The Great Greeting Card Experiment

December 14th, 2009 | Posted in Freelancing

Dick missed your birthday!

Here’s an interesting example of some of the strange jobs that come your way when you are a freelance illustrator.

I have never given a thought to doing greeting cards. They are an art form unto themselves, blending art, writing, humor and context to make cards that resonate with buyers. Cartoonists like Sandra Boynton and Oliver Christianson (aka “Revilo”) are amazing talents. It’s one of those areas of cartooning I didn’t think my skills lent themselves to.

My friend and fellow member of the “Usual Gang of Idiots” John Kovaleski disagreed. He was (at the time) working as a creative director at Marian Heath Greeting Cards and the company was trying to come up with a line of political themed greeting cards. I was one of a number of cartoonists he tapped to come up with some ideas and art for possible political greeting cards. He didn’t need finished cards, but rather concept/gags with basic ideas on the art. So I used some sketches and bits of art I had laying about or had used for parts of other jobs to show my ideas with the intention of redoing the artwork to make it more appropriate if they picked up any of the concepts. This happened in early 2007, so no Obama yet.

The process of doing greeting cards is similar to that of doing gag cartoons. Most of them are done by the artist/writer doing a bunch of them and submitting to a company. That company then looks them over and decides if they want to buy the rights to any of them. In that manner you can imagine that for every greeting card you see on the card racks at the store there are a thousand or so that were never made.

What I discovered during the Great Greeting Card Experiment was that:

  1. My initial instincts were right, I am no good at greeting cards, and
  2. Most of my cards belonged in the “thousand or so that were never made” category.

The one with Cheney at the top of this post was actually printed as part of their political line, but they redid the caption. I don’t have any of the actual cards, and I can’t remember the exact wording they used, but it was something similar.

Here are a bunch of the rejects:

These are elements from a MAD job

This was a sketch for another project

Not too many people remember Howard Dean’s “Screamgate”

They asked to do some odd events… this was as odd as I could come up with.

This was supposed to be making fun of how boring Gore is…

This was a quick sketch I did on the Cintiq like 4 minutes

This Bush was part of a magazine cover job that never got printed.


  1. Houston says:

    Dude, they are on crack. I love them and would buy them.

  2. Jon says:

    Those would make nice e-cards.

  3. Bearman says:

    These are great!

  4. Corbett says:

    I think Kerry’s a Hit.
    And personally I really like the Gore one.

    When my dad was breaking into freelance writing in the mid 80’s, he submitted stuff to ALL KINDS of places, including greeting card companies and gag cartoonists. When I helped my mom move 3 years ago I took possession of much of my father’s writing stuff (he died in 1991) and found a small wooden box FULL of greeting card ideas.
    I’d say 98% of them are incredibly groan-worthy! I mean. . .sure. . .I laugh at them.
    When I moved to Los Angeles in ’99 I tried turning some of them into spot cartoons and submitted them to the New Yorker, Reader’s Digest and the Saturday Evening Post. HA! Naive!!

  5. […] My friend and fellow MAD idiot (as in “usual gang of…”) Tom Richmond has a post up about doing work with me when I was the Humor Editor for Marian Heath Greeting […]

  6. Chuck says:

    Hi, Tom. I’m a cartoonist who has long been in awe of your work. Since so many cartoon markets have dried up in recent years, I’ve concentrated on greeting cards and have had quite a bit of success in that arena. There certainly is a learning curve as far as getting the hang of what makes a card “sendable,” but someone as supremely talented as you could conquer that curve!

    • Tom says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Congrats on your success in the greeting card biz… that is something to be admired.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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