I have judged the LOUIEs several times now — including the most recent one, for which winners will be announced next month — and it is an interesting process on so many levels. You review anywhere from say 6 to 40 entries per category, and there are if you can believe it 29 categories, most of which are divided into two price breaks (Above $3.50, and $3.50 or Less).

This year’s competition drew more than 900 entries from 220 companies worldwide. That’s a lot of visual stimulation, especially when combined with the breadth of expressions they represent for everything from get well wishes to holiday tidings. It is easy to get caught up in the cards themselves — I often digress into wondering who would buy a given card, and what kind of person they would send it to. But you can’t get too caught up, as there’s always a lot more cards to review.

Personal design biases definitely kick in as a way to adhere to the judgement criteria (originality, impact, design excellence, sendability, and value). Because of personal taste, I guess it’s not too shocking when the awards gala rolls around and often I am surprised by winner. For that reason, I am not picking winners here, rather in the coming weeks I am going to highlight a few cards that deserve special mention just for being their magnificent selves.

This design is a finalist in the Sympathy, above $3.50 category, and is from Emily McDowell. She has such a special way of making what’s hard to say eloquent and even sweet. You can buy it here for $4.5o, or look for a nearby store here.

This card is by no means a shoo-in by the way — cards from the other finalists in the category, E. Frances Paper Studio and Cleveland’s own American Greetings, are very compelling as well. Emily by the way is up for an amazing seven LOUIEs— including “Rising Star” (above $4) — which really speaks volumes about her both her sensibility and visual presentation. Good luck, Emily, and good luck to all the finalists!

There will be no shortage of fabulosity at this year’s gala May 18. This year’s theme, “Eye Candy: The Best Cards of the Year,” was designed by 26th Annual LOUIE Awards Chair Cambria Evans, creative director/founder of J.Bartyn Design, and overseen by LOUIE Strategic Chair Katy Greenspan, director of the artist community at Minted. Get your tickets right here, and you will soon be toasting the winners in person!

322-Emily McDowell

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