Start-up Stories: Ancoats Guitars Christmas Cards & Calendars

Christmas Cards and Calendars header

Our year spent supporting Ancoats Guitars in its first twelve months of trading is now a good way through. With Christmas around the corner, founder Dave Roberts, like most business owners, felt the need to acknowledge the season and send his best wishes to customers, contacts and suppliers.

Season’s Greetings

A bespoke Christmas Card design has become standard practice among businesses of all sizes. It’s not only an opportunity to strengthen bonds with the people that matter, it’s also a great opportunity to make a splash with your design. 

If you’re in a creative industry, a one-off artwork can show off your chops. For other businesses, the team photo approach may be a little old hat, but when you don’t engage with clients face to face, it’s still a good opportunity to show them who they’re dealing with. Manufacturers may choose to feature a new product, with the caveat that this is a greetings card, not an advert!

Christmas Concepts

When it came to designing the Ancoats Guitars Christmas Card, Dave worked with Solopress designer Matt Bruty to develop and refine his ideas. The initial brief was left open, with Dave giving Matt free reign to come up with an assortment of concepts.

Christmas artwork concepts

Matt was able to create rough drafts that explored a number of themes around Ancoats Guitars and Christmas. His ideas were inspired by existing brand assets, abstract Christmas themes, the Ancoats location and its distinctive red brick architecture, and of course, the guitars themselves.

This approach of refining your concept from a number of ideas is great if you have time and budget to devote to graphic design. If you’re relying on a third party agency or designer, you can cut costs by deciding on your concept ahead of time and supplying a tight brief, along with artwork assets like logos, wordmarks and high-quality photography.

Refining and finalising

Dave decided to pursue two designs: one that reimagined the Ancoats Guitars logo as a snowflake and one that prominently featured a guitar. An initial concept that had the guitar wrapped up as a Christmas present was set aside as it didn’t allow the distinctive look of the guitar to show through. 

Snowflake card design

Instead, they arrived at a design that cast a red model of Ancoats’ New Islington guitar as a Christmas tree, complete with fairy lights and a star on top. Incorporating a product into your Christmas theme in this way is a cute way to feature the product without your card turning into an ad.

Size, Shape, Finish

With concepts finalised, Matt was able to create his two print-ready designs. The snowflake design worked well as a square, so Matt prepared a 148 x 148mm card, just under six inches square. To complement the glistening snowflake artwork, Dave opted for a gloss laminate finish.

Guitar Christmas Tree Card Design

The guitar-as-Christmas-tree design was portrait, so Dave went for an A5 card with the crease at the longer left-hand edge. Ancoats Guitars are finished using water-based paints and a satin, water-based varnish. Dave felt that the look and feel of the card should correspond to the guitars’ distinctive finish. Matt suggested a matt laminated stock which resembled the satin varnish and provided a stylish contrast to the snowflake card.

The advent of a Calendar…

While a Christmas Card is a staple, a personalised Calendar can be a shrewd addition to your seasonal print. If your business has a design aspect, or your product has a strong visual appeal, it’s a fantastic way to get multiple images into one promotional print. Thirteen images to be precise: one for each month and a cover photo.

But beyond the aesthetic showboating, a Calendar is a genuinely useful piece of print that will give your message twelve whole months of airtime. For Dave and Ancoats Guitars, the product in question lends itself so well to photography that a Calendar is an ideal gift for guitar enthusiasts, especially as a reminder for those weighing up a purchase.

Cover to cover

For the Calendar’s front cover, Dave opted for a brand asset that Matt had created previously: a composite image of a guitar, Bauhaus inspired colours and the wordmark that already adorns Flyers, Posters and other Ancoats Guitars collateral. With the simple addition of ‘2023’ Matt was able to create an elegant cover page.

Calendar images

A landscape Calendar requires portrait images to sit beside the roster of dates on each month’s page. While Dave had more than enough stunning pictures of his work to fill the Calendar, some tweaking and arranging was required to make the most of the imagery.

Inserting imagery

Firstly, Matt wanted to compile the photos so that they corresponded to the seasons. This is a good idea when you want your imagery to reflect the passing of the year. If this is a plan you wish to pursue, forward thinking is key. Make sure that you collect appropriate images throughout the year so that you have a full set when it comes to next year’s Calendar. 

In this case, Matt picked sunlit photos for summer, an image featuring autumn leaves for October and so on. Many designers will also save an extra-special pic for December to finish the year off on a high.

Sizing up the composition

Another design task for Matt was to make sure that each image felt like it had the right composition for the page. For some pages, this was as simple as cropping the image in an appropriate way. Elsewhere, however, Matt found he had to use Photoshop to extend backgrounds to make sure the pictures worked in the space.

Calendar page April

A creative idea for when you don’t have a single image that fits the space is to create a composite of more than one photo. Matt did this with photos of a yellow NQ model guitar for April’s image. This approach not only solves the composition problem, but allows us to show a close-up of Dave’s work.

From template to the finished article

To ensure brand consistency, Matt went into the InDesign template to change the font for each month to the one that Ancoats Guitars uses. This is something you can do too when you use our downloadable Calendar templates to create your design.

The 2023 Ancoats Guitars Calendar is an A4, Wirobound Wall Calendar, but we have a great range of styles and sizes on offer for both walls and desktops. Seasonal prints like Calendars and Christmas Cards are a great way to cement your business relationships and get in front of your audience for the holidays and beyond.