The Evolution of Greeting Cards - Paper to E-Cards

Written by Vincent Lanogwa

Over the years greeting cards have evovled from paper to e-cards.  Whenever you need to convey positive sentiments to friends or loved ones, you can always rely on a greeting card. They are so popular that it seems they have always been around – and they have, in a broad sense. They come in diverse designs that have evolved considerably over the years.

Northern Cards

From plainly written greeting cards to modern electronic cards, here is an insight into the evolution of greeting card designs.

A Brief History

Greeting cards have a long and rich history. They are thought to have started in Egypt and China before becoming popular on a global scale. Greeting cards were initially unsophisticated and mostly featured explicit messages written on wood, paper, and other materials. Their popularity inspired creativity over the years, and their global demand gave birth to greeting card manufacturers. These companies embraced and experimented with varying designs over the years in a bid to rise above the competition, and this has fueled the evolution of greeting card designs.

Picture Greeting Cards

Picture postcards started the evolution of greeting card designs. They were first used in Austria and had been dated back to 1869.

picture postcard

Their models were mostly standard – they featured pictures of iconic places and things from around the world. Most of these greeting cards would feature photos of favorite cities across Europe and the west.

Picture greeting cards were favorite and quickly spread throughout Europe. They were especially popular in Germany, and most picture greeting cards that circulated all over the world featured Germanic influences. With time, however, greeting card manufacturers pushed their creativity further and adopted more diverse images such as fashionably-clothed people. However, it is important to note that these images were mostly drawings and paintings and not real photographs.

Most picture greeting cards were manufactured in Europe and the US and consequently, their designs were greatly influenced by the culture of these continents. With time, however, and as the popularity and demand for greeting cards grew worldwide, manufacturers embraced other diverse cultures and languages to suit their users. 

Interactive Greeting Cards

The 1930s saw a massive change in greeting card designs, with the innovation of interactive greeting cards. Hall Brothers, a favorite greeting card manufacturer back then, designed cards using the die-cut technique. In addition to images, these cards featured moveable parts such as rotating wheels on a greeting card with the picture of a car.

This innovation spurred more creativity from other manufacturers, and greeting card designs became even more interactive. However, some of these sophisticated designs also made greeting cards bulky and more significant than their standard size.  

Photographic Greeting Cards

Photographic greeting cards did not come into the picture until the 1960s. Advances in the technology of photography made it easier and cheaper to use real photos on greeting cards. The images, like the images used before, varied considerably in nature – greeting card manufacturers used pictures of real people, cities, animals, and many other things. 

This also made it easier and cheaper for people to personalize their greeting cards. For instance, it became possible to use one’s photograph on a greeting card to make it all the more personal.

1960 Christmas card

Card Designs Digitization E-Cards – The Present and Future of Greetings

Digitization has influenced almost every industry today. It has led to the death of some sectors and boosted others and the effects are quite impressive when it comes to the greeting card industry.

Traditionally, greeting cards have always been printed on paper and while paper greeting cards still exist today, there is a whole new version of greeting cards – e-cards. These greeting cards are in digital format instead of the traditional paper format. Their digital format makes them incredibly flexible – they can come in the written form or audio and video formats. E-cards are attractive and engaging, and their popularity is growing exponentially.

E-card designs vary extensively and are always changing. Greeting card manufacturers have been embracing the use of sophisticated software to design e-cards with amazing effects and it has also become more comfortable for individuals to develop their greeting cards using simple software. This has opened up many opportunities to ordinary users, but it is threatening to kill the greeting card industry – many of the once-popular greeting card companies are long-gone, while those that have survived the evolution are often struggling to stay in business.  

However, although fun and interactive, e-cards lack the essence of traditional greeting cards. Paper greeting cards take time to make and send, and this conveys the message that the sender is genuinely concerned, which is not the case with e-cards that can be downloaded and mailed in minutes. 

greeting cards


Greeting card designs have changed considerably over the years and they have evolved from simple and straightforward designs to incredibly complex designs today. Greeting cards still retain their essence – they are used to convey warm sentiments such as love and friendship, and this binds emerging designs. 

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