It started as many things do, as just an inkling of an idea that was never meant to be anything more. I didn’t know it was going to become an almost out of control obsession. Years ago my future husband’s daughter, Kailey, was living far from us in Whitehorse, Yukon. I wanted to do something special for her birthday, more than just sending a card as I had already designed her different personalized birthday cards. How about 4 one-word cards? Kind of like a game. Kailey loves games. Why not?! Happy. Birthday. Kailey. !. I designed each of them in a different size and with different colour envelopes. We wrote little notes in each of the cards that had nothing to do with her birthday. Two weeks prior to her birthday I started mailing the cards one at a time.
The gag backfired. A day after her birthday she received all four cards in the mail at the same time. She had a good laugh and enjoyed it all the same as she opened them out of order. Remember, no matter how much you plan, it is impossible to be guaranteed the post office will deliver your cards on time or in the order that you sent them but that is part of the fun.
Kailey thought the whole thing was so much fun and that I should add them to my card line. Great idea except for the custom card with the recipient’s name. The idea went dormant.
Kailey continued to remind me that it was a cool idea and that I should pursue it. A year or so later I was gifted with a box of vintage elementary school flashcards. Using the flashcards I tried the concept out on a couple of unsuspecting friends who coincidentally had their birthday on the same day. One at a time I mailed the cards to each of my friends. I had a better handle on mailing times so they got their cards one at a time and in the correct order.
Success. They both loved the unsigned mystery cards. From that point on I was determined to come up with a way to figure this out. The project was referred to as Happy. Birthday. Kailey. I designed a series of one-word cards with the concept of them being mailed out one at a time. I solved the personalization with a pointing hand where the sender could write the recipient’s name. I thought I had it all figured out except how to convey the concept on the packaging. At this point it was five cards that came in a box with envelopes. I soon found out I did not have it all figured out. Not even close.
I tested soooo many versions. Friends, family and people in our small town would run and hide when they saw me coming for fear that I was going to pester them with more questions and did they “get it?” I knew that these cards would be a hard sell if the packaging didn’t make the concept crystal clear. I also knew they wouldn’t sell if they were too expensive and it was looking like that was going to be the case.
I sat down with my team which consisted of my husband and our two dogs. We were on a five hour drive to visit Kailey who was now living in Saskatchewan. Lots of time to think. How about flat cards? Flat cards would certainly help with the cost. How do you display them? You would have to join them somehow so they could stand up. How do you join them? Hmmmmm. What if you could mix and match them? Eureka! I wasn’t quite sure of the details but this is when Happy. Birthday. Kailey. started to turn into what would later become CARDzees™.
An afternoon spent at the dining room table with my son, some paper, scissors and day-camp-craft-class memories solved most of the problems. But unfortunately we were not out of the woods yet. My niece reminded me that her generation didn’t really buy cards anymore because of environmental guilt. What if you could up-cycle them into something else? Think. Think. Think. I will never forget the day when one of my product testing victims picked up her small house plant and dropped it into the cube that I had formed with my cards. Ta-flipping-da!
Today I have over 30 styles of the original four panel CARDzees as well as CARDzees Singles. There have been lots of bumps on this journey and I still have a long way to go to see it through. Hours and hours and even more hours work, so busy I completely forgot Kailey’s birthday last summer. Thankfully she is rock-solid and understanding. I am grateful to her father, my amazing husband who supports me 100% on this crazy trip. There have been many versions, motivational books, a coach, a trade show, more design, a patent, a name change, a trademark, burnout, still more design, and even a YouTube channel. Am I having fun? Yes, most of the time I think I am. Would I do it all again? Long pause. Yes.
I hope the illustration below for a flirty version of CARDzees called Truly-Madly-Deeply explains the basic concept of CARDzees. I used Creative Character Generator for the characters, this has relieved a ton of stress for me. It would take me at least a year to draw these on my own as I am designing and writing as I go. This quickly provided the playful characters I needed to tell the story and to hopefully make the CARDzees concept easily understandable. Watch for a birthday version coming soon! Enjoy!