It’s wonderful to receive a warmly written email from someone you care about, but let us all admit that the email would have felt even better if it came in the mail as a handwritten letter. That’s the idea behind Electragram, a boutique messaging service that allows you to send digital messages on personalized, digital stationery.
Created by media power couple Anna and Gradyon Carter, the idea first came to them while vacationing abroad, following Gradyon’s departure after 25 years of editing Vanity Fair.
“We took ourselves off to France and rented a house out there. It was idyllic in so many ways, but the one way it was limited was feeling cutoff from friends and family back home,” recalls Anna, who is now Electragram’s CEO. “We’d both been avid letter writers and handwritten note fans, but it would just take weeks for them to arrive in the U.S. from Europe! Everything felt so woefully out of date by the time they arrived.”
At that house in France, Graydon (now chief creative consultant) sketched up the first Electragram, drawing inspiration from the Western Union telegrams that launched in the late 1800s. Reaching their peak popularity in the 1920s and 30s, telegrams were a means to send a note across the world for less than the price of a phone call. Traveling by transatlantic wire through Morse code, telegram messages were then translated by an operator and typed out like small letters for consumption.
On Electragram’s site, it’s easy to see the influence of Western Union across the stationary options (all of which feature a prominent Electragram banner on the bottom). With a few taps, you can customize the colors and typeface, while you can add various stamps by dragging and dropping them anywhere on the paper you like. By design, none of the combinations clash. Then, once your stationary is ready, you can type and send your message with all the rapidity of email.
“I was looking to bring back that lost art of elegant communication,” says Anna, who notes that the small amount of effort behind the letter makes it a more “meaningful and memorable message to send.”
Indeed, just about every messaging platform on the planet has attempted to fill this expressive gap lost in digital communication, leveraging emoji, then selfies, then cartoon-ified selfies like Bitmoji. Electragram fits into this continuum, not only as a reference to the antique telegrams of the early 1900s, but as a double retro play, equally nostalgic for the era of virtual greeting cards, which crested somewhere around the mid to late 2000s. I see the Electragram as a product that’s equal parts roaring 20s and Y2K.
Anna has many plans to modernize the e-card as a more precious object. She’s imagining limited-run digital stationary options by famous designers which you’d want to cop like a shoe drop. Furthermore, she’s strategizing integration for more customization: Corporate logos and even someone’s personal NFTs could appear on an Electragram of the future. “The idea of it is that it’s very intuitive, flexible, versatile,” says Anna, “so you can create whatever you want.”
Electragram has wooed impressive early investors including Tory Burch and Jony Ive. In a statement to Fast Company, Ive notes that he invested because innovations around communication “have always been at the the center of everything I have done,” while championing the service for “setting a new visual standard for design.”
No doubt, Electragram faces stiff competition from mega design apps like Canva, which allow you to create any kind of digital card (and just about anything else) with a few taps. But instead of reaching so broadly, the service is focusing on its niche: craft digital letter writing, priced at $10 per month. You can try it here.