“My parents have always been D-I-Y kinds of people,” said Ryan LeMere over a cup of coffee, “They taught me never to pay for something you can do yourself.” It’s exactly this philosophy that’s encouraged this School of Visual Arts senior to put his illustration background to good use and bring his idea for a more inclusive greeting card from pen to paper to printer.
And so, Out Loud Greetings was born – a predominately online company launched in August 2011 that seeks to serve an otherwise neglected market. While you can read the story about Out Loud Greetings’ inspiration on their website, the idea for the LGBTQ-inclusive greeting card company first came to LeMere last summer as he worked as a waiter in the East Village while his boyfriend was abroad. LeMere missed him terribly and found himself doodling on receipt paper and napkins the sorts of images anyone in love would.
From that humble beginning, the company grew and LeMere developed cards for everything from weddings to baby showers to coming out.
The cards themselves are roughly 4.25”x5.75” and are printed on 100 percent recycled paper. All of LeMere’s cards speak to a quiet sophistication. Their designs are simple, but never simplistic and convey much with such little imagery.
Take “Star Gazing,” for example – the very first card LeMere designed. The illustration itself is composed of loose, clean lines that depict two figures sitting under a stylized tree looking up into the sky. The moment is extremely tender and, while there are no stars on the horizon, the emotion is conveyed beautifully.
You wouldn’t guess just by looking at the ambiguous figures on “Star Gazing” but it represents a tender moment between LeMere and his boyfriend in Guatemala – the two nestled beneath a gnarled tree watching the stars, reunited after a lengthy separation.
“It’s funny. As my relationship progresses, I’ve been thinking about the cards I should add to the collection.” In the coming months, he plans to add holiday and anniversary cards to his merchandise. One collection LeMere is particularly excited to expand is his “coming out” series.
Some of our readers may wonder, why the need for greeting cards specifically for the LGBTQ community? If love is so universal, what differentiates same-sex love from opposite-sex? Absolutely nothing, LeMere would say, but that’s not to say the queer community doesn’t need this defined space – at least for now.
“The reality is, so many different kinds of people do love and we might as well celebrate them all. Walk down the greeting card aisle and you’ll see they’re only representing [a fraction] of the couples out there.”
One of the most impressive things about LeMere’s startup is that he’s managed to develop it with so little money down. He’s done everything on his own – from building the website, to designing the logo to coming up with the aesthetic of his cards. He even prints them himself. He’s modest when talking about it, but I know I could learn a thing or two from his D-I-Y personality. That doesn’t mean LeMere’s hasn’t had some difficulties along the way.
“One of the challenges has been addressing the community without exploiting them. I try to make cards without stereotyping. The last thing I want to do is offend someone.” LeMere tries to keep cards balanced in terms of the amount geared towards lesbian couples and gay couples, but admits one of the greatest struggles has been making cards for the trans community.
“Visual impact is so crucial and you can’t overstep those boundaries.” That being said, LeMere does have several gender-neutral cards on his website – including one with two elephants that is his best seller so far.
While the cards are marketed towards the LGBTQ community, they’re meant to be accessible to everyone. Straight allies should feel comfortable purchasing them for their friends – regardless of the recipient’s orientation or gender identity.
“The word inclusive is one of the best words I could’ve had in mind as this project has progressed. And I think Hallmark could certainly think about it too.”
In honor of National Coming Out Day (October 11th) Out Loud Greetings is hosting a special promotion – 50% off all “coming out” cards. You can purchase Out Loud Greetings cards on their website or on Etsy.
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