Fifteen Years of Christmas Cards

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Before 2008, I bought Christmas cards. I was always looking for something unique and something that touched me. Every time was a slowly increasing agony. They were either too cheesy, too banal, too romantic, and too everything. The ones I gravitated towards were well designed, clever, and had something different. In 2006 or earlier, I decided to make my own and send them to family and friends as a Christmas present. Still searching each year for something different. At least, they need to be something I have some level of satisfaction within my skills at that time. Looking back they are not all that great because one grows and learns.

The other day Tyson was looking for ideas to send something to his clients. I suggested he could use last year’s cards because I had leftovers. When I was going through the cards, I thought it’d be fun to share these cards with you. In these, you will see when I started lettering. It was not good. But I was persistent. I invite you to look through and take part of this visual journey. (I could not find all my cards, I am missing 2006 and 2007.)

Without further ado, let me start with 2008.


I loved the overlapping and transparency effect. © Alma Hoffmann

Sometimes I try things in my cards. An effect, a method, or a texture. The cards give me the opportunity to push myself in new directions. I had fun with this one.


© Alma Hoffmann

Many Puerto Rican themes have been part of my cards. In this card above I took a story telling approach about the birth of Jesus. The graphics are (gasp) clip art. I am so ashamed now for using it. Hehe! Sometimes I am delayed and happy to say this is the only clip art I have used.


Another Puerto Rican theme. There is a very popular Christmas song in Puerto Rico titled “El Cardenalito”, the cardinal in English. According to the song, the cardinal is red because when Jesus was in the cross, he came to take out the thorns from Jesus’ head. I love, love this song. You can listen to it here.


The typeface here is Mercury Script and this was before I started practicing lettering. © Alma Hoffmann.

Not my lettering. This typeface is Mercury Script. I am starting to get intrigued. Fast forward to current day, I would not use this typeface again. Each letter is beautiful but I don’t like the connecting strokes between letters. It is possible that in my ignorance at the time, I tracked it too tight. Another gasp!


© Alma Hoffmann.

When I designed this card, I had started lettering and practicing very regularly. Still needs finesse and control. This design came out of a sketch I was doing between classes. I asked the printmaking professor to help me print in silver. We had a fun time!


© Alma Hoffmann.

The word light was lettered by me. I was getting more control over the flow and rhythm of the practice. I understood better the flourishes and the connections.


© Alma Hoffmann.

Ornaments make good Christmas cards. Merry Christmas was lettered by me. Trying some ligatures but needed more revisions. And now, I look at it, and want to fix so many things.


© Alma Hoffmann

Getting the iPad Pro allowed me to try other avenues of expression like symmetrical designs.


© Alma Hoffmann

Repeating the theme of “El Cardenalito”. But my lettering game has improved some, right?


© Alma Hoffmann

Sometimes I plan something that require many hands, props, and other things. Like here. I wanted to create a diorama. Had to find (now they are everywhere) miniature trees, grass, and glitter. Then I spray painted the trees in red and the grass. Once they were dry, I placed a black board behind them and had Tyson shower the trees with multiple rounds of glitter. I loved doing this one!


© Alma Hoffmann

This card was printed by Smartpress. They were a joy, no pun intended, to work with. The paper is satin and velvety, very rich. The word joy was lettered by me and printed in metallic gold. Loved doing this card. When it came from the printer, I was so impressed with it.


© Alma Hoffmann

I learned cyanotype this semester during a workshop taught by my friend and colleague Rita. It is a simple process but a fascinating one nonetheless. After the print was dry, I colored it with color pencils, light markers, and finished details digitally. The background pattern came from glass plates Tyson has from his travels to Europe several years ago. The lettering is mine.

With this my dear friends, this post ends. I wish you and your family a very lovely Christmastime! If you do not celebrate, I wish you a beautiful and restful season.

Alma Hoffmann is a freelance designer, design educator, author of Sketching as Design Thinking, and editor at Smashing Magazine. This was originally posted on Temperamental amusing shenanigans, Alma’s Substack dedicated to design, life, and everything in between.

All imagery © Alma Hoffmann.

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