Emily McDowell can trace much of her success to a single card: a Valentine she designed for the 2013 Day of Love. She called it the Awkward Dating Card and in the type of font that takes on a voice of its own, she wrote, “I know we’re not, like, together or anything but it felt weird to just not say anything so I got you this card. It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t really mean anything. There isn’t even a heart on it. So basically it’s a card saying hi. Forget it.”
Awkward? Check. Brilliant? Definitely. Her 100-print run sold out, she ordered over 1,000 more and that spring, she launched her own stationery line. Emily’s cards and illustrations are candid, hilarious and poignant. “My work reflects our shared human experience,” Emily says, “in all its different, messy forms, and I feel most satisfied when something I made helps somebody feel like someone else out there gets them.”
Perhaps even more inspiring than the words on her cards, is the story behind how Emily decided to pursue her own illustration business. She was working at an advertising agency when she realized she wasn’t quite fulfilled. Someone told her to do what she loved as a kid. That was drawing. And so she drew, and people loved her work. We’re always inspired by (and a bit envious of!) the people who have found a way to make a living from doing exactly what they love—no compromises, no selling out.
Emily’s work might inspire you to find a way to do the same. Or, you could just buy some cards and make a family member’s or friend’s day a great one. If there’s no occasion to mark, don’t worry. She had a card that simply states “Thank You for Existing.” Here’s a hint of her collection on Pinterest:
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