Is your holiday card making a good impression and standing out? Will it be placed in a prime viewing location?

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IMAGE: Elliot Stokes

My friend Chelsea has this to say about the holiday cards she receives: “I choose the winner from the 100+ or so my family is so very fortunate to receive each year.” Yes, she said “winner.” If you knew Chelsea and her family, you’d understand why the household receives so many cards. Chances are, you have a friend like Chelsea, too.

Regardless of whether your card recipients are ranking them — are the cards you’re sending making a good impression and standing out amongst the others? Most people like to put their cards on display. Will yours be amongst the ones selected for the prime viewing location?

Here are five creative ideas to make sure your holiday card is noticed and appreciated.

1) Great photos win hearts.

Whether you opt for a formal family photo or one that is intentionally goofy, a quality image will grab your recipient’s attention. Make sure that everyone in the photo looks relaxed, even in a formal shot. No one likes to display a shot of friends and family looking stiff, awkward, and uncomfortable. Remember: A great photo can be shot at any time during the last year. Sometimes the capture of a family in a candid moment is the most memorable.

Make this photo the centerpiece of your holiday card by sending a photo card or postcard.

2) Handmade cards demonstrate that something “extra.”

PHOTO: Lauren Manning

In a world of digital communication, there is something very valuable about “homemade” — even if it is as simple as hand-signing or addressing a mass-made card. (Hint: Sign with a sentiment and not simply your signature.)

You’ll get even more mileage if you produce a small run of handmade cards. My friend Deena, an illustrator, preempts the holiday season by illustrating small runs of Halloween cards. These are an alternative to holiday well-wishes and made by scanning the original watercolor and ink drawing to be printed.

If you are crafty or looking for a family project, you can even make your own paper. These cards are most labor-intensive and can be reserved to those closest to you.

3) Novelty cards make ’em look twice.

Holiday cards don’t need to play just one role, either. Some cards are meant to hang as tree ornaments or double as fridge magnets. Some read like mini-books. Others invite you to cut them up and reassemble them into something else, like paper dolls.

Don’t forget your other senses! Some cards play music and are fragrance-filled. Shop around and find the card that is the perfect fit for you and the recipient.

4) Does it contain a personalized message?

Some of us don’t have the skills or inclination to make our cards. Others don’t have the time to shop for individual cards for everyone on our list. That’s okay.

We each have the capability to add a customized message inside every personal holiday card we send. Use this opportunity to thank them for their kindness. Use the card to praise the recipient for something they did that mattered to you. Be heartfelt. You don’t have to be serious — a fun doodle works, too. A mass-produced card becomes something truly unique when you add something more than your signature and obligatory well-wishes.

5) Finishing touches make it complete.

PHOTO: Flickr user Cy-V

Signed, sealed, delivered — not so fast! Each of these steps represents another way to send a memorable card. Did you sign your card by hand? What about sealing the envelope with wax stamped with your initial or image (or perhaps a sticker)? What about a secondary envelope to protect the card? Did you hand-stamp the envelope with a holiday-themed stamp or have a hand-stamped cancellation you requested at the post office (sometimes these have holiday-specific messages)?

By applying some creativity to your cards, you can be sure that they will make a memorable impression — and be a reflection of you and your family’s personality, too. Happy holidays!

Katie McCaskey

Katie McCaskey is a freelance journalist and writer on holiday news, trends and tips. Katie is also a small business owner in Staunton, VA, marketing professional and author for over 10 years.