13 Holiday Promotions That Shine

With the holiday season already in full swing, we decided to get into the spirit of things by scouting out holiday promotions and client gifts. This collection reflects the diversity of designers crafting them and the variety of ways to celebrate the season in any manner of ways — from the witty to the whimsical, the simple to the sweet.

What they all have in common, though, is that they’ve taken the traditional occasion for sending client gifts, holiday promotions and greetings to creative heights, transforming everyday items — from coffee to catalogs — into promotions that stand out from the crowd.

Here’s a closer look at 13 projects that caught our eye:

 New Year Monster Postcards (Squid & Ink)
Looking forward to the 2013 New Year, Jamie Padilla seized the opportunity to create a holiday promotion for her design firm Squid & Ink that not only celebrated the changing of the calendar but also gave a nod to her favorite holiday: Halloween. Inspired by the year’s number of thirteen and its unlucky connotation, Padilla created a set of seven postcards featuring famous monsters from witches to werewolves who announce holiday greetings such as the one with Frankenstein, wishing receipients, “Frankly, I hope you have an electrifying holiday season.” Padilla created the postcards to reflect her firm’s work and personality, because, she says, “Many of the projects I take on I like to emphasize bold, sophisticated design but keep a friendly, humorous aspect to attract an array of people.”


Packaged Chocolate Bark (Joce Creative)
For the past couple of years, Jocelyne Saulnier of Joce Creative has teamed up with copywriter Kathy Mercure of WriteNow! Communications to pool their talents and create holiday gifts for clients. For their 2011 piece, they decided to put a spin on the typical holiday gift of chocolate that most clients receive and instead send them homemade chocolate bark, calling attention to the distinction through the promo’s tongue-in-cheek theme, “Hark, it’s Bark!” The sweets were packaged in bright, punchy-colored bags that further helped their gift stand out from the crowd, along with playful monikers like ‘Nuttin’ for Christmas.’ “Every year, I get a job directly associated with my holiday cards,” Saulnier says, “so I don’t mind going all out.”


Client Gift: holiday gift wrap

Holiday Gift Wrap (Words and Pictures Creative Service, Inc
For the past 25 years, Words and Pictures Creative Services has been creating an annual end-of-year gift for current and prospective clients. In 2011, they designed a complementary pair of pieces that spoke to the firm’s capabilities while also being something clients would actually use: seasonal gift wrap. Designer Emily Shields took the task to heart, selecting a heavy, 80lb text paper stock (practical and sturdy for wrapping gifts) with a silk finish that emphasized high quality, while giving the design a hand-crafted feel through her selection of typography, pattern and illustration. Clients could also download a matching desktop wallpaper for their computers or other digital devices. “It was a useful yet inexpensive gift that artfully showcased our design, copywriting, creative and production expertise,” says Rhonda Smith, president and creative director. “And the fact that we also provided the wrapping paper in a digital counterpart as wallpaper for all types of devices, reminded clients of our digital capabilities as well.”


Letterpress Holiday Card (Trent Design)
For their 2011 holiday card, Trent Design wanted to capture the emotion of the season as well as highlight their design capabilities. They turned to a celebrated, hundred-year old newspaper clipping where a girl in 1897 wrote asking if Santa Claus was real. The touching response has captured audiences ever since, including founder Marilyn Trent: “I felt that the Christmas celebration is about the wonders of the human spirit and this editorial to Virginia written over 100 years ago stated it so succinctly,” she explains. “I wanted [for] this article to be presented in a beautiful way so that it would be read and appreciated and maybe just maybe add a bit of magic in my recipients’ lives.” To do that, they used letterpress printing. “The unique tactile element created through the letterpress stamping process makes the card feel more special and adds a sense of craftsmanship that isn’t possible with more modern technology,” Trent says. Plus, while the letterpress reflects the vintage aspect of the letter’s origins, Trent hopes that the card will encourage even more of her clients to choose letterpress solutions in the future.


Holiday Promotion CardNew Year Lotus Card (Dragon Rouge)
To ring in 2013, Patrick Veyssiere, founder and creative director of Dragon Rouge wanted to celebrate the holiday season in a way that would wish anyone — around the world, of any faith — a happy and healthy new year. To do that, the team turned to an iconic symbol of beauty and new life: the lotus flower. “The lotus grows in muddy water, but its flower blooms with pure beauty,” Veyssiere says. “It ties in with the Dragon Rouge philosophy that beauty can be found in unlikely places, that we search for this in our design approach.” Upon determining that the card would feature the lotus flower, Veyssiere wanted to bring the flower’s splendor to life so instead of simply featuring a flat rendering, they created a three-dimensional card with the flower literally blooming from the folds of the card.

End of the World Holiday Promotion

Click image to visit this doomed holiday promotion featuring a daily sinister surprise.

Countdown Calendar to the End of the World (Traction)
The Mayan calendar stops at December 21, 2012. That abrupt ending has caused some to believe that the world is going to end on that date. While many may be counting down to Christmas with Advent calendars, the folks at Traction decided to use the season to count down to this possible doomsday with their holiday promotion that they’re calling “Apocalymas.” Harkening the popular Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas, their tongue-in-cheek calendar counts down to this cataclysmic event over the course of 12 days via an online experience that will feature a variety of custom content regarding the impending apocalypse. The project was designed not only to elicit a smile from clients but also to showcase the teams’ skill set, including using HTML5 to provide a dynamic experience and creating engaging content to bring viewers back again and again. Executive creative director Theo Fanning explains, “These are tools that brands should be considering to create experiences their customers will value and love.”


