American Greetings Tour

Today, I went on a field trip to American Greetings in Cleveland with a bunch of graphic design students. I knew three of them, as well as the instructor, before as I had worked with them on a couple of Design Studio projects. (Design Studio is an opportunity at school where, right now, graphic design students can actually work on real projects for clients through the school)

We left school at about 10:30 in a fifteen passenger van…I think there was only one seat left so we were pretty cozy. Once we got close to Cleveland, we got off on the wrong exit and spend the next hour(?) going around in circles trying to find the right one.

Lost and wandering.

Eventually, we arrived about 1:30, an hour and a half later than planned. Right away, we hurried inside, placed our portfolio items in a room and went to one of their cafeterias for lunch. We were served pizza, salad, drinks and an assortment of cookies and brownies.

American Greetings Creative Studios sign


When all had finished, we split up into two groups and took a tour of the Creative Studios. My group first stopped at the gallery. This is a space that the company asks a couple of their artists to fill each month or two with whatever they want to show. I think I remember Dan (our tour guide…I forget his position in the company) mentioning that many of the pieces were probably for sale or auction.


My group went through the design process backwards…that is, we saw the artists first, then a bit of their planning and market research that goes into their making cards and other work. This is Dan explaining to us about how they send out their artists to different cities to go and get a feel for the art and culture. When they get back they post their work on boards like the one behind him. Each of the artists post samples of their work outside their workspace so tourists like us can see the kinds of things they work on. To the left is a hand lettering artist’s cube.

Design Department

The hallways between places seemed very long, but most had artwork posted on the walls. This was the result of the company asking (I gathered this was sort of as a reward) several artists to take a few weeks and some money and develop an art piece based on a word.

Hallway art

This is a view inside their “Alternative Cards” department. While most of the creative team at American Greetings has a particular job, in the Alternative Cards department, things are more freeform and each staff member has several hats each wears.

Alternative Cards department

We visited their photography section, saw their studios and places where props are stored, animals are kennelled and people change for shoots. Next we moved to their marketing research and development section. This is the Kid Zone (there’s a regular sized door on the other side). One of the cool things they do is make sheets of trends grouped together and post them here. I’m guessing this is also the meeting room for the team that works on the kid’s demographic.

Kids Zone

The next room they call the “Man Room,” and as you can see it’s all decked out in manly things. I didn’t quite understand the reason completely, but it seems like it was to help address the trend toward more manly men. I think he said they redecorate the room every few months, so it may actually change markets depending.

The Man Room

The last room we visited was where they deal with their color palette for the years to come. The colors used are decided by manufacturers and designers throughout the industry and the world. On the wall behind Dan is the palette of colors used for 2005-2007. On the table are several sheets that have example colors and living styles for different audience markets.

Color Room

We made sure that they had resumes, cards and samples from each of us. Here we are just before leaving to go back to school. We made it back just a few minutes before six, which worked well for me as I had class as six.

Preparing to return to Pittsburgh

If there were other things nearby, such as a church, I might consider working for them. The atmosphere sounded like they have a lot of flexibility and fun. This opportunity was great to be able to see how a large design company is set up, and the unique opportunity to have important people look at our portfolio materials. If we were to have sent our resume and things to their HR department, it would have been unlikely that anyone would really look at it. But with this, department directors were invited to come down and peruse our work. Very cool.


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