How it’s made: the thortful card

Here’s a question – have you ever thought about how your thortful card’s actually made? Well, it’s your lucky day because we’re about to lift the lid on just that. (And if you’ve never thought about it, why not?!).

We’re always told our range sets us apart, and that’s because we work a lil’ differently to other brands. 

We’re powered by (thousands) of independent creators…

…instead of in-house card designers. When you buy your card, a chunk of the profit is given to the creator for their work. For us, that’s cool because it puts money back into the creative economy. For you, it’s cool because you can choose from thousands of different styles, themes and sentiments. 

We caught up with Michelle Lancaster of Wink Design to give you a first hand look into what it’s like being a thortful creator and how she comes up with her designs.

“I find inspiration in daily life…”

“…in interactions with people, things I see as I go about my day, ideas that suddenly pop randomly into my head, colours or patterns that I see when out and about, or when I’m walking my dog, Toffee. He’s been an inspiration for a few cards too! 

I try to keep a notebook or sketchbook handy so I can jot things down. Sometimes it’s just a few words, other times it can be a really scruffy, quick doodle. I can work on them straight away or I might come back to them later. I also produce digital illustrations using my iPad Pro – I have an Apple Pencil so I can draw straight onto the screen. It’s a fast way of getting a more polished illustration than drawing on paper, and it’s portable so I can work in my local cafe!

I love that thortful supports my work, and that of so many other independent artists and designers. It gives us all a great platform to get our art into the world, and it’s massively satisfying to see people enjoying what we’ve created.”

“I love designing, customers love choosing the card that says just the right thing, and people love to receive a great card.”

Thanks Michelle! So the sketch is done, the card is beautiful… But how do customers actually find it? Enter the moderation team. 

Once the card is uploaded onto the website, our creators have the important task of working out what the title and tags should be – the better the tags, the easier it is for you to find them! Once the creator presses that upload button it appears for the moderation team to check. 

In moderation, we look at the design to make sure the quality is top notch.

Good graphics, no bad spelling, no rogue commas. We want the cards to print beautifully, so we triple check the colours and cut off so things don’t get printed badly. 

The final check is to have a look over the title and tags, to make sure it’s going to be as easy as possible for the right people to find it, at the right time (this is a bit of an art form). 

Hooray! The card is on the website.

But what happens next? After you place your order online it’s virtually sent to our printing facilities in The Steel City (Sheffield, England). It’s super important to us that all of our production is local to the UK, not only to keep cash in the local economy, but to have less of an impact on the environment. Others cards are flown in, creating hundreds of thousands of unnecessary air miles – not very thoughtful, in our opinion!  

Once our printers receive your order…

…a test print is done on a massive sheet of paper with some other cards. We regularly check the cards while they’re printing to make sure the quality is top notch and all the colours look right. You may have noticed all our cards are printed with a matte finish, this keeps them 100% recyclable. 

After printing, your cards are cut unbelievably precisely by a giant paper guillotine

No, we’re not joking. It’s able to cut thousands of cards at once, with someone making sure the paper is perfectly in-line. Props to that human. The reason most of our cards are A5 as standard is so we can minimise paper wastage. 

Our friends on the factory floor are constantly standing by to look at quality – they’re so detailed that even if the cut is off by a few mm’s, they’ll know. The cards then get folded by a cool machine that’s literally just for thortful cards (it’s even got a sign on it!).

This allows us to print and pack hundreds of cards every minute. 

Now the card is printed, folded and ready to send it goes into the coolest machine of ’em all.

The machine recognises the cards, finds the right address for each of them, prints the address on the envelope before inserting any cards into it as well as your spare envelopes.

For any bigger orders with a bunch of cards (we’re looking at you, 4 for £10 shoppers), another machine packs the cards and envelopes into a small cardboard box, which will neatly fit through your letterbox. It’ll even apply the address label for us at the end.

We’ve come a LONG way from hand-packing these…

…and we’re really proud of how sustainably our printers have managed to scale up our business operations (although our gifting range is still hand-packed)!

Once packed and labelled, Royal Mail collects the cards directly from Sheffield, and pop ‘em in letterboxes around the country.