Client Gifts: CoffeeCoffee Kit (Thinking Cap Design)
Designers know that inspiration for a project can come from anywhere, at anytime. For Kelly Lawrence of Thinking Cap Design, it came while he was in San Francisco’s Chinatown, trying Vietnamese coffee for the first time. As he sipped his drink, he realized that the coffee would make for a perfect holiday client gift. One that clients would use and appreciate, but would also allow him to show off his branding capabilities by creating every design aspect of the piece from the logo to the packaging. The fact that 2012 was “The Year of the Dragon” fit the project perfectly and gave rise to the dragon-themed artwork and graphics, which were inspired by old Vietnamese vodka and herb labels. He also designed the gift, dubbed the Daily Dragon Brand Coffee Kit, so that everything fit perfectly inside a reusable and recyclable container and utilized as many local vendors for the project as possible.


Holiday Promotions

The Creative Block (Jovenville, LLC)
“At Jovenville, we take self promotion pretty seriously,” says Joven Orozco, “mayor” of the Newport Beach, CA-based design firm Jovenville. “We also take the holidays pretty seriously. So obviously, we go nuts for self-promo holiday items.” That was certainly the case in 2010 when they created “The Creative Block” for their holiday promotion. Really, it was just a bunch of flat pieces of balsawood that were left over from another project they’d previously done. But the team challenged itself to find a creative way to re-use the boards for marketing purposes. “We felt if we can create something fun and memorable from a piece of left-over wood, we can do it for anything,” Orozco says. They included a complete how-to booklet that explained many of the block’s DIY possibilities (everything from a sun visor to body armor) that also allowed them to show off the agency’s personality in a humorous way. Plus, it proved to be an economical promotion, costing only $2.23 per item, which, as Orozco says, “was a great deal for all of the conversations and Facebook posts it generated!”


McGuffin Creative Unique Client Gift

Party and Drink-Recipe Handbook (McGuffin Creative Group)
Each year, McGuffin Creative Group creates a holiday promotion based on a handful of guiding principles: that the project showcases the team’s creative capabilities, appeals to clients, as well as its ability to capture the personality of the firm — “creative, collaborative, approachable and decidedly unstuffy,” explains senior designer Kiley O’Brien Ruggiero. For 2011, that resulted in The McGuffin Guide to Mingles and Mixers which featured unique drink recipes and party tips from the team, with selections including a beverage with bacon as an ingredient and another that promised to help with a urinary-tract infection. “It aimed to be a fun, cheeky and perhaps even useful handbook for the ever-so-slightly awkward entertainer,” Ruggiero says. But there was nothing comical about the elegant design of the book, printed on rich, shimmery paper. “The paper choice was extremely important and very deliberate,” Ruggiero says. “We wanted the book to be interactive in an old-fashioned way – that is, we wanted it to be used, to be handled, to be a great tactile experience. While we looked at classic cocktail guides as starting point for our paper choices, we were able to use more contemporary options that made the piece more luxurious while retaining a vintage feel.”


Client Gifts: Miresball

“Inspired by Peace” Illustrated Card (MiresBall)
For the past four years, the team at MiresBall has paid tribute to its fondness for illustration through the agency’s holiday card featuring custom illustration. “Throughout our 28-year history, we have been fortunate enough to work with a variety of talented illustrators from around the globe,” says partner and creative director Scott Mires. So each year, they join up with an illustrator to create a limited-edition card that is like a piece of artwork you can hold in your hands. For their 2012 card, they turned to Portland-based collaborative illustrators Jolby & Friends and commissioned them to create a graphic around the theme “Inspired by Peace.” The resulting image captures the community spirit not only of the holiday season, but also the genesis of the card itself with a crowd of people who have joined together to make something beautiful.

Client Holiday Gifts: monnet DesignCharitable Donations (Monnet Design)
Ever since Monnet Design’s founding, they have taken the money they would have spent on sending out expensive holiday client gifts and instead donated those funds to a number of charities. Since they are passionate about funneling as much money to the charities as possible, they try to keep the cards (which artfully announce the year’s charitable donations to clients) as inexpensive as possible. This means that they have to get very creative with the promotions. “Creating a fun and memorable promo is usually the easy part,” says principal and creative director Stéphane Monnet. “The more difficult thing has been figuring out how to print the items at the lowest possible cost.” For their 2011 card, they kept costs to a minimum by sourcing the most inexpensive kraft paper they could find and printing with only one color. But that simplicity only allowed their creative prowess to shine all the more through their humorous copywriting and clever presentation, which included translating the donation amounts made to half a dozen charities into a variety of common holiday gifts, such as, “We donated the monetary equivalent of 7 deluxe fruit cakes to Amnesty International.”


Seamless Creative: Unique Client Gifts

“Cheers!” Holiday Coasters (Seamless Creative)
Courtney Dolloff Eliseo wanted to send out a promotion that would be fun and festive, but also timeless enough to stick around on clients’ desks for more than just a couple of weeks during the winter before getting tossed. She decided to create sophisticated, screen-printed coasters in a number of navy and metallic-gold patterns announcing “Cheers!” The resulting project was fitting for the new year but also enduring enough that they set up a shop to sell extra coaster sets throughout the year.


Olive Oil (Design Womb)
Nicole LaFave’s San Fransico-based design studio, Design Womb, focuses much of its work on branding and packaging design for the food, beverage and restaurant industries. For her 2011 holiday promotion, LaFave decided to play to that niche by gifting California-made olive oil to the firm’s clients and friends. She dubbed the project “Taste Patrol,” complete with a charming helicopter logo (which is a nod to her love for helicopters) and beautiful, handmade labels, in hopes that the project would be the catalyst to add more fine food projects to her portfolio.

Gift Ideas for Designers

Choose from gift ideas for web designers, freelancers or any designer on your shopping list this holiday season. Shop sales happening in MyDesignShop.com, including low prices on pantone products. Shop Gifts for Designers.