Hangin’ around the Christmas tree
Hall & Company used to send out regular ol’ corporate Christmas cards just like every other company. In 2002, we decided it was time for a change, and created the first of what has become an annual tradition of fun (and unusual) card designs.
At right is the main image on the front of the card: all sixteen of our employees decorating a Christmas tree.
(Move your mouse over the picture to magnify.)
On the card’s inside left, the photo was lightened and names added, while on the right we put a greeting along with all the employees’ signatures.
How we made it (and why!)
In the past we had tried to give our Christmas cards a personal touch by having every employee sign every card we sent out — a time-consuming (and hand-cramping) process when your mailing list is 800+, but we dutifully did it every year.
Finally, one day in October of 2002, our founder and President Mike Hall decided there had to be a better way. He figured he could have someone scan his employees’ signatures and print them onto the cards. That same day, one of his employees happened to show him a personal Christmas card she had received the previous year from a friend who was a graphic designer. The card was a fancy photo composite, showing the family as miniature elves, getting into mischief on a table. Mike was impressed enough to arrange for a meeting with that designer, John Redhed of Splash Creative, to discuss what could be done for Hall & Company.
Mike was not now thinking of the tedious signatures, but a more significant issue that had always nagged at him. Because his clients were spread all across the United States, most would never have a chance to meet the Hall & Company representatives they talked with on the phone. Mike figured that sending his clients a Christmas card with pictures of all his employees would at least put a face to each name. And a unique design would ensure the Hall cards would stand out in the crowd of generic cards every company received during the holidays.
In their meeting the following week, John suggested they produce a card which would show all the employees (in miniature) standing on or hanging on the branches of a decorated Christmas tree. Mike and his staff agreed, and John immediately went to work.
First on the agenda was to get a photo of a Christmas tree. It would have been easiest to use a stock photo, but John knew he would need a very specific arrangement of ornaments, so the employees could interact with them and be distributed evenly in the branches.
It was too early in the year to buy a Christmas tree, so John instead went to a local tree farm and got permission to decorate and photograph a live noble fir. (If you look closely, you can see a house in the background.)
The very next day, John came to Hall & Company headquarters to photograph our employees.
We all felt a bit silly as he asked us to pose in these strange positions. But we took his word for it that he would put all these pictures together and somehow make it look like we were in a Christmas tree.
And he did! Through the magic of Photoshop, he carefully erased the background (wall, floor, table, etc.) of each photo, leaving just the person. After adding each photo as a layer above the tree photo, John meticulously erased bits of each person to let the tree show through and make it seem that the person was actually in the tree, not just cut-and-pasted on top of it. In some cases, he had to make careful adjustments — bend an arm, rotate a hand, curl a finger, etc. — to make them fit with the background. He then added finishing touches, such as shadows and reflections of people in the shiny balls.
When the artwork was complete, it was sent via Internet to a print shop in California. About a week later, we received the finished cards. We had already addressed envelopes for everyone on our mailing list, so all we had to do was stuff cards in, seal them and mail them.
The very next day after the cards were mailed out, the calls started coming in. “How did you do that?” “We love it!” “We’re not throwing this away!” “It’s the best Christmas card I’ve ever seen!”
The card became something to chat about when we communicated with our clients, something we hadn’t anticipated. Months later, some clients reported they still had our card tacked up in their office.
It was a great experience, and we immediately resolved to make another card the next year.