The brains behind Librio’s personalised greeting cards6 minute read
As well as being Art Director and co-founder of Librio, Nick Elliott also runs his own letterpress greeting card company, Kikisoso, with his wife.
To celebrate the launch of Librio’s personalised greeting cards this month, we sat down with Nick to chat about his experiences, his inspiration and nosey meerkats.
How it all started
Ed: So, Nick. What was your inspiration for doing greeting cards?
Nick: My wife and I were going to start a t-shirt printing company originally. She was a fashion designer and I was a graphic designer, so it felt like a good mix. We tried this and that but after much deliberation we somehow switched from the idea of screen printing to Letterpress printing. This paved the way to paper products and greeting cards.
Ed: Do you remember what your first ever design was?
Nick: I don't know what the first card that I designed was, but I know the first card that we actually made to sell was called ‘Floating Hearts’. It's a little rabbit with a floating balloon in the shape of a heart. We still sell it today.
Printing on demand - 100 years ago and now
Ed: Your letterpress machine has a bit of history, could you tell us a bit about it?
Nick: We bought the press on eBay. It was from a printing company in England called Armstrongs of Hexham. They’d bought the machine from the manufacturer in Boston USA around 1910 and it had been down in their basement for the last five years. So we bought it off them and had to have it transported.
It's actually quite a funny story because it arrived on a pallet at 4pm the day before a bank holiday and we didn't know it was coming. It weighed 600kg so my wife and I were there, thinking there’s no way we could move it! We luckily got hold of a company that was just closing up for the day and he agreed to send some guys over. It actually cost more money to move those 3 meters than it did the 616 mile journey from England!
Ed: I love the fact that with Kikisoso, you’re using a 100 year old Letterpress to print on demand and with Librio, we’re using state of the art technology to do the same thing. Do you go through the same process with Librio cards as you do with letterpress? Or how does the design process differ?
Nick:There are certainly similarities because with both, the simpler the design, the better. Simple, non fussy designs allow you more room for the personalisation like adding different length names to the card. My experience with designing letterpress cards certainly helped a lot for my Librio cards too. Also, years of experience in the highly-competitive greeting card business has taught me what works, what stands out and what people like.
Inspiration and the design process
Ed: What’s your process for thinking up ideas for cards?
Nick: My wife and I turn off all computers and phones and just sit, with a few sketchpads, without any outside stimuli at all. Sometimes, we have a theme and other times, we just see what comes to mind. We just brainstorm and, if an idea doesn’t work right then, then maybe we revisit it another time for something else.
Ed: How many card ideas do you have a year?
Nick: Sometimes you can just sit down for an evening and you already come up with maybe five cards. But other times, you mightn’t come up with anything. The greeting cards business is very competitive and it's very hard to be original. Generally, you’re expected to bring out a new range for the spring and a new range for Christmas etc. We just try to bring out ten new cards in a year and if we don't manage to come up with that many that we are 100% happy with, then we will just release what we have.
Ed: Which artists inspire you?
Nick: One of my favourites is a British artist called Gary Hume. I really love his stuff, because his colours and the composition of his work’s really great. I often think about his work before I sketch anything, because quite often he doesn't use too many colours. I think that helps us with thinking about simplistic designs.
Ed: What’s your favourite card which you’ve designed?
Nick: My favourite card I designed and I really mean favourite, because I wouldn't change it - which is unheard of as a graphic designer - is called ‘Meerkats’. I chose meerkats because they seem nosey, so if anyone's gonna hear something I think they would! When I drew them up, it was one of these occasions where I did a sketch really quick and we just went, ‘That's it. Finished!’ It was actually done in two minutes and I really love it.
Releasing the inner artist
Ed: You considered studying art at university but then opted for design. Why was that?
Nick: I would have liked to study fine art, and I actually did an exhibition of paintings in my home town which sold out. But at College I went for graphic design because I was afraid of not being able to afford to buy anything to live, to pay rent. <laughs>. I wanted to live in London but I couldn't see living in London as an artist as a viable option.
Ed: When you're creating the Librio personalised greeting cards and our personalised books, do you feel like your artist side can come out? Or do you feel it's always constrained by the commercial requirements?
Nick: I think it can be more artistic with the books. They are great that way because you've got the story, but you might decide differently from another illustrator which part of the story you think should be Illustrated. Two illustrators won't come up with the exact same scenario to fit the text. I’m always looking for ways to make the books funnier. I like putting little things in the background that maybe aren't seen straight away as well. I think that's always nice
Ed: Seeing these little bits that the illustrator put in is one of my favourite parts of reading kids' books.
Nick: Yeah, it's great because you can't do that really in a greeting card. It’s nice to put something in there that isn't seen the first second, or third time even.
Librio's Personalised Greeting Cards
Librio’s personalised greeting cards are coming soon. They’re printed on premium 100% recycled paper and are the perfect compliment for any occasion, be that birthdays, christenings, welcoming newborns or just because someone’s super.