It’s a well-known fact that, year after year, Santa fills his shop with hard-working elves who take seasonal employment quite seriously in the name of holiday magic. But while they are quite gifted in many areas—namely using wooden mallets to build toy train sets and tricycles—their skills just can’t quite cut it when it comes to creating joy-filled, heartfelt cards and invitations.
That’s where our super-talented Paperless Post design team takes over. From handmade cut-outs to digital glitter, they’ve created a brand-new collection of holiday designs and party invitations that feel at once nostalgic and so-right-now. These are the “good tidings” you and your kin (and all the other people you love and care about) have been waiting for, and a celebration waiting to happen.
Read on for a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at our 2021 digital invitations and holiday cards, and get to know the brilliant elves sorry—artists—behind the designs.
Cat Chi, Senior Creative Director
How would you describe the overall vibe of our newest holiday designs?
We wanted to evoke two feelings more than anything: Warmth and nostalgia. (Feeling fuzzy yet?)
What was your team’s inspiration behind the new collection?
For our handmade invitations, we’re always finding inspiration in vintage design and illustration, particularly the playful and minimal shape language of mid-century storybook illustration. And it’s all about handcrafted elements—just embracing the beautiful imperfections that come out of the handmade process, and encouraging texture, too.
“Snowy Skyline” by Paperless Post.
Do you have a favorite design in the collection? Why?
Probably “Snowy Skyline” —a wonderfully evocative winter-in-the-city card Taryn Smith designed, with a city skyline overlooking a park, and a quiet bridge and frozen pond. It reminds me of walking through Central Park in the winter… and as someone who recently relocated from NYC, it’s a real gut punch!
I’m also working on a new stop-motion Holiday Flyer vibe inspired by the beautiful, lush miniature worlds of Christmas villages. It’s been eye-opening to work in a new format and material and to really get sucked into the details of miniature builds.
Are any of our partners’ holiday collections bringing you extra joy this season?
Happy Menocal’s designs are such a tonic. There’s such an irrepressible spirit and spontaneity to her mark-making and such a playfulness to her palette and print mixing that really inspires me to host an amazing holiday party.
“Loose Wreath” by Paperless Post.
Allyson Peck, Art Director
What went into creating “Loose Wreath?” Walk us through your process.
I started with thumbnail sketches, chose a favorite, then dove right into drawing—first illustrating by hand with colored pencils and paper, then cleaning it up digitally. I was thinking about lush, festive holiday greenery… and adding gold always makes an illustration feel festive! I also made an even more Christmas-y version with red berries.
How do you stay inspired?
I’m always inspired by our super-talented team of designers, but I also find it in everyday things you wouldn’t necessarily think of. I get some of my best ideas taking aimless walks around the city, coffee and pastry in hand, just people-watching.
What’s the one thing you need copious amounts of when hosting a holiday party?
Desserts. More specifically, anything chocolate. I have a sweet tooth and I never go a day without dessert.
“Toy Express” by Paperless Post.
Mariya Pilipenko, Senior Graphic Designer/Illustrator:
Walk us through your process of creating “Toy Express.”
This concept was what we like to call a “designer’s choice,” so I got to run a little wild with it, and I’m glad I did. Some of my initial inspiration was vintage toy packaging! I started the design by blocking out shapes in Photoshop just to get the layout and color right. Then to add a bit of texture, I carved out some of the elements, like the reindeer and the holly in the corners, and then used a rubber stamp and ink to bring it all together.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I collect a lot of children’s books, and they’re always my first point of inspiration. I especially love the old Russian fairy tales I’ve brought back from visiting family in Ukraine, and I’ve found more on Etsy, too. Other than that, I’m inspired by Brooklyn, in general. Living in [the neighborhood of] Bed Stuy, it’s such amazing architecture and there’s so much ornate detail everywhere. Vintage stores and record stores, too—I always find the best stuff there. And of course, I have loads of images on Pinterest, and I scan them all the time.
What’s the one thing you stock up on for holiday parties?
Lots and lots of food! My partner and I always forget we can ask people to bring food and end up overdoing it every time. We just want to make sure no one leaves hungry. I also overdo it on decorations, if that’s possible! [Editor’s note: Nope, not possible 😉.]
“Twinkle Flake” and “Fun Wreath” by Paperless Post.
Jin Xia, Junior Illustrator/Animator
Tell us about designing “Twinkle Flake” and “Fun Wreath.”
No matter what digital invitation I’m working on, I always start with some pencil sketches. Drawing with a pencil just feels more intuitive to me. Once the team approves the sketch, I trace my original drawing digitally in Adobe Illustrator. Then I move my linework to Photoshop. For “Twinkle Flake,” I added a magic sparkling texture to bring even more joy to the snowflakes. What’s more joyful than glitter party invitations?
For “Fun Wreath,” I used a round-tip watercolor brush and Higgins Drawing ink. First, I hand-drew individual pieces of greenery on a sheet of paper to get that unique handmade texture (these are handmade invitations, after all). Later, I scanned those drawings and arranged and colored them digitally on the computer. Ta-da!
What helps you to stay inspired?
Everything can be an inspiration! I enjoy going to a diverse mix of museums in NYC (New Museum, The Met, and the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few), reading books, keeping a sketchbook, trying new materials, and checking other illustrators’ work online. I’m also always deeply inspired by nature and going on hiking adventures. The key is just to stay open and curious about new things, and keep exploring life!
What’s the one thing you always have on hand when you’re hosting a holiday party?
Snacks! Even after a large meal, people still appreciate having a bite of something sweet or salty. Plus, nothing goes better with a night of games and conversations.
“Joyful Tree” by Paperless Post.
Taryn Smith, Junior Illustrator/Animator
What’s the story behind your design “Joyful Tree?”
For this design, I really drew from my own experiences as a kid and what the holidays meant to me growing up. I wanted to incorporate a tree and holiday lights in a fun and different way than what we’ve done in the past for our party invitations—the mood boards we’ve compiled over time really helped a lot, too! Then I brought my handmade invitation to life using pen and ink and Photoshop and textures and a bunch of special brushes within it. In the end, I think I hit the sweet spot: Something so simple, yet so effective.
How do you stay inspired?
Lately I’ve been finding inspiration in concept art and everyday life. I try to find little things or special moments that are quite beautiful. I’m also inspired by TV and movies—especially holiday movies for this collection! “The Santa Clause” movies and “Rise of the Guardians” are up there on my list.
What’s the one thing you always make sure to have lots of when you’re hosting a holiday party?
Is it OK to say White Claw? Other than that, I like to have a candy jar with a bunch of candy for everyone to take. Last time, I had Kit Kats and everyone was so excited.
Is it just us, or are you suddenly feeling inspired to get your nearest and dearest together for a night filled with White Claw, Kit Kats, and merrymaking? Click that little link below to get the (holiday!) party started.