Connecting Students with the Greeting Card Industry

Jun 12, 2023 | News & Insights, Resources for School & College

The Greeting Card Association (GCA) is the not-for-profit trade body working to protect and promote greeting card sending and support our members to grow their businesses. The UK greeting card industry is a world-leading creative industry, we send more cards per capita than any other nation and export our designs across the globe.

We are keen to connect with universities and colleges, sharing information and showcasing the work of new designers who would like to join our industry, providing our members with access to new creative talent.

We have been working with Tracy Allanson-Smith, Visual Communication Employability Coordinator at Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts. Tracy has kindly written this blog, sharing her experience and thoughts on the greeting card Industry and the opportunity for universities and college lecturers and their students.

Tracy Allanson-Smith, with students at Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts Photographer: Ryley Morton @ ryleymorton_photography

Why Illustration, Graphic design and Photography University Course Leaders should work with the GCA

In my role as former design course leader and now as an employability coordinator, I have access to 300+ creative alumni on a yearly basis at Birmingham City University, I can confidently support the Greeting Card Association. Why is this the case? Surely, our newly ‘hatched’ gen z students demand more progressive outcomes than greetings cards

Tracy Allanson-Smith, Visual Communication Employability Coordinator at Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts

Let’s unpack the assumptions that the UK greetings card industry is not relevant or thriving. Firstly, greeting cards is a world-leading British Creative industry; with the UK leading the world in innovative design, exporting our cards all over the world. We spent £1.5 billion on single greeting cards in 2021, excluding packs and boxes of cards *. The UK greeting card market bounced back in 2021 after the disruption to retail sales due COVID19 lockdowns. Both volume and value were up 11% compared to 2020*. Retail value of sales has increased from the 2019 pre-pandemic level, which shows the robustness of the greeting card industry.

The resurgence of analogue photography, vinyl records, and greetings cards as forms of nostalgia, tactility and personal exploration has not only been catalysed post pandemic but also an insurgence in the younger generations’ vision of individuality. Cards are a great, tangible way of keeping in touch and mean more than a social media message which are sent all the time. For many cards become important keepsakes. This trend is being seen in both the UK and US**

If you are a course leader at a university and have talented students within visual communication areas such as: illustration, graphics, surface pattern and photography, you are mindful of B3 metrics, Graduate Outcome statistics and have a range of employability modules in your remit, then the GCA is a rare find!

Tracy Allanson-Smith, Visual Communication Employability Coordinator at Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts
  • How easy has it been for you to find reliable a high value placement provider for your talented illustration students?
  • Where do you place your design/illustration/surface pattern students who sit on the cusp of both disciplines, but don’t quite fit into marketing and branding?
  • Where can you find a community willing to open its doors to a multi-disciplinary approach?
  • Do you have photography students who would like to venture into social media?
  • Where can you be invited annually to a room full of potential employers, without being distracted by pushy sales and PR bods? Not many places, I have been trying for decades!

The Greeting Card Association and the industry as a whole is open to creative interpretation, very keen to bring in new talent and hungry for a multidisciplinary, diversity and socially impactful approach. If any of the course leaders were lucky enough to participate in the Hallmark Connection Awards at New Designers 2022 you would have witnessed the breadth and depth of creative thinking which translated further than greeting cards. Eve Gray, creative development director in the Future Squad, Hallmark awarded the student winners for innovation, sustainability and creating connectivity and emotional intelligence in their multi-disciplinary work. This led to paid placements and professional development for the winning students.

The Greetings Card Association (GCA) are opening their doors to university students and this year, I am working with professionals I have known by sight (New Designers) or have established long term professional relationships with. Our students and alumni will benefit greatly by supporting each other. There is an annual fee, but the ROI is worth the investment for the employability support that GCA provides.

The GCA have a New Creative Talent portal, where universities and colleges can highlight their students work. The GCA shares this link with their membership to highlight new students looking to join the industry.

What am I hoping for with Birmingham City University’s alliance with GCA?

My aim is to showcase our student and graduate talent to the wide range of publishers using the GCA website portal directly. Birmingham has a diverse rich cultural background, and this is reflected in the talents and skills of our graduate’s work. Our students have skills that range from hand drawn, mixed media, illustration, motion graphics, photography, collage, traditional print, digital illustration, and cutting-edge adobe skills. More importantly is the zeitgeist and attitude that they represent. Our students and alumni have a strong voice and GCA is a great platform for alumnus to share, speak communicate and wake up the traditions of what a greetings card could and should be for the future. Can the GCA and greetings card sector stay relevant and know how to reach diverse groups with authenticity? Yes, if the right students are invited to contribute and potentially challenge some of the traditional norms.

Benefits for Students and Course Leaders:

  • Improve students’ professional development & confidence.
  • Placement and internship experience opportunities.
  • Stronger Graduate Outcome results.
  • Opportunities for full time work, live briefs, freelance opportunities.
  • Networking opportunities
  • Resources – access to Library of information covering broad range of areas
  • Access to incredible network of knowledgeable practitioners, publishers, and part of a creative community.
  • Mentorship opportunities.
  • Course curriculum validations/advice.
  • Potential source of external examiner

Benefits for GCA publishers:

  • Opportunity to recruit new creative talent
  • New ideas and innovation, fresh perspectives, enthusiasm and energy .
  • New untapped talent bringing technologically advanced approaches.
  • Connect with universities and collages developing idea, projects

How can you set your students up with GCA?

Clink the link below to join the GCA and showcase your students work, and access the other benefits:

Want to get in touch?

If you would like to contact me directly to find out more about the GCA connection or the Birmingham City University Visual communication alumnus, my email is LinkedIn:

To contact GCA click here to contact the CEO Amanda Fergusson

GCA Resources

A good starting point are the GCA blogs which are open to everyone  which are open to everyone. Particularly useful for new comers to the industry are:

How can you become a greeting card artist

How can you become a greeting card writer

 To work in the industry visit to find companies looking for artists or writers.

Learn more about protecting your designs:

Do speak to a legal expert if you are entering into an agreement, there are some specialist legal companies who are members of the GCA

Learn about preparing your artwork for a printer

Learn about photographing greeting cards

Visit the GCA Members Directory to find companies you may want to approach, and to find new cards to buy!  

And lots history of card sending e.g.

More about the card industry can be found on the Thinking of You Week site 

Further Information


*The Greeting Card Association Annual Market Report which covers UK greeting card sales for single greeting cards in 2021 compared to 2020. The report shows a strong ‘bounce back’ from 2020 when retail sales were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of many non-essential retailers for long periods

**Ricapito, M (2020) Marie Claire, Seasons (and other…) Greetings Updated Dec 07, (Accessed 5.6.23)

To find out more about the GCA and to join

Click here to find out more About the GCA:

Looking to work with a graduate or bring in new creative talent, see our blog on How to Recruit New Creative Talent

Want to connect with others in the card industry, click on Directory and use the search facility to other suppliers to the industry, including those offering design services, and also find publishers you may want to contact.

Download our handout and learn about the 2021 project the GCA ran with Herts Uni in our blog How to get into the Greeting Card Industry

Read about the 2022 launch of GCA Open Call and The Secret to Creative Innovation and Succession Planning

If you are a university or collage and want to showcase your students work, access the GCA resources and work with other GCA members join here Once you have joined complete your Members’ Profile remembering to tick the New Creative Talent box so members can find your students work.

If you are a student wishing to join the industry, join as an individual or if you are already publishing cards, join as a publisher.

If you have any questions please contact us.

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