Here’s my step-by-step process for creating an original affirmation card deck.
Hey there! This is Justin and I’m a writer, artist, and designer that makes fun things for the internet. And today, I wanted to share my process of developing the Joy Bombs Affirmation Card Deck.
My relationship with affirmations started when I was dealing with negative self talk at my first job in advertising. And I go into indepth detail about that in another episode.
But the short version is that for me, affirmations are a transformational tool for reprograming my mind to focus on the good instead of the potential bad. And it’s been a profound gift in building my self-confidence and helping me to stop taking life sooooo seriously.
When deciding on products to create for the SoCurious collection, I knew that affirmations would be a great place to start. I know firsthand the power they have in a person’s life, but also I have a unique spin on them that could connect new audiences to affirmations using my unique hand lettering style and bold color combinations.
In case you missed it: My mission as an artist is to create a more beautiful world by sharing uplifting content that inspires and educates.
That’s why I’ve designed Joy Bombs affirmation cards.
They’re more than just a product – they’re a message of hope and encouragement.
When you use them, you’ll be reminded that you’re not alone and that you have the power to transform your life and the lives of others.
But this is only the beginning.
My goal is to see 1 million smiles inspired by these affirmation cards, reminding people of their power, potential, and worth.
With your help, I believe we can create a ripple effect of positivity that will make the world a better place, one smile at a time.
Or if you’d like to financially support this project and a real life human artist, you can make a one-time donation here.
Step 1: I started by brainstorming a list of affirmations. I’ve done a lot of work in this space for myself so I had 10 go-tos that I already have in rotation to help me deal with different parts of my life.
These are the 10 affirmations I repeat the most frequently:
- I deserve to take up space
- I can handle any challenge
- I’m proud of who I’m becoming
- I’m going easier on myself right now
- I’m Brave Enough to Try
- Even in Uncertainty there can be peace
- Every day is a chance to start fresh
- I’m Only Competing with myself
- I’m a Magnet for Great Opportunity
- I take calculated risks
From there, I wanted to expand to consider additional ideas. I’ve been sending out an email called the Weekly Reset for the past three years, and each email includes an inspirational pep talk and an original illustration from me.
So I went to the archives of the newsletter to see what inspiration would come. And fortunately, I was able to come up with 52 options from content I’d already created.
Step 2: The next step was honing in on the type of affirmation cards I wanted to make by doing extensive design exploration.
I went to Procreate on my iPad Pro and developed 6 illustrated affirmations to see how I liked making this type of work. I loved the original illustrations so I slowly started to share them. I started by including them in my weekly Patreon email. Then I shared them on social media and finally in my weekly email.
In measuring success, it’s not always about the total number of likes on a post. One key way of defining the success of the work that I produce is the number of shares and saves on social media. I also think that when someone takes the time to leave a comment on a post or reply to an email that the content I shared really resonated.
Step 3: I needed to pick a name that was memorable and clearly explained the project concept.
Naming something is almost always my favorite part of any project. I like choosing names that will bring the idea to life, but I also like to make the name sticky. For me a sticky name is something that people will remember a few days from now or something they want to share with their friends.
After a quick brainstorm, I came up with 4 different potential names for the product and shared them on my Instagram stories as a simple poll asking people to pick their favorite name for the affirmation project. I then shared the options in my weekly newsletter and asked people to click on the name that they preferred. .
Oftentimes as creatives, our instinct is to hide away and focus on building our project without sharing it with people along the way. But that can lead to you developing something that’s good but doesn’t quite resonate with your intended audience.
When building a project, it’s almost always best to build in public and bring people along with you for the journey. This helps you to validate the idea and confirm interest. It also gives your audience the opportunity for your audience to give you feedback on the project and be a part of bringing it to life.
The four initial names were:
- Joy Bombs
- Take What You Need
- Spread the Joy
- This is Your Sign
From the Instagram poll: the winning idea was “Take What You Need,” but from the email poll the winner was “Joy Bombs.”
I personally really liked Joy Bombs because I had an instant visual idea associated with the concept so I decided to move forward with that idea.
Step 4: One of the hardest parts of producing anything is finding a production company to bring that idea to life. But I knew that with enough dedicated research, I could find a company that could produce exactly what I was looking for.
