Designer Daddy’s Greatest Hits of 2013



2013 was a pretty monumental year, both personally and blogally(?). So for all of the awesome, new readers I’ve met recently — as well as longtime loyalists — here’s a recap of my favorite posts from the last 12 months!


An Open Letter to Photo Card Companies: LGBT Families Celebrate Christmas, Too

December 17, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF


I want to preface by saying that I find articles titled “An open letter to…” a bit pompous and self-important. So with that, please enjoy this pompous, self-important open letter to the makers of holiday photo cards — in particular the four companies (un)fortunate enough to have me on their mailing lists.

One of my favorite and longest-running holiday traditions is designing our family’s holiday card. I first created a card for Papa and myself in 2001, and haven’t skipped a year since. With the onset of daddyhood, a requisite family photo has been incorporated into now dominates the design. However, a couple of years ago, I was forced to use <gasp!> an online photo card company. I was not a happy Designer Daddy. It’s like if Santa had to send all the presents FedEx. This was due to restrictions set by the photographer we used, yet it ended up being a relatively pleasant experience, even if I couldn’t claim it as an original DD creation.

As this year has had an above-normal level of stress, it crossed my mind to save some time and sanity and browse the photo card catalogs we’d received. Whenever I came across a layout I liked, I tried to picture our goofy mugs in place of the picture perfect families smiling back at me. But as I turned page after page after page, I found myself growing disheartened, searching in vain for a photo of a two dad or two mom family. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, considering very few companies of any kind feature same-sex couples or LGBT parents in their marketing or advertising. Even the ones that are historically inclusive rarely show gays or lesbians outside of LGBT publications or broadcasts.

So I did a little experiment. I went back and scoured each of the catalogs I’d gotten, tallying up the families, couples and kids featured in all their glowing, photogenic glory, in order to get some concrete(ish) information. While I was at it, I also took a look at how people of color were represented.


Fridge Wisdom: Wot Wot’s In A Royal Baby Name?

July 23, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Here we are, back at the fridge…

Apparently the American media is the biggest fan on the flames of Brit Babymania. And it reached its crazy crest when said tot popped from the Royal Birthing Womb. Everyone and their British Bulldog is commenting, tweeting and blogging about this silliness, so I thought I’d throw my bowler into the three rings.

To whit, a few suggestions for Prince Newborn’s Royal Baby Name, inspired by British literature and a spot of pop culture from both sides of the pond. (A blood pudding to whomever gets all the references)…



Merry Christmas, Happy New Year & Buon Natale!


Now that I’ve trotted out several Christmas cards from years past, I wanted to share this year’s…

Since becoming a Dad, I’ve struggled with designing a Holiday card that would appeal to both my clients AND satisfy family and friends that wanted baby pictures. Prior to parenthood, I’ve done just one card for both purposes — but that was before we had such a good-looking kiddo to show off! Yet I wondered if sending a more personal-looking card to clients would come across as unprofessional.

As usual, time and money ended up being the determining factors. I didn’t have the energy or hours to generate a fabulous/unique/award-winning “business” card, and a second one for friends and family featuring an adorable portrait of JJ and a “form letter” describing all the awesome things we’d done this past year. So I decided to pick one event — our trip to Italy — and threw in a whole mess of photos. I collaged them onto three panels: one of predominantly green hues, one in whites, one in reds. The colors of Christmas… and also the Italian flag. Aren’t I clever? 😉

Front of card: click to biggefy

Back of card: click to biggefy

I concluded that the design and quality of the photography would showcase my talents, and the pictures of happy toddlers eating giant bowls of pasta would melt hearts. And if someone decided not to hire me because they didn’t like my warm and fuzzy Christmas card, bah humbug on them.

Turns out I shouldn’t have been too worried about how the card would be received. So far I’ve gotten 42 emails complimenting the card — 14 from family or friends, 28 from clients or colleagues — by far the largest number of personal notes I’ve received about a Holiday card in 10+ years. Let’s hear it for pics of babies and food!

On a final note, I’d like to once again thank all my family, friends, clients, colleagues and other folks who’ve read, shared and commented on the blog. Every bit of your interaction and support means the world to me. All the best to you and yours for a spectacular 2013!

(PS: Click here to view an interactive version of the card — complete with captions and larger views of the photos!)

The 12 Days of Christmas Past: Day 5

December 24, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

The kiddo’s settled down for a long winter’s nap, so I’ll crank out one more Card of Xmas Past…

We were at my parents’ house this weekend for Christmas I, which included opening presents with my brother and his wife, a couple of way-too-large meals, and Sunday morning service at my Dad’s church. Christmas II will be at our house. Grandma & Grandpa are coming up here for another round of presents and a ginormous lasagna.

As we were leaving my parents’ house Sunday night — all a-flurry and a-scurry to make sure we got all our loot (presents), crap (non-present stuff), and JJ’s everything — my brother asked, “Do you want to take your little girl home, too?”

Yup, we almost forgot the dog.

As many other parents of both dogs and humans will tell you, our dog (Cordi, short for Cordelia*) truly was our “first baby” —  a test run of sorts. She’s a 7 year-old “pre-Obama” Portuguese Water Dog, and is the sweetest, smartest and most adorable dog of all time. Don’t believe me? Check out her headshots after this 2006 Holiday card featuring a be-spotted buttshot. Another well-loved card, many of which I sold to local pet and gift stores. Several years later I was out walking Cordi, and someone stopped to admire/pet her. This person mentioned how much she looked like a dog on a Christmas card she received once. She’s not Bo famous, but it’s a start.


The 12 Days of Christmas Past: Day 4

December 21, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

End of the world, blah blah blah… Mayan calendar, blah blah blah… Apocalypse blah blah blah…

I had told myself I wouldn’t get sucked into writing about all that nonsense, but this DoXP card seemed to fit nicely…

2008 was the first of the “lean years” in our economy — at least it’s when Design Nut first felt it. Subsequently that year I decided to recycle/upcycle/repurpose/whatever and instead of printing all new cards, packaged several holiday and note card “Greatest Hits,” put them in a nifty, green photo box (LOVE me some Container Store!), and digitally printed a label for the top and a message card for the inside.


The 12 Days of Christmas Past: Day 3

December 20, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

This year’s card is a collage of some of our photos from Italy — they were just too delicious to not use. So on a related subject… today’s DoXP card is from our first trip to Italy in 2003, AKA The Honeymoon.

Thankfully I had the forethought to take a sketchbook to the breathtaking, life-changing, awe-inspiring Amalfi Coast, and thus ended up with an incredible keepsake of drawings from all the wonders we witnessed. Sketching (as opposed to zipping around with a camera) was a wonderful way to experience the country. I had to actually be still and soak it all in. (Obviously, this was pre-JJ) My favorite moment was sitting with my pen and pad in the square with the Amalfi Cathedral looming overhead.

Upon our return home, I scrapped the original idea I’d had for the Holiday card/promo, and used my sketch of the Cathedral for the Christmas card. Additionally, I had 8 different note cards printed featuring various sketches and photos from our trip. I designed a belly band/cover, boxed them up and gave them as client gifts — by far my most popular client gift to date. I was even able to sell quite a few sets in the years since.

Sketch of the Amalfi Cathedral (Cattedrale di Sant'Andrea)


The 12 Days of Christmas Past: Day 2

December 19, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Lately we’ve been using Santa’s naughty/nice list (and the above song) to motivate JJ to niceness (hey, whatever works) — which reminded me of this blast from the past…

Day two of my journey through Christmas cards past brings me to a one that proved quite popular… and delicious! The card was 2-sided, so depending on how you opened it you got either a “naughty” or a “nice” message.

Interior greeting: "sinfully sensational seasons greetings"

Interior greeting: "happily heartfelt holiday wishes"


The 12 Days of Christmas Past: Day 1

December 18, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF

Last December I undertook the gargantuan (some would say unwise) task of doing 1 post a day — complete with an original doodle/graphic — as an online Advent calendar of sorts. While it was fun and enlightening for me (and I assume a few readers, too) it took up a WHOLE lotta time. And time ain’t something in abundance come December.

So this year I’m going recycled/retro and sharing some of the cards I’ve designed in Christmases past. While that may not seem very “Daddy”-related, the fact that I’m scaling back on holiday blogging is due entirely to my very celebratory three year-old, and all that he entails. Yeah, I’m really tired a lot.

I’m not necessarily going to do 12 — or go in chronological order — but today’s Days of Christmas Past (DoXP) post is my first ever original Holiday card of the modern era (post-college). The year was 1999 so it was not just pre-Designer Daddy, but pre-Design Nut. However I think you can see the seeds of design nutty days to come.

Click to biggefy

Another interesting (only to me, probably) fact: this illustration/collage was printed out on my own little Epson and adhered by my (and Papa’s) hands to the cards, which had also been cut and folded by me. I was young, poor and crafty… and this was the LAST year of such nonsense. That’s why God made professional printers.

Card-carrying Dad

June 16, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

It took me forever to find the four Father’s Day cards I needed to buy this year. Yes, I said FOUR: one for Papa from me, one for Papa from JJ, one for my Dad from me, and one for my Dad from JJ. I realize I could do some doubling-up there, but being a 2-dad household makes Father’s Day a pretty big deal, and I want to make sure everyone gets all the love and appreciation in paper form that they so richly deserve.

Here are a few things I learned from my quest for the perfect Father’s Day cards…

Father’s Day cards are the most goofy and sexist of all the greeting card industry-created holidays. In my vast multi-store research, I’ve found they generally fall into four themes hackneyed clichés:

, AKA: Yeah, yeah, it’s “the only kind of cooking a real man does”… so guess what? You’re cooking today.

, AKA: You’re allowed to relax today, but only this once because you’re generally a very lazy person who I can barely tolerate.

, AKA: Hey, Mr. Handyman, I hope this card reminds you of all the stuff you promised you’d do around the house but haven’t. Did I mention you’re lazy?

, AKA: While I appreciate that you work to support our family, please be aware that I spend way more time with the kids, so you’re kind of a second-class parent… Are the burgers done yet?

Keep in mind that ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of these cards were created with the assumption they’d be purchased by women for their husbands, fathers, or husbands’ fathers. So there seems to be (at least in the sampling I’ve presented to make my point) a whole lotta generalization and stereotyping going on here. Where are the cards for the dads that DON’T like to grill or hammer or wear a tie or spend their days in a recliner glued to ESPN?

I’ve never undertood these creepy kids-dressed-as-adults cards

And if you’re a dad who sleeps next to another dad, forget it. It’s hard enough finding a gender-neutral Valentine’s Day or Anniversary card in anything resembling a mainstream retail store. Try finding a Father’s Day card to a husband FROM a husband. It’s about as common as a department store ad depicting two kids with their gay dads. It’s out there, just not a lot of people are doing it.

Luckily, there are some folks at least trying. Family Equality Council and Children’s Tylenol created some same-sex Father’s Day e-cards you can customize and send for free. This is a great idea and I applaud the effort. My only beef is that they are for both dads together. I’m my own person, and so is Papa. Joint Father’s Day cards might be okay for those freaky couples who share an email address, but not us. Plus, JJ knows us as “Daddy” and “Papa” — he doesn’t get yet that he has two fathers.

On the topic of Papa, I’ve mentioned before the lack of non-grandpa “Papa” references out there. The same applies to greeting cards. Unless I’m mistaken, these cards are not singing the praises of the Spanish-speaking, gay Papas of the world.

I know I’ve done a lot of griping here, so I want to end with how excited I am at how things are changing and becoming more accepting and supportive of families like ours. President Obama, JCPenney, the myriad of GLBT advocacy groups — they’ve all contributed to what’s been an incredible few months for gay Americans. Even so, there’s still an abundance of hatred and violence and plain old ignorance — and lots of work still to be done.

Speaking of work, one of the things I found particularly humorous in the hammock-themed cards is that they all talk about how “It’s your day, relax! Kick up your feet! We’ll do all the work today!” Again, these were intended for men with wives who had their own special day the previous month, and presumably do all the heavy lifting the third Sunday in June. What do you do when you’re both supposed to relax? Let the kid run wild? Maybe it’s just because our kiddo is 2-1/2, but there’s no such thing as a relaxing Sunday in our house, Father’s Day or otherwise. Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(PS: I did find some pretty great cards for all the wonderful guys in my life, which I will be sharing with them privately. 🙂 However, none of them even comes close to fully expressing how lucky I am to have such a wonderful Dad, loving husband and incredible son. So maybe next year I’ll just design my own…)

As a bonus, here’s one final card, which I think includes pretty much all of the aforementioned clichés:

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