There’s one main reason I haven’t deleted Facebook yet: Facebook events remains the single easiest way to get people together. Make an event invite, and you’re done. But there are a few problems with sending event invites on Facebook for small gatherings. It’s impersonal. People don’t take their RSVP seriously, or don’t even respond at all–the courtesy of RSVPing to a party has become a thing of the past. And there aren’t great alternatives, mostly because traditional digital invitation tools look and feel so formal.
However, there’s a new kid on the block. Today, the online invitations company Paperless Post–the service you’d use to send your wedding invites, not your casual Friday night shindig–is launching a new invite service called Flyer. Designed for a mobile-first world, Flyer lets you create and style beautiful invites, complete with animations and GIFs, for more casual events. The best part? You don’t have to send them via email–Flyers have sharable links that can be sent via any platform you use to communicate with your friends, like text message, Whatsapp, or, yes, even email.
In a world where the best use of social platforms is often to plan meet-ups with people in-person, Paperless Post is creating a new paradigm for event invitations–one that’s beautifully designed, mobile-first, customizable, and meets people where they’re already communicating.
To test out the platform, I created a Flyer for a casual party I’m hosting in a few weeks, and I was able to choose from six different “vibes,” each of which comes with a series of different color palettes, video clips, fonts, images, stickers, and animations. There’s a summery vibe called Splash, a party-centric vibe called Munchies, a classy one called Apertif, a Swiss design-inspired one called Folio, a floral one called Flora, and a glamorous vibe called Ritz. Among the six, which Paperless Post is launching today, you can create infinite variations of invitations to fit whatever mood you’re going for.
“We want to be there to give people the tools to express something they feel is really them–whether they want to be fancy or funny or nonchalant or goofy or ironic or nostalgic,” says James Hirschfeld, the company’s cofounder who leads design.
Each invite has two sides: one that you can scroll through for all the boring details like time and place, and another dominated by an animation. I went with the classic design of Folio, added a fun graphic, and within a few minutes, I was ready to text it out to my friends. Because the invites came via text–my preferred method of communication–people responded quickly by RSVPing on the invite itself (you can only respond with a yes), or by letting me know they weren’t able to make it by text message. Say goodbye to the lurkers on your Facebook event who never deign to let you know if they’re coming or not.
Flyer is Paperless Post’s biggest product launch since the company’s very first one. In 2009, siblings James and Alexa Hirschfeld launched an E-vite competitor designed specifically for formal events. At that time, the design was based entirely around translating the feeling of paper onto the screen (full disclosure: I used Paperless Post for my wedding invitations in 2016). The iPhone had only recently been released, the mobile revolution still hadn’t occurred, and email reigned supreme. At the time, Alexa Hirschfeld says, people needed what she calls a “transitional format” that would allow their 50th birthday invite to still feel special and evoke the qualities of paper while affording them the ease of using a digital event invite.
But there are a host of events that you’d never use Paperless Post for, because the paper-like design designates the event as a formal one. And today, people are accustomed to creating event invites on the go, and they want something that looks great with little effort. “Our core format is based on the beauty and aesthetics of paper and print design, typesetting, choosing fonts,” James Hirschfeld says. “We wanted to create a format that’s a lot more pared down. Whatever the vibe is, the user can use that as a jumping off point to create something that feels really expressive but lightweight to make.”
The original idea for the casual event invite platform came about two years ago when Paperless Post’s creative director was hosting a panel on branding–and he and the founders realized that it didn’t make sense to use their own event invite service because it was too formal and wouldn’t set the right tone for the event. For the founders, who are the product’s biggest fans, it led to the question: What other events would they not use Paperless Post for?
As it turns out, there are a lot. Sometimes, you’re just getting some people together for a chill Friday evening; maybe you want something that feels a bit more elevated–but not formal–for your 35th birthday party; or perhaps you’re hosting an event at work and you want it to be easily sharable but more personable than a Facebook event. That’s Flyer’s sweet spot.
“For some people some of the time, they are going to want to express themselves with a wider range of tones and register than they can in the blue-and-white Facebook frame,” Alexa Hirschfeld says.
The interface is built to allow just that kind of self-expression. The heavy use of animation is perfect for our GIF-laden world, and makes Flyer’s design feel timely for 2018. The different vibes are incredibly intuitive to use, and it’s really fun to flip through them and watch your invite morph before your eyes. That was James Hirschfelds’s goal: “Pack as much design punch as possible into as few strokes and actions and motions as possible,” he says. “You just switch different styles with your thumb.”
There are some costs to switching over from a ubiquitous service like Facebook. I felt like I needed a bit of explanation as to what the link was, and because it lives only at a single URL, I find myself losing the link sometimes. One friend was confused that you could only RSVP with a “yes.” There’s no social element to the invitations at the moment, but James Hirschfeld tells me that group and individual messaging, photo sharing, and collaborative playlist-making are all on the product roadmap. So far though, my friends have been impressed with the invite. One was so excited about it that he announced he was going to use Flyer for his next party.
Flyer has proven to be an easy, fun replacement that lets me make fabulous invitations for almost no effort that I can text to my friends–and better still, it helps me stay off Facebook.
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