It’s also worth noting, that I decided to focus on a card deck as the first product because I wanted to develop something that was practical, small, and easy to ship. While I have a lot of experience with print-on-demand online stores, this is one of the first products that I would be shipping out myself and I wanted to make sure that everything could fit comfortably in my small two bedroom apartment without being a significant hassle.
I did a quick Google search and found 6 different potential companies. I then reached out to all of them to get quotes on the prices and ordered samples.
My criteria for picking a shipping company were affordability, quality, and reputation of the company. I reviewed the company websites, inspected the samples and read customer reviews to narrow it down to the printing company I’ve decided to print with.
Since this is my first time, I can’t personally vouch for the company yet, but I hope I’ve picked a winner.
Step 5:The next logical step to make this idea come to life was to build a logo. Fortunately, my background is in visual design so building a logo isn’t that difficult for me.
Since all of the cards will be hand-lettered, I knew that I wanted the logo design to also be hand-lettered. So I developed three different design ideas.
Here’s what the three options looked like.
Option 1 builds on this idea, by showing the bomb exploding, but this the end result looks somewhat like a sun.
For option 2 I wanted to strip away the visual elements and focus on a creative word mark. I decided to include the explosion illustration in the negative space in the “O” and added a few extra elements to create whimsy and joy in the illustration.
Option 3 featured the words Joy Bombs inside of a bomb shape. While this was a good start, it felt too literal and didn’t have the visual impact I desired.
Normally at this stage, I would share the options with my social media following, but in this specific case, I felt like there was a clear winner. Option 3 had the whimsy and personality I was looking for without feeling trapped inside a shape. I also could easily imagine this logo being used for a long time. So I jumped over to designing the box design.
Step 6: One easy way to validate your concept is to continue to work on bringing the ideas to life. I felt like once I saw the box fully designed, this project would officially be real. So I started by creating a few examples of flat designs that I could use with the design.
Behind the scenes, I was working on a home decor collection for Society6 so I was doing lots of colorful pattern design in the Procreate app on my iPad. So I started putting the patterns beneath the logo to see how I responded to them. This was an interesting process because it definitely got my brain excited about all the ways that I could extend the project. And inspired me to consider this the first of 7 Joy Bombs collections.
The idea isn’t fully fleshed out yet, but I promise, you’ll be the first to know as I start to bring that idea to life in the future.
Ultimately I landed on a pattern that actually didn’t work for the collection, but felt perfect for this design. I especially liked that the design features key brand colors for SoCurious and I love the movement and flow in the design. This is a testament to the idea that even our worst ideas can have new life in future projects we might not have even imagined.
Once I had an idea of the flat box, I went to Envato Elements to find a box mockup. It was easy to find options so I could add my flat illustrations and see a sample 3D rendering.
I went into Photoshop and pieced together the box. This took a few rounds to perfect, but I was really pleased with the box design and jumped right into building a landing page for the pre-orders.
Step 7: As a creative, we all know that people will say that they like an idea, but the best way to see if you have a viable business idea is to validate your concept by accepting preorder sales. To do this I created a simple landing page with a preorder link.
The good thing about going this avenue is that if you get a lot of preorders, you know that this idea really connects with people. If you don’t get a lot of preorders, you can always refund the money and scrap the idea completely.
The hard part about doing preorders is that you have to set a moderate goal and be willing to promote your idea multiple times.
The thing that trips me up (and I think most creative people) is that you expect that the first time that you mention an idea that everyone will jump at the opportunity to pay. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. In fact, oftentimes you need to prompt something multiple times just to get people to click.
So it takes a few weeks to make enough content to change the hearts and minds of people and you just have to stick with it until you start to see the result.
For me, I set the goal of making 50 preorders. This was exactly the amount necessary to get the first batch of 500 card decks printed and shipped to me from the printing company. Then I established a stretch goal of 100 preorders. This would allow me to have more money to create promoted ads so i could get the idea in front of more eyeballs.
Now that I had a landing page it was time to promote the concept to my audience. I did a combination of short-form social videos, email marketing, and limited Facebook advertising to promote the presale of Joy Bombs Affirmation cards.
