Indie Wednesday: Ryan Noel of POP Greetings

One of my favorite things about these Indie Wednesday posts is learning about the development process behind the products I love. For Ryan Noel, the concept for his POP Greetings line of greeting card/wine sleeves happened quite organically. To dress up a last minute gift, Ryan created a wine sleeve and, after seeing how beautiful in looked among the flowery wine bags, realized he might be onto something. I chatted with Ryan about his designs, his tips for overcoming discouragement and how he'd invest $50k into his indie business.

Name: Ryan Noel/POP Greetings

When did you launch POP Greetings? I sold my first cards in November of last year (2012).

What was the inspiration for POP Greetings? At first, inspiration felt a lot more like desperation. When my wife reminded me that we had a 40th birthday party to attend that evening and we didn't have a gift, I went into scramble mode and ran to a local market for a last-minute gift – a large bottle of beer. After finding my greeting card stash depleted, I instinctively went to my computer and designed a simple paper wrap to put on the bottle. The graphic said, “Lordy, lordy, here’s a 40.” (I know. Pretty silly.) Once I put it on the bottle, I wrote a note on the blank back side.

When I got to the party, there were dozens of bottles of wine – some in paisley and floral gift bags (you know the ones) – all on a bed of greeting cards. I noticed how the bottle I gifted was in contrast with the wine-scape and thought, “You know, this could be a marketable idea.”

The following day, the birthday boy called me and told me thank you for the beer, and that he loved the wrap. He also pointed out that he actually knew who to thank because the card wasn't separate from the bottle. Then, I was more sure it was a marketable idea.

What did you do before you started this business? I have a graphic design background and currently spend my days as Associate Creative Director for an advertising and public relations agency in Indianapolis.

Who is your biggest inspiration as a designer? My first design love is Ray and Charles Eames. I find a particular connection to Charles' idea of pleasure being a valid design purpose. I think the pleasure of giving wine can be missing and can sometimes feel more like a social convention than a gift giving. POP Greetings, in some ways, is using design to interject some pleasure into wine-giving.

I have also been very inspired recently by a friend, Kristofer Bowman, of The Inventorialist. Kris rambles around hand-picked objects that have lived authentic lives. I get swept up in the stories of these objects, real or imagined. Kristofer helps me find beauty and wonder in the seemingly mundane. He also has an incredible eye for composition and feel for space.

How do you overcome discouragement? Oh boy. This is a tough one. I think this is something I'm still learning, so if you have any tips… :) When I go into a shop and make a sale, the high is incredible. Conversely, when a shop declines it is super discouraging and often demotivating. The only thing I know to do is to keep marketing the product and hoping for the next sale or appearance on Captain Dapper.

What are the advantages of supporting indie designers? Independent design just feels more personal, like a friend made it, right? It feels like the design or art object has a story. Like more visceral expression than a calculation based on research. I think there is demand for this kind of design, and the more designers who succeed, the more others will have the courage to make themselves vulnerable for the sake of an idea.

What’s your advice to new designers? One of my favorite quotes comes from Pascal, "I would have written you a longer letter, but I ran out of time." I think the same principal applies to design. Edit and simplify. And then do it some more.

If an angel investor dropped $50,000 on you, how would you invest it in your business? I would first buy this angel a lovely bottle of wine. Since I am not a natural-born salesperson, I would hire a part-time sales/marketing person. I would also build a display for a tradeshow booth and produce in-store displays to sell to merchants.

To learn more about Ryan's clever bottle sleeve greeting cards, check out the full line at POP Greetings.

Images: Ryan Noel

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