Pentagram shows how to do business holiday cards that don’t suck

By Suzanne LaBarre

[Image: courtesy Pentagram]

Business Christmas cards are one of the low points of the holidays, perhaps second only to getting the dad bod fanny pack at your company’s White Elephant gift exchange. Few corporate cards rise above mundaneness. Others try too hard. And some are downright embarrassing, serving as a kind of grim anti-advertisement for the competence of your company.

Pentagram is unburdened by such banality. Each holiday season since 1974, the prestigious graphic design firm has sent a greeting that is more creative experiment than Hallmark card. Past cards featured everything from illustrated horoscopes to rhyming slang to a quiz that matched your personality to a typeface. This year’s card, by Berlin partner Justus Oehler, is equally delightful: It’s a booklet, featuring 30 bands and musicians that have color in their names. But the color is missing. Your job is to fill it in.

What does that have to do with the holidays? Nothing at all, and that’s by design. “Our New Year’s greeting has always been a little booklet, almost never keyed to the holidays, but rather imagined as an amusing diversion at–or an outright distraction from–family gatherings,” Pentagram partner Michael Bierut told Co.Design in 2014. “They are never, ever overtly self-promotional.”

Lesson to companies everywhere: When it comes to holiday cards, think less generic marketing, more rock ‘n’ roll.

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