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Students’ greeting cards to go on shop shelves

Designs developed by Newcastle University students, as part of a business challenge with Hallmark UK/ROI, are to be produced by the greeting cards giant.

19 July 2021

Hallmark - Press Office - Newcastle University

Pitching their ideas to a panel of Hallmark UK/ROI representatives, as part of a skills development exercise with the University’s Career Insights Programme, three students impressed the judges with their greeting card project ideas, based on proverbs from around the world. And now Hallmark UK/ROI is working with the winning team to turn their ideas into eight new card designs.

Delivering a 'Business Consultancy Challenge' to a group of 30 students, Hallmark UK/ROI tasked the students to work in teams to produce ideas that would help the company to reflect and represent the diversity of our population.

Undergraduates Hemma Ahluwalia, Aki Lunn and Erica Lopez then co-created the fantastic card range in collaboration with Hallmark UK/ROI, and they will soon see the designs available to the public. The company's Writing Studio worked with the students through the entire creative process and will be paying them for their work.

Promoting cultural representation through world proverbs


Hemma, 20, from Horsham in Sussex, is part of the winning team. The Sport and Exercise Science student said: “As a group, we wanted to create cards that promoted cultural representation through world proverbs. We consulted with Hallmark UK/ROI to produce designs that celebrated under-represented cultures for specific occasions. The cards focus on the power of words and are not covered in illustration.

“My experience from the challenge is extremely positive. I am studying Sport and Exercise Science, so I had minimal, if any knowledge in this sector. Not only have I gained insight into employers’ perspectives, but I have worked alongside students (Aki and Erica) who come from very different subject areas. This challenge has exceeded my highest expectations and allowed me to extend my network beyond the university community.”

Modern Languages undergraduate, Erica Lopez, 19, from Hartlepool, added: “For me, world proverbs were the perfect idea to showcase our own cultural backgrounds and also other under-represented backgrounds. Through our research we found that there is a worrying issue regarding a lack of diversity through cards or in the card industry in general and through personal experience, I can attest to that.

“As a group, we are very culturally diverse, and we wanted the designs to somehow represent us, what we stand for as people of colour, and the beauty of different cultures, so what better way to showcase that than through words. I hope that the cards and the designs resonate with everyone no matter their ethnic backgrounds and serve as a door for the industry to create more space for people of colour to be seen and heard.”

“This challenge has certainly opened my eyes to all sorts of possibilities regarding my future career progression. I always thought that with my degree I should only stay in that lane however this challenge made me realise I have more to offer and this has been a one-of-a-kind experience that I hope will certainly give me a boost in the future. The talks, workshops from the University's Careers Service, and networking sessions from different alumni, employees, and companies have given me confidence in terms of my abilities, and my knowledge of the professional side of things.”

Support for students from under-represented groups


Ruth Turner-Blood, Writing Studio Director for Hallmark UK/ROI, said: “We were so pleased to support Newcastle’s Career Insights programme for the second year running. To work with such engaged, hardworking and talented students was an honour and we were so impressed with the response to our brief. Hemma, Aki and Erica’s World Proverbs project showed great insight, passion and creativity, and it completely aligned with Hallmark UK/ROI’s commitment to represent more diverse communities and cultures in our cards. We are delighted that they could work with us further to bring their ideas to life as a published card range.”

Since its inception in 2015/16, Newcastle’s ‘Career Insights Programme’ has been the institution’s flagship, extra-curricular, employability support programme for undergraduate students from under-represented groups in HE. The programme connects students with employers from a range of sectors, exposes them to different career paths, helps them explore their options and provides opportunities to enhance their enterprise and employability skills through experiential learning.

Sarah Beech, Employability and Widening Participation Projects Manager, within Newcastle University's Careers Service, said: “Hemma, Erica and Aki worked extremely hard throughout the Career Insights Programme, engaging with all the content and opportunities that were made available to them. The ‘Business Consultancy Challenge’ is just one element of the programme that participants are required to complete throughout the year to help students develop their employability skills and work experience. We are extremely proud of Hemma, Erica and Aki and this achievement is a prime example of what can be achieved through this kind of engagement with external companies. Congratulations to them all and I look forward to buying their cards soon!

Participants of the Career Insights Programme have grown from 30 in 2015/16, to 150 in 2020/21, demonstrating increasing demand. Programme alumni, who have since graduated from Newcastle, are asked to take part in longitudinal surveys to demonstrate the impacts of the programme on Graduate Outcomes. Survey data from spring 2021 showcases the positive long-term impacts of the programme on participants. The latest survey shows that 90% of respondents believe that Career Insights programme influenced their career progression, while 75% said that they have referred to their experiences on the Career Insights programme in application forms, or during interviews, to evidence their skills.


Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences