This week as the print deadline for Monocle’s February issue looms large and Santa’s sleigh careens ever closer for Christmas, I’ve discovered a grinchy new delight in questioning the value of the quick-fire e-greetings hitting my inbox.
For the blissfully unfamiliar, these blanket emails have somehow usurped the humble Christmas card to become the industry standard for uninventive companies with nothing in particular to say about the holiday season.
Usually bearing the stamp of a mass mail out (I’m probably cc’d with a few other journalists), the platitude-peppered correspondences are bedecked with dreary images of clichéd festivity: a few geometric shapes in red and green if you’re lucky or a faintly ridiculous self-referential office joke if you’re not.
Who’s even reading these things and do they really pass muster as alternatives to a decent Christmas card? And, for that matter, what ever happened to a well-drafted pen-and-ink card with a dash of heartfelt sentiment or a sincere thank you for a profitable year?
February’s issue of Monocle explores the idea of hospitality and, as such, the Edits pages head to Pittsburgh to meet Lisa Krowinski, the founder of Sapling, a letterpress studio that has turned its hand to making cards, invitations and place settings.
The Baltimore-born graphic designer started her business 12 years ago and her pristine print total now surpasses 300,000 cards a year. Surely a valued Christmas contact would be better served with a tactile note from her rack than a holly-bordered image of affected jollity from an anonymous email account? Moreover, the success of her printing business offers an interesting counterpoint to the throwaway sentiment those mass Christmas mail outs represent.
In early December Monocle’s new nephew The Forecast hit newsstands for the very first time. Our newest publication offers an arched-eyebrow look ahead at the year to come and is itself a celebration of the art of print. Think gloss, silk and uncoated stock enveloped in a debossed cover with a fluorescent flourish.
Inside the new edition we spoke to Berlin-based typeface designer Erik Spiekermann about the future of fonts. Despite the fact that Spiekermann’s studio uses both computerised and manual techniques, the man himself sees hope and a resurging interest in the centuries-old techniques of printing, typesetting and letter cutting as a reaction to the digital saturation at play today. Although the ubiquity of the smartphone is changing the way we read, to Spiekermann at least, the art of printing isn’t as pressed as its detractors suspect.
Although the cost-cutting and environmental concerns of bulk buying expensive cards should be considered, I wonder if the impact of a thousand anodyne Christmas emails has the same effect as a single handwritten one.
Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s Edits editor.