You’re Invited

Back in the Stone Age of event planning, the 1980s and 90s, invitations were printed. Event planners were limited to selecting stock designs from a printer’s catalogue and customizing the copy to fit the occasion. Aaahh…the good old days. As time passed, the available designs became more varied and elaborate as each publisher competed for business. Rarely did planners hire a custom design.


Toward the middle of the event planning Ice Age of the 1990’s the marketplace became handy with computers and the internet dawned. These technological developments changed how clients, planners, designers, and publishers produced invitations.

  • Gradually the printed invitation gave way to the electronic invite. Design options were expanded, and the cost was virtually eliminated.
  • Companies like Evite, Paperless Post, and Minted began to handle the entire invitation process from integrating email lists to designing invitations, to sending them out, to collecting the RSVPs; one stop – efficient – mass marketing that seemed to solve all the invitation problems including bypassing the dreaded United States Post Office.


However, electronic invitations were not without certain shortcomings:

  • In the early days all email ended up in the intended inbox. However, as email became more sophisticated, spam filters and other sorting devises were invented and many of the new electronic invites were “lost in the mail”.
  • Because they were becoming ubiquitous, electronic invites began to be seen as impersonal and became less effective.
  • Finding themselves adrift in the email noise level, RSVP response percentages began to decline rapidly.


Gradually, around the turn of the century, graphic design studios began to offer custom printed invitation design services to planners engaged in high-end social events and nonprofit fundraising galas.

  • No longer confined to limited catalogue selections, planners and designers began to realize that the invitation could be designed as a powerful branding tool.
  • Invitation designers began to work with event designers to carry color schemes, logos, and event themes from the invitation through to the venue design, table settings, place cards, and floral arrangements.
  • Graphic designers were now designing invitations around an organization’s overall message or the specific theme of an event, or both.
  • Invitations were now becoming a powerful branding tool.


When hiring a team to design your next invitation, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Allow your designer appropriate lead-time. Last minute design assignments usually look like last minute design assignments.
  2. Be sure your invitation designer works closely with your event designer to ensure that your invitation is a branding opportunity.
  3. In the current economic environment, don’t let your design become too fancy. Donors are turned off by expensive invitation designs.
  4. However, donors won’t respond to stock invitations. The most expensive invitation you can send out is the one that no one opens. Strive to design for the so-called “happy medium.”
  5. People do not read – but they do scan. Emphasize design features over copy.

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