The answer: I am not sure. I have been exceptionally impressed with both companies, so will likely go on which design options are available at the time. Yes, the price might be a consideration, but if I really like a minted.com design, I'd be willing to pay more, especially if it is printed on recycled paper. Yes, the competitor also has some designs on 100% post-consumer waste, but there are many more options at minted.com. I could gush for days about both companies, so rest assured I'll check out both sites when I need some cards!
Just for fun, here is the stamp that will complete our look for our card mailing this year:
I can't wait to mail these out!