The biggest challenge in promoting is coming up with interesting ways to continue to share the idea with your audience. My focus was primarily using storytelling as a tool to make a connection with my audience both verbally and visually.
The campaign resulted in 89 orders of the Joy Bombs affirmation cards, which meant that I had enough profit to pay for the initial set of cards, and I felt like I built enough interest to make me feel confident in completing the project and sharing it with the world.
Step 8: I started with 6 illustrated affirmations. For the preorder page, I created an additional 14 affirmations. But now it was really time to get to work on completing the deck and illustrating all 52 affirmation cards.
Developing the affirmations was a super fun process for me because it helped me to explore the ways that I can combine the colors in the SoCurious color palette to tell interesting visual stories. This included trying out all the different color variations and seeing the different ways that I could combine colors in interesting ways.
Creating the hand lettering was not specifically hard, but I must admit that creating beautiful design is incredibly time intensive.
I broke this part of the project into tiny chunks and would work a few hours a day to create illustrations. Some days I would focus on the hand lettering. Some days i would focus on adding the visual flourish to the designs. And some days were dedicated to refining the designs.
Through this process, I learned a lot about the power of dedication and commitment. When I finally completed the 52nd card in the deck I was genuinely proud because I’d put countless hours into designing a significant project that was meaningful to me and my audience.
Making things is hard. Putting yourself out there is hard. But through this project, I committed to making something meaningful that I wanted to share with the world.
Step 9: The next step in producing the card deck is printing samples and refining the designs. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so it was really important for me to see how these cards would come to life before paying a lot of money to get them printed.
So I created a template in Indesign that would allow me to easily cut down the cards. After placing the individual designs in the template, I got the batch of cards printed at Kinkos and brought them home to cut them out and inspect them.
The biggest goals of this process were to confirm that I had consistency throughout the card deck. Most importantly, I focused on the use of color, the illustration style, and tried to make sure that I was reusing illustration styles throughout the different cards in the deck. I also wanted to make sure that I had enough of each color for visual cohesion. And finally, I wanted to make sure I still resonated with all of the phrases in the deck.
After reviewing the items through this lens, I had a lot more work to do.
Creating is a part of the process, but the best way to actually make great work is to commit to the editing process. So I made a list of additional things I needed to refine in the designs and got to work.
It’s worth noting, that through this process I realized that there were a few items I hadn’t considered.
For example, I needed to create an opening card that explained the idea. I also needed to redesign the box to fit the appropriate size. And though the process, I decided to simplify the designs and take out some of the embellishment because the cards are relatively small and some of the detail was lost in the designs.
It took an additional 25 hours of edits but eventually, I completed a card deck that I’m truly proud of… and that I was excited to send to the printing press.
Step 10: Develop the final files and send the deck off to the printer.
One of the greatest perks of being a designer is that I have experience prepping files for the printer. There are a few things you need to consider when prepping to print:
1. You have to add extra space around the design for when the printer cuts the cards down to size.
This is called bleed and normally your printer will provide you with specs for your design files. In addition to this you have to convert the colors of your cards from RGB to CMYK.
While I created the initial draft of my cards in Procreate, I used Photoshop to resize the images. Then I placed the resized JPGs in Adobe Indesign to layout the cards. Indesign is a publishing software that has a bit of a learning curve but has been a meaningful part of my design process for creating books and building the Joy Bombs Affirmation deck.
2. You have to confirm that the cards will fit in the size of the box that you ordered.
This was a great source of turmoil for me because there was a steep price increase for having a thicker box size, but I preferred the look of thicker cards. I was fortunately able to find a happy medium that fit in my price range that was thick enough, but also still fit in the box I designed.
3. You have to create the final box design.
This was an extensive process because I want to maintain a visual flow from panel to panel. In designing the box, I wanted to make sure that everything was legible and looked high quality so I took my time drawing and redrawing the elements until I was fully satisfied with the final designs.
Once these steps were complete, I packaged the Indesign files and uploaded them to the printer.
Once the files were uploaded, I waited a few days and was sent a digital proof of the card deck and the box design to review.
I reviewed it thoroughly and noticed a few small errors. I fixed those errors and then reuploaded the final files. I waited another few days and approved the final print file.
After the files were approved there was nothing to do but wait the 2-4 weeks for the printer to print and ship the final card deck.