Mike Sayre and Melanie Bridges, the design duo behind Easy, Tiger, began by selling custom cards in vintage candy machines. Now their covetable and cool products are hawked by everyone from Nordstrom and Halls to the hipster boutique The Bunker.
How many times have you found yourself scrambling for a card the day before a holiday? Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. An anniversary. Whatever the occasion is, it’s a holiday, and you forgot to stop by Hallmark or the card section in your grocery store. Now it’s the day before, and all the good ones are gone. You crowd next to all the other slackers in the card aisle and pray there’s still a semi-decent $4 piece of paper you can throw haphazardly in the bag with your gift. The recipient of that card will most likely spend a polite amount of time pretending to care about the message before racing through to the real goods. (Let’s hope you didn’t slack on the gift, too.)
But what if that card wasn’t obligatory? What if you bought it not because you had to, but because you happened to see it, and a certain person happened to cross your mind?
Mike Sayre and Melanie Bridges stumbled across this revelation while working together at Hallmark. The company, they realized, wasn’t marketing correctly to a younger demographic, and cards were becoming more of a formality than a genuine sentiment. Enter their brainchild, Easy, Tiger, a 2-year-old graphic design label that, among other things, is aiming to change the way customers interact with greeting cards.
“Everybody’s just following the motions because they have to,” Sayre says. “But a card given anytime, when it’s unexpected, means so much more.”
The Kansas City-based graphic design team started out by selling their cards in old candy vending machines and, just two years later, is providing a variety of custom-designed merchandise to close to 200 retailers locally and nationally, one even as far as Canada. Paper Source and Nordstrom are now among those retailers. They’ve got cards; they’ve got T-shirts; they’ve got glassware, journals, bags. They’ve got it all. Their Instagram game is strong, and they’re proving they know what the masses want: “stuff for awesome people.”
It started with an old vending machine on Craigslist. Sayre and a friend picked it up in Nebraska for “real cheap” and transformed it from an ugly, wood-grained thing of the past to a trendy display case for their cards. More machines soon followed. They decided the way to reach that target audience of “awesome people” was by putting the machines where those people were hanging out.
“We had this idea that we could sell cards to a younger person, and kind of be where they were,” Sayre says. “Be more fun, be more flirty. Just cards for whatever. We never bought cards, and we never knew why. There was something missing. So if you stumble upon a vending machine in a coffee shop and you’re like, ‘Hey, this is fun or flirty or whatever, I’ll pick it up and give it to whoever,’ that means so much more.”
Easy, Tiger now has their card vending machines in Thou Mayest, Quay Coffee and The Roasterie, amongst other Kansas City locations. But it’s not just the locations or the repurposed vending machines that make their cards such a hit. Sayre and Bridges have perfected an art that targets the younger demographic in a way that Hallmark can’t — they’ve mastered sass. “Help me understand something,” reads the front of one card. The inside: “How are we so much better than everyone else?” Journal covers are playfully inscribed with the words “Blah, Blah, Blah,” T-shirts with their catchphrase “Easy, Tiger” or “Meow” and pilsner glasses emblazoned in gold script that reads “Stay Fancy.”
Sayre and Bridges combined their skill sets to form Easy, Tiger’s signature style. Sayre, with a degree in advertising from Columbus College of Art and Design, does most of the writing. Bridges went to Kansas State University for a degree in graphic design, and is mostly responsible for the visual aspects of their products. This isn’t to say they don’t occasionally switch hats. Sayre describes himself as a writer/designer, while he calls Bridges the designer/writer.
“The things that he can do, I can’t do,” Bridges says. “And I’d hope to think that some of the things I do, [he] can’t do.”
Between the two of them, there’s certainly enough to do. In just two years, the cheeky lifestyle brand has taken off much faster than either of the pair ever expected it to. Between filling orders for their retailers and attending shows to exhibit their work (they recently attended a stationery show in New York City), Sayre and Bridges are having a hard time even keeping cards in the machines.
That growth has taken Easy, Tiger products to sporadic locations across the country. The Bunker carries their cards, though not in a vending machine. Halls and Westside Storey carry their shirts. Nordstrom recently decided to carry their glassware, which has become a big moneymaker thanks to it’s classy, vintage, gold-emblem feel. (It could also be because the glasses say things like “Beer Snob.”)
As of yet, there’s no full collection of Easy, Tiger products in existence — but that may be changing soon. Between shows and various events (like setting up a merchandise van at Boulevardia — cool, right?) Sayre and Bridges are in the process of moving from their current office “in an old converted chemistry lab…filled with stuff we love — like taxidermy, a Pachinko machine and trophies. Lots and lots of trophies,” to a new office in the West Bottoms, where they plan to sell things on First Fridays. Their website is undergoing a transition as well, with a new look and updated information.
“We’ve gotten bigger than we thought we’d probably be at this point, so it’s a matter of kind of catching up,” Sayre says. “We’ve grown despite ourselves.”
These days, Easy, Tiger is a whirlwind of construction, designs and snarky messages and, as Sayre puts it, just “figuring it out as we go.” Whether you’re in the market for a funky antique trophy or just looking to keep an eye on one of Kansas City’s premier graphic design teams, you can watch it all go down under the Instagram username easytigerco.
For more information visit cardsforawesomepeople.com.