The World of Playing Cards Logo

Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Interview with Alan Kriegel, creator of Gestalt playing cards

Alan Kriegel has set out to rethink the signs and symbols used in traditional playing cards.

Alan Kriegel has set out to rethink the signs and symbols used in traditional playing cards; he's funding the project through a Kickstarter campaign.

This is a project in two parts. The aim of the first part is to revise the playing cards of today, the second, to ready them for tomorrow. Here's a few insights from Alan into the creative process of the Gestalt pack

The unique court cards, aces and numbers.
Concepts for a possible expansion if the project is successfully funded.

What made you decide to introduce new colours to your pack (the blue and the green) and in your future plans to introduce orange and purple?

I decided to use a four-color deck to provide an additional level of clarity. I initially came across the idea with bridge decks and chose to keep the most common color set. The additional four colors (which are not finalized) round out the set with distinct hues from the first set.

As a designer, what was the most challenging aspect of the project to create? Did you have any creative blocks?

There were a number of challenging aspects. I spent a lot of time on the grid system and the individual layouts to try to create a set where each number was visually distinct. After a lot of experimentation, I have a complete set of 1-20 that I am happy with. For the court, I wanted to really simplify things down to an icon. The kings and jacks were relatively easy with their crowns and shields, but the queens posed a problem in that there is not a good symbol of queendom that works well in this context. I looked at scepters, globus crucigers, flowers, and even the crown jewels of nearly every country that has them, but in the end, circlets worked best.
There was also a fine line around which aspects of cards I should keep and which I should update. While I wanted to create a new and modern deck, I also did not want to break fully with the past. With the expansions, I tried to think of sets which would be useful as game creation tools and be universal enough to be widely used. And finally, coming up with a new set of tarot nouveau trumps was hard enough, but the real challenge will be creating icons for all of them.

You mention the additional suits, (stars, plus sign, triangles) which opens the deck up to the Tarot games. Can you tell us more about the new games that can be played with your unique pack?

I am not sure what new games will be created with my system. I have seen a lot of creativity in games over the past few years and my goal is to provide people with an expanded universal system from which new games can be created. If this and future campaigns are successful, I want to be able to provide eight suits, numbers 1-20, a full court (jack, knight, queen, and king), tarot nouveau trumps (original 21 plus a new 21), actions, blanks for custom cards and experimentation, and more. I don't know what a deck of playing cards will look like in a hundred years, but I want to give people the building blocks to experiment and start creating it.

If you successfully fund this pack, do you have any plans to release more packs in the future? Have you got any more ideas for your expansion pack?

I will also be releasing the layouts under a Creative Commons license so creators of future decks can help to create a wide variety of designs using the Gestalt system. I plan on approaching larger producers as well to try to further establish the system. I really believe in my system and would like to see it become the new standard in playing cards.

Thanks to Alan for the interview. You can read more information about the Gestalt pack on Kickstarter.

avatar

By Adam Wintle

Member since March 15, 1997

View Articles

Adam has been involved in developing the site.

Recommended

Four Point

Four Point

“Four Point” playing cards, a labour of love designed and illustrated by Ben Vierck, 2014

Zombie Bride Cards and Game by Gerad Taylor

Zombie Bride Cards and Game by Gerad Taylor

Are you a fan of the undead? Vampires and zombies that have risen from the grave? Then this is a deck for you; the creatures featured on this pack are part-zombie and part-vampire. As Gerad Taylor, the creator of this deck, likes to call them "Zompires".

Interview with Tom and Judy Dawson from 52 Plus Joker

Interview with Tom and Judy Dawson from 52 Plus Joker

Interview with Tom and Judy Dawson from 52 Plus Joker. Chatting about the history of playing cards, uses of cards and collecting.

Mantecore Playing Cards

Mantecore Playing Cards

Mantecore playing cards, named as a tribute to magicians Siegfried and Roy's famous tiger, 2015.

Dragons Playing Cards by Robert Burke

Dragons Playing Cards by Robert Burke

A gorgeous deck of cards featuring the dragon art of Kerem Beyit and printed by the United States Playing Card Company.

Cats and Dogs Royale Playing Cards

Cats and Dogs Royale Playing Cards

Two collectable sets of cards featuring Cats and Dogs as Royalty through the ages.

40 Years of Fear Jaws Playing Cards

40 Years of Fear Jaws Playing Cards

This special pack celebrates the 40th anniversary of the film Jaws.

Viridian Playing Cards by Kardify

Viridian Playing Cards by Kardify

Viridian playing cards are a modern twist inspired by the classics. Influenced by vintage design and refined by modern aesthetics.

Celtic Myth Playing Cards by Cultúrlán Enterprises

Celtic Myth Playing Cards by Cultúrlán Enterprises

Celtic Myth playing cards are the third and final set of cards in a series based around the themes of Celtic mythology and society.

Omnia Playing Cards

Omnia Playing Cards

Inspired by ancient symbology and traditional playing cards, Omnia is the third pack designed by Giovanni Meroni, 2015.

Cultura Playing Card Deck by Mankin Chan

Cultura Playing Card Deