Read our new interview from a series of blogs exploring representation in greetings card design.

Throughout 2021, we have been 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.

Meet Tineka Michelle Smith, our next guest and the creator behind the greetings card brand Huetribe.

Hi Tineka, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company?

I’m Tineka, the founder of Huetribe, a greetings card publisher, which promotes social inclusivity and celebrates the beauty and diversity of modern day relationships and people of colour. I’m also part of the GCA (Greeting Card Association) Council and the recent co-author of MIXED UP: Confessions of an Interracial Couple, which came out in paperback this year. The idea for Huetribe came to me after years of scouring shelves and online stores trying to find occasion cards that reflected my relationships and friendships. I have a very diverse and multi-cultural social circle, but when it comes to birthdays, engagements, weddings and other big occasions, I could never find a greetings card that was relevant to my life or my relationships.

Huetribe card design – Brides to Be

What inspired you to set up Huetribe and how did you get into greetings card design?

6 or 7 years ago I would have never believed I would be designing cards! I’ve always had a creative side, which was mostly expressed through writing projects like my recent book Mixed Up: Confessions of an Interracial Couple. The idea for Huetribe came after years of not finding greeting cards that were relevant to me or the world around me. I struggled to find cards which depicted diverse relationships, let alone people of colour. One time my husband bought a card with a penguin couple on it to celebrate our anniversary, as it was the only card he could find of a couple that was ‘black and white! Of course, we laughed about it, but it was also quite a sad moment of realisation that greeting cards are not diverse. But from then on the idea of Huetribe was born. There still aren’t many interracial cards out there, so for our anniversaries and other occasions we still give each other Huetribe cards!

Huetribe card design – Celebrate L.O.V.E.

How has Huetribe grown since launch and where can we find the products?

You can find our products in over 600 Tesco stores as well as WHSmith, Scribbler and Moonpig. We take pride in the fact that our company is based on a really strong ethos and continuously advocate for diversity in the greeting card industry. Our company was named an ‘innovator’ in the industry my Mintel research in 2017. My hope is that in the next 5-10 years, a company like Huetribe might not be needed because the market will be flooded with diverse cards in stores everywhere.

Can you tell us a bit more about the designs we have collected and what they mean to you? How did they come about?

Real people inspire and I think that because photography has been a large part of our work, I’m definitely inspired by diverse couples, families and people who are living their truth in simple everyday ways. Most photos, which are featured on our cards are actual couples or families. And I think that realness comes across in our photographic designs and is what makes them special. I always want to create designs that I believe reflect what most people see in the real world and I place a particular emphasis on celebrating the beauty of diversity.

Huetribe card design – Mr & Mrs

What would you like someone to feel when they see Huetribe designs on shelves?

That they live in a world where people of different colours, sexualities and interracial relationships are appreciated and celebrated. That our differences are what make the society we live in thrive and unique and that every person has the right to be represented in all types of media, products and publications and that includes greetings cards.

What change were you seeking to inspire in the industry? What more do you think needs to be done to improve representation?

When I first entered the market I perceived a vast market with huge purchasing powers being radically underserviced by an antiquated greetings card industry that only knew how to portray a very traditional and narrow view of modern life, modern love and modern relationships. Retailers must do more to improve representation because ultimately they are the ones deciding what the public sees. Since the Black Lives Matter movement went global in the summer of 2020 I’ve definitely seen an uptick in retailers making the effort to work with Black publishers or publishers creating diverse cards. But this needs to continue and not just be a passing trend.

Huetribe card design – There’s no power like girl power

What do you see as the future of greetings card design?

I really want businesses and customers to know and understand that diverse cards shouldn’t only be stocked because of the Black Lives Matter movement or just during Black History Month. Truly seeing diversity throughout the industry requires a cultural shift in mindset – and that doesn’t have to mean only carrying diverse cards. Hiring more diverse talent, working with a racially diverse set of designers, partnering and supporting charities which promote racial equality and taking the time to learn – are all equally as important.

Huetribe card design – Two Halves. One Heart

When it comes to designing specifically, this matters because greeting cards are something that we all buy for loved ones to commemorate special moments. But if companies do not address the fact that mainstream society should be including all colours and sexualities then these companies are unconsciously reinforcing harmful stereotypes by distributing designs that don’t embrace diversity. I hope to see in the future diverse cards embraced as ‘mainstream’ and that people of all ethnicities, religions and sexualities will be able to see themselves represented in stores wherever greeting cards are sold.

You can find out more about Huetribe on their website. Look out for our next Meet the Maker interview, coming soon.