A chinwag with Karen, Founder of Inclusive Greetings, and a look at some of their beautiful, unique greetings cards.
Read time: 4 minutes
We are very excited to have some new products in the shop today: Stunning inclusive greetings cards by the fabulous Inclusive Greetings, run by lovely husband and wife duo, Karen and Tana, which was born out of passion for inclusivity. Karen, an Occupational Therapist (OT), and Tana, a Doctor, are on a mission ‘to make inclusion sexy!’ Both self-described foodies as well, their Instagram account is a thing of beauty and love which will have you drooling and smiling in equal measure.
Here at The Pretty, Good Project we love these cards, and why not? Just think of the happy little skip of your heart you get from the experience of receiving a greeting card and knowing someone is thinking of you. But consider how people with visual impairments or learning difficulties, for example, may not be able to enjoy the images, wording and meanings in the same way. In essence, they have been excluded by the way we have designed something. This is where Inclusive Greetings come in.
With Karen’s considerable artistic skill, particularly watercolours and typography, combined with her years of experience being an OT, and with the help of her partner Tana, they have together pioneered a very clever technique that includes tactile pictures and braille on greetings cards. The outcome is quite beautiful, and more than that, an intriguing experience that enhances the experience of the card for all.
I recently spoke to Karen to find out more about what her and Tana are doing and we bonded over food, inclusion, Austin TX, and making websites accessible with no skills!
What was your first card?
“It was actually a custom hand-painted postcard back in 2015 that someone wanted for their friend’s wedding with their names and dates of the wedding on it and an image. I was so proud of it! And getting that first order was such an awesome feeling. We heard the phone making this ‘cha-ching’ noise and couldn’t work out what it was – and then realised it was our first order through Etsy. We were so excited! But then it went a bit wrong. I put the finished card in this lovely black envelope to send to them but somehow in transit the black must have come off and got stuck to the material we use for the braille. We received a message from the customer asking if there was a way to get the black off the braille and we were like ‘what black??’. They sent us an image of it and we were like ‘I’m soooo sorry!’. They were so nice about it, but we felt so bad! We soon got it all sorted for their card but we no longer use those envelopes or materials!”
You say you want to make inclusion ‘sexy’. What do you mean by this?
“In order to make inclusion come to life, it has to be mainstream. We’re trying to open a dialogue – like the Eone timepiece – about beautiful designs that can be used by people with or without visual impairments equally. We show that even with something as simple as a card you can make it inclusive. It doesn’t need to be a crazy technology – it’s about just shifting perspective and designing things with love and kindness.”
They explain more on their website: “Our motivation is to bridge the gap between people. To do that we make products that will start a conversation and to create a space for more empathy and understanding. With these small conversations we hope to slowly, but surely create more inclusive interactions between people that are stemmed from love.
Often times, we hear people say ‘Oh, I don’t have a blind friend, why should I buy a braille card?’ but that’s essentially the beauty of inclusive designing. Inclusive designing is about more than being accessible. It’s about seamlessly including others. When you give someone our cards, you are telling them that you too stand for inclusion.”
What is your favourite card?
“Usually the last one I do! But actually right now it is this one. When you first look at it you see happy birthday – you can’t see the braille straight away as it is hidden in amongst leaves, which is much more subtle than some of our other cards. Since we’ve been doing this we realised that much as we hope people are more accepting, we need put in the functionality without pushing it into people’s faces. That’s the fun and challenge of designing inclusively anyways!”
Can you tell us about your ‘Haha, you can’t read this‘ cards (our favourite!)?:
“Haha! We actually got this idea from Stevie Wonder! He was an award presenter at the 2016 Grammy Awards Ceremony and he was given a card to announce the winner. He made a joke about “Haha you can’t read this because you can’t read braille”. We thought, “Hey, let’s make a card like that which switches the power back to people with disabilities”. It was a bit nerve-wracking as we didn’t know how people would react to it. We were like, “Shall we do it? We don’t want to offend anyone”. But it’s had good response – especially when we sell it in person as we find it really starts a conversation. It’s part of a whole light-hearted Haha Series now with cards with hidden messages – like “It’s a boy!’ written in Braille. Even if you don’t find it funny, it serves as a great puzzle card since it comes with a Braille translator as well!”
How did you start Inclusive Greetings?
“I am a OT and it was through this that I learned of the term of universal and inclusive design. When I heard about it I thought ‘wow!’ and just fell in love with the concept and thought it should be everywhere as a way of life! I wanted to teach as many people as I could about it. Before we started Inclusive Greetings we didn’t actually have any blind friends or know much about Braille. I saw Braille cards and found that often they looked quite dated. As a “normal” consumer I thought to myself that I would never purchase such unappealing cards. It also made me wonder why these cards had to be so alienating and I thought I might be able to do something that was more inclusive: both modern and functional for everyone. For a 20 cent listing on Etsy it was worth a go and here we are today!”
Since beginning part time nearly two years ago, Inclusive Greetings has now become a full time business and is continuing to expand. Karen and Tana have also since developed deep links with many organisations and individuals affected by visual impairments and incorporate all this knowledge and experiences into their cards. I was really intrigued to hear about the events they have been to with The Blind Cafe, which take pop-up pitch black dining experiences facilitated by blind staff across the USA to use darkness to change the way people ‘see’ the world.
“We have so many visually impaired friends now. And we have learnt a lot, particularly about the spectrum of visual impairment – how different people may see shadows, light, certain colours, or only close up for example – which is changing the way we design or cards.”
Thank you Karen and Tana! Inclusive Greetings cards are gorgeous and we are excited to show them in the UK – coming to a Pretty, Good Project testing cafe soon!