15 Cards That Keep It Real: Best of The National Stationery Show

by Maxwell Tielman

Okay— what I’m about to say might alienate some aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and grandparents out there—but y’all need to cool it with the overly sentimental greeting cards. I know you mean well. I also know that picking out a card from the myriad available at a typical drugstore is the last thing you want to do. But honestly, it’s hard to get excited about a card that has “Dear son/daughter/nephew/niece” on it followed by a Hallmark-penned poem extolling (in fanciful scripty fonts, of course) the supposed virtues of its recipient. I don’t know if my years in New York have turned me into a hardened, emotionless cynic, but I prefer my greeting cards to be like the crazy neighbor that accosts me for walking my dogs too closely to him: blunt, to the point, and devoid of unnecessary pretense. This is why, while perusing the aisles of this week’s National Stationery Show in Manhattan, I was thrilled to see that there were numerous designers this year making exactly this type of greeting card. From newcomer Emily McDowell’s fabulously straightforward (and totally adorable) words of encouragement to Great Lakes Goods’ cards that would make any jaded Brooklynite smile, this year’s offerings were not only cute, but refreshingly real. The following 15 cards prove that sincerity isn’t about sentimentality—it’s about saying exactly what you think. (Just a note: some of the following items, for the aforementioned reasons, might be considered NSFW. If profanity isn’t your cup of tea, please pass this one over. Also, due to the nature of the Stationery Show, some of the following items aren’t available to purchase yet, but they should be in the near future! Enjoy!) —Max

Above image: I’m totally, totally obsessed with Emily McDowell’s lovely, unfiltered greeting cards. This congratulatory wedding card seems particularly apt to me, because this is exactly the reaction I have when one of my friends announces their engagement.

Above image: Send this charming card from Nightingale Projects to a friend or significant other. You will either get a grin or a look of complete confusion.

Above image: This congratulatory card from Great Lakes Goods knows exactly what goes down at birthdays/graduations/weddings and isn’t afraid to say it.

Above image: Some more words of encouragement from Emily McDowell, certain to be greatly appreciated.

Above 2 images: I was completely obsessed with 9th Letter Press’s booth at NSS. I particularly loved their blatantly honest “You Make Me Ridiculously Happy” card and their correspondence card emblazoned with a decidedly unceremonious “YO.”

Above: Looking for a cute way to say “Told ya so”? This “BOOYA” card from Egg Press should do the trick nicely.

Above image: I love the throw-back style from Mr. Boddington’s Studio, especially when it’s combined with witty turns of phrase like the above birth announcement.

Above image: Perfect for pretty much any occasion, this statement from Ashkahn (represented by Crow & Canary) is sure to get the party started.

Above image: This card from Banquet Workshop says “congratulations” quickly and succinctly.

Above image: Let somebody you love know just how excited you are for them with this bold card from Rocket Ink.

Above image: I loved the simplicity of this card from Smarty Pants Paper—a single line of text with an actual gold star affixed above it. Sweet and to-the-point.

Above image:  Say your congratulations loud and proud with this card from Power & Light Press.

Above image: Sympathy cards are oftentimes the hardest to pick out—it can be difficult to express yourself openly during trying times. This card from Bench Pressed says it like it is.

Above image: The holidays might seem ages away, but this card was too good to pass up. Perfect for any scrooges on your correspondence list, this card from Hello Lucky makes the annual instruction to “Be Merry” sound more like a command.

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  • Yes! I thought the show was ripe with real, yet thoughtful, cards this year and some great new makers. Such a good selection, I wouldn’t have been able to stop at 15…

  • As an Aunt, Mom, and Grammy let me just say this cussing on a card really bugs me. It may be okay if only you and the person you send it to are okay with it but cards are usually passed around and enjoyed by others. I can see most people being offended especially with the “F” word. As for the other cards, I like them. We love to send unusual and crazy cards at our house. If we get one of those sentimental greeting cards we ask “Don’t you love me anymore.” They just don’t fit our crazy family. (I only feel free saying how I feel about the certain cards because I listened to the audio of 10 questions you often get and you said that feed back, even negative, is helpful. (Maybe I read it some place. I don’t remember because I spend a lot of time on your wonderful site.)

    • sue

      i’m glad you let me know what you think- i really do enjoy positive or negative feedback ;)

      i agree that these cards aren’t for everyone. i’m personally not a fan of things that are too aggressive, but i do appreciate a little tongue-in-cheek sass sometimes. one thing i’ve noticed in younger generations though is that people don’t tend to pass cards around in the same way anymore. mine tend to go on my fridge and that’s it– but if they’re being passed around i can see how something with cursing on it definitely isn’t right for everyone.

      we’ve got less aggressive cards coming up tomorrow, stay tuned ;)


  • I gave my friend a card by The Great Lakes, and she LOVED it. I totally agree that the days of giving sappy Hallmark cards are over. These cards ROCK


  • Some of these cards are really cute and fun. I just wanted to weigh in (in as nice a way as possible) on the swear word trend that’s been going on in cards for the last couple of years. Disclosure: I’m a stationer of a letterpress company, this was our third year exhibiting at the show. I just feel like f*bomb cards and other cards like it are a lazy way to be clever. Does something become smarter or cooler just because its laced up with profanity? Although not in all cases, I think it may be added to a card as an easy way to be funny without going the extra mile to come up with something that is REALLY clever and witty. Just my two cents. :)

  • Here’s another vote for losing the swear words; I’m in agreement with the reasons already mentioned above. Using ugly words is like choosing to wear unbecoming clothing. It can be funny with the right audience, but you can’t always control who will see “that” card with your name.

  • I personally adore the f bomb card. It would make me very happy to get it. Different strokes for different folks…!

  • Oh I like the discussion of swear words that came up. I have to say I chuckled at them but I like the point Rebekah made that it’s a cheap way to be clever. Something like “Eff it, let’s party” almost could be more fun because it hints at the sentiment without outright vulgarity.

    I do absolutely love all these unique cards though, each one made me think of a different person to send it to… as a 20 something giving cards is so rare anyway, the weirder the better.

  • I don’t like the swearing – I feel it’s hackneyed and overdone. It’s just not necessary. Having said that, that’s my personal taste, and other people think it’s great, so power to them.
    My mother keeps a collection of cards – pretty cards, interesting cards and so on. I rifled through them a while ago and found one that said “You’re a brick!” (no spelling mistake there) I asked her about it. She had quit a job back in the EIGHTIES and wanted to give this card to her boss – she’d loathed him – but decided against it and simply held on to it. So I guess sassy cards are not a new thing, just more popular now :)

  • I think the curse word cards are funny. Am I going to stock up on ONLY cards that say f*ck? Probably not. Well maybe. Now that I say that, it sounds kind of hilarious. You had a f*cking baby!!! You got a f*cking job!! Sorry your bird f*cking died!! LOL.

    Anyway, these are all cute in their own way. I love the simplicity. My mom always made it seem like I couldn’t be serious about my feelings for people because I’d rather make a card than buy a sappy Hallmark piece from the drug store. What a perfect route for all of us sassafrassy people in the world.

    I think it’s more about what you write on the inside anyway. Having a catchy/funny intro is just a cherry on top. ;)

  • As to the swearing-it seems like some of the comments are calling for censorship-as if these cards shouldn’t even exist because some hypothetical child might find them. But it’s like swearing on cable shows and songs- if you don’t like it don’t buy it.

  • Oh, man. The “thinking of you in this shitty time” card is so perfect. I can see a lot of people who are experiencing tough times getting some bemused comfort (and maybe even a laugh) out of that one.

  • I’m not for the cheap use of profanity, but let’s face it: my generation (Y) swears. And so do the millenials. We are the audience for these cards and if you’re offended by it, you’re probably not the intended consumer. And that’s okay. My mom swears like a sailor, but probably wouldn’t find most of these cards appropriate. That’s ok. Many of the cards above just seem honest. There’s not even any shock value, they just seem real. Especially the sympathy card as that’s how things feel sometimes. Really shitty. So why not say it?

  • love all of these…the profanities doesn’t bother me half as much as my MIL wanting to read me and my husband valentines cards to each other…. bug out lady…it’s personal!!! Really hate all those soppy cards with sickly poems in them…I would like to say its a generation thing, but in my experience, sadly not…..both my sister-in-laws compete by sending cards for every event possible, the bigger the better, and some of them are like books filled with horrific poetry…uuuugh! Sorry…I just had to grab this opportunity to make my opinion on these heard…I mean I may never tell my in-laws I hate their cards…..or maybe there’s a card for that as well…?

  • My favorite card is …Thinking of you during this shitty time. It is so right to the point and if someone is going through a tough time, this is the best way to say it rather than glazing over it. Well done Bench Pressed!

  • Full Circle Moment here, Design Sponge! Every week, I spend at least 1 hour working as I listen to After the Jump :)

    And I agree– I want my correspondence sometimes sweet, but never saccharine. (Cursing included as necessary.)

  • Love these, especially the “Thinking of you during a shitty time.” It’s real, it’s sweet, and it would be exactly what I’d want to hear from a friend–things suck and I’m here for you.