How to Create a bespoke Messages from Friends album, and what are they anyway?

Messages from Friends books, are probably one of the most personal books And Other Memories makes, along with the This is Your Life Books and Hen Party books. Yet if I suggest someone makes a Messages from Friends book, I’ll often get a blank stare, and a question as to what on earth I’m talking about. What is a Messages from Friends Book?


Messages from Friends books are full of personal messages.

The answer to this is simple. These bespoke books are beautiful albums full of messages from one’s friends and family. Depending on the style you choose they can be full of lovely hand written notes, gorgeous drawings and annotations, specially written poems or pretty much anything else you might want. Get everyone to answer specific questions, or allow them to come up with their own contributions. No matter what you do you can be sure these personalised books are completely unique to the person they are made for. And this is why they make such fabulous presents for any big birthday or special occasion.


Different to the This Is Your Life books that And Other Memories offers in that they aren’t telling someone’s story, these Message books are really just pages and pages of personal anecdotes and memories written by friends and family of the person the book is being made for. And that is why we call them Messages from Friends.



Whatever type of Message book you are creating, you’ll be sure to want to include photos and illustrations to bring the book to life and further illustrate the messages. Finding and organising all of these can be a massive task, so with that in mind, here is the And Other Memories guide on how to create and organise material for a Messages from Friends album.

MAKE A NOTE OF KEY PEOPLE IN THE PERSON'S LIFE

The first thing you are going to want to do is to work out who exactly you would like to contribute to the book. The best way to do this is to start at the beginning of the person’s life/their time at your company/ their membership of your club. Basically go back to the start of the time you would like to illustrate/remind them of, and make a note of everyone they would have come across of who were important in some way. Try to think of the more obscure people – people who they may not be in contact with anymore, a childhood friend, someone who has left the company, or some other special person who will be a surprise when the recipient sees a message from them. Once you have got an idea of who you want to contribute it is time too…


…GATHER CONTACT DETAILS

This is fairly self-explanatory, but if you want people to contribute you are going to need their contact details so that you can call/write/email and ask them to take part. If there is someone you aren’t in contact with, ask around, someone else might know how to get in touch with them.


TIME TO ASK FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

Once you have gathered all the contact details, I suggest writing or emailing the potential contributors. A written word is somehow more powerful, less likely to be forgotten and more likely to elicit a response. Depending on how you want the book to be you can ask them to write about specific events, answer particular questions or they could just write their own personal message. Ask the contributor to include photos that illustrate what they are talking about or that are just a good reminder of the fun times that the recipient and the contributor have had together. You can ask them to send handwritten messages that will be scanned and placed into the album to be printed, or you can use type written messages, or a mixture of both depending on how you want the album to look. Don’t forget that these are totally bespoke so the look of these personalised albums is totally up to you.


HAVE A DEADLINE

When you write to ask for contributions, remember to provide a deadline. It is so easy for people to think I will do that later, and then forget about it, or just not get round to it. You would be amazed at the number of albums I’ve made with people asking if they can add something right at the last minute, so be clear. Set a deadline and try to make it a couple of weeks before you actually need it to allow for those last minute stragglers. Just remember not to tell anyone that you’ve asked for things early or people will think they have more time and put it off some more. If you are sending it to printer’s or an album design company such as And Other Memories then factor in the time they will need as well.

KEEP IT A SECRET

Remember to ask people to keep this all a secret if you don’t want the recipient of the album to know about it. Messages from Friends books are beautiful whether the recipient knows about them or not, as the contents will always be a surprise, but for full impact it is wonderful if they know nothing about it at all!

SEND OUT THE SAME CARDS TO CONTRIBUTORS

If you really want to get a response, it is a good idea to include with your letter a stamped addressed envelope and a postcard or card for them to fill out. This way it makes it much easier for them to sit down and write something and quickly throw it in the post. The easier you make it for the contributor’s the more likely you are to get a response. It can also give the book a really nice uniform look if everyone writes on the same cards.



COLLATE ALL THE MESSAGES/IMAGES

Start collecting all the messages and/or photos. Arrange them in the order that you want them to go in the book. This way it will much easier to design when it comes down too it. It’s a good idea to scan each message as it comes in if you are designing the book yourself, that way you know you have it as a digital version ready for the design and print stages. Try to save the scans in relevant folders so that they are easy to access when you want them later. If you are using a design service such as And Other Memories, we can save you the hassle and do the scanning for you. Either way allow plenty of time for scanning as it takes a lot longer than you think with home machines!

THINK ABOUT THE ORDER/DESIGN

As the contributions come flooding (hopefully!) in, have a think about the order that they should go in, and what look you want the book to have. Do you want everything typed up and in the same font, do you want different fonts to represent different people. Do you want some extra illustrations or décor on the pages to give a theme or look that runs throughout? There are so many possibilities when you are designing a truly bespoke album such as this. Have a think - look on sites such as Pinterest for inspiration, and remember that this book is for someone else so have a think about what they like. Do they have a favourite colour or are they obsessed with Unicorns? Use your knowledge of the recipient to really make the most of this and create a truly personalised album.



START DESIGNING YOUR ALBUM

Once you have gathered all the bits you need for your album it is time to start designing. I will always recommend creating a digital album that will be printed up into a stunning book. This way pages won’t discolour and you aren’t in danger of losing any bits that may fall out over the years as is likely with more traditional scrapbooking styles. Start at the beginning or the first person you want a message from. This might be a group message explaining the book and commemorating the event or reason that you have had it made in the first place. Remember to include a title so that it is clear who each message, doodle or photograph is from. Depending on the size of the book try to stick to one or two people, their messages/photos per page, giving each person a title so that it’s easy to see who is where. This way the book will be meaningful to others reading it too, and they will be able to read and assign names and roles to people such as Sister or Childhood friend etc.

PRINT THE ALBUM

Once the design work is finished it is time to get the book printed. Choose a company that you know will give you a quality book, and not one that will fall apart in a few years time. Messages from Friends books are so personal and mean so much to the recipients that you want to know it will last all the handling over the years. These special books will also be enjoyed by family members and future generations as they recognise how popular the recipient is!


GIFT THE ALBUM AND THE ORIGINAL BITS

Once you have the final album back, it is time to give your bespoke album to the lucky recipient. Be on stand by for tears, as they can be real tear jerkers when it becomes clear how appreciated the recipient is and how much people enjoyed contributing too their personalised album. These luxurious books really are the best present you can give so enjoy that feeling of gifting someone something that you know they will love!! As well as the book it can also be nice to hand over all the original collated messages and photos (if they haven’t had to be returned to the owners) so that they have the original pieces as well. That way the recipient can really appreciate how much effort went into the creation of the book, but really it is just nice to keep them together!

Messages from Friends books can seem like a lot of effort to organise, but hopefully this guide has helped to set you on the way and made it feel a little less overwhelming. These bespoke albums truly are the most marvellous and personal gifts, and it is so worth any effort when you see the recipients face on receiving them! If you do find it all too much, why not spilt the responsibility between a few people or ask And Other Memories to help. Or if you fancy one for yourself, why not share this article as a not so subtle hint to a fabulous present. There really is nothing like a truly bespoke album as a gift!

And Other Memories Messages from Friends albums start at £300 for up to 100 images and messages. This includes unlimited amends to the design, your choice of cover, printing, gift box, and delivery.