Exploring LGBTQ+ greetings card design with Dean Morris and the Gay Pride Shop in Manchester.

Dean Morris

This year, Pride UK marks its 50th year with celebrations across the country. In this edition of Meet the Maker, we chat to greetings card designer Dean Morris and Jason from the Gay Pride Shop in Manchester, one of the many shops that stock Dean’s designs.

Dean studied Fine Art at Wolverhampton University and started off in 1999 designing handmade cards inspired by his appreciation of retro and his own sense of humour.

Dean has gone from making cards by hand in his bedroom to running one of the best-known humourous card companies in the UK, Dean Morris Cards. Dean Morris Cards is an LGBTQ+ owned business and we chatted to Dean about his ranges of LGBTQ+ greeting card designs and what inspires him.

Jason runs the Gay Pride Shop in Manchester and Dean’s designs were the first range of greetings cards the shop stocked.

Designs by Dean have recently been added to The Postal Museum’s growing collection for future generations to discover.

Hi Dean, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how Dean Morris Cards started?

My name is Dean and I established Dean Morris Cards in 1999. I never had a grand plan for the business back then – I certainly never expected it to still be here over 25 years later – but I always decorated cards for family members when I was a child and I just felt this was a business I could have a go at.

I received help from the Prince’s Trust which enabled me to attend my first trade shows and from these I secured my first customers, some of which are still stockists of Dean Morris Cards to this day. I’ve always tried to keep the business a manageable size for me and I’m now pleased to have loads of trade and personal customers in the UK and around the world.

Hi Jason, can you tell us a bit about Manchester’s Gay Pride Shop?

We started our business (Make Up Or Break Up Limited) in 2014 selling festival products in Afflecks, Manchester city centre.

We started to get fed up with high street shops and online businesses selling items during Pride, but giving nothing back to our amazing LGBTQ+ community.

While it’s amazing that so many companies are visibly gay friendly during pride events, wouldn’t it be great if they gave back to the LGBTQ+ community and showed their support for the other 51 weeks of the year?

It seems we struck a chord with our community. Since launching, we’ve grown into the UK’s biggest LGBTQ+ store, with almost 4000 items in stock and 15% of our profits shared with our chosen charities.

Dean, what inspired you to create your early designs and what was the most memorable for you?

I focus mainly on humourous designs nowadays, but my early designs were more handmade. I often used an old school photo of myself on a lot of material – it was inspired by one of my first cards with the same picture on it with the punchline ‘Birthday Boy’.

I decided to retire the card a few years ago but I couldn’t face selling the last one, so I’ve kept it in my office for prosperity.

Dean Morris with his card ‘Birthday Boy’

When you started designing cards, what change were you seeking to inspire in the industry?

I didn’t start with a large collection of LGBTQ+ cards, although many of the designs were pretty camp. When Civil Partnerships became possible in 2005, I decided to launch some cards to celebrate and since then I’ve steadily built up my LGBTQ+ range of cards and gifts.

Back then, I found the options for gay and lesbian customers (there wasn’t anything for BTQ+) were very limited and quite ‘worthy’. They were also very American, as much was imported from over the Atlantic. I just wanted to bring some colour – a lot of designs in those days were in black and white – and some cheeky humour in this market.

Jason, why did you choose Dean’s cards to stock?

When we first launched our stores, we were searching for good LGBTQ+ cards to stock. Dean’s were the first 3 ranges we chose. We now have over 1000 cards in stock form over 60 ranges. You could tell that his cards had been designed by a gay man from the humour he uses, which is never nasty or cruel, but cheeky and naughty. He also had a great range of LGBTQ+ specific designs, such as the pride cards and the same sex wedding cards.

A selection of Dean Morris designs

It was the cards with air steward/stewardesses that stood out originally – they’re perfect for us as we have a lot of customers who work in the airline industry due to the proximity of Manchester Airport!

What change have you both seen in the industry?

Dean: Thankfully, there has been a huge increase in the representation of many minorities in the greeting card industry, not just LGBTQ+. The greater ease in publishing, the availability to sell online and subsequent increase of marketplaces has meant it’s probably less of a commercial risk, certainly initially, to produce more niche cards and gifts. It’s wonderful to have so many options when purchasing LGBTQ+ cards.

The rise of social media has also meant us publishers can reach our customers much more easily and give them an insight into our personal and business life.

Jason: Things have changed for the better. For example, when we first launched, you would struggle to find any same-sex wedding cards on the high street, with just a few ranges online. The change in acceptance towards same-sex couples in the UK, especially since same-sex marriage became legal in 2014, has helped to see more LGBTQ+ specific cards available.

There’s still nowhere near enough options though. Surely it can’t be that difficult to replicate Mr & Mrs cards to also be Mr & Mr and Mrs and Mrs? There is a severe lack of options available for those who don’t identify as either a Mr or Mrs. Cards for other celebrations are also lacking, such as cards for two dads on Fathers’ Day, or two mums on Mothers’ Day – these are probably the most requested cards we struggle to source at the moment.

Dean, what would you like someone who discovers your cards in The Postal Museum’s collection to know about them, about the moment that inspired their creation and about their significance?

I would like them to know that I run an LGBTQ+ owned business myself and the designs have a great following. From someone who spent the first twenty odd years of their life in the closet, I’m now so proud to display and sell these cards and gifts representing and catering to the wonderfully diverse communities we have in the UK and beyond.

Find out more about Dean Morris Cards and the Gay Pride Shop, Manchester.

We’re collecting greetings cards to capture some of the stories of makers and small businesses driving change. Over the coming months, we’ll be sharing more interviews here on our blog about the importance of diverse representation in greetings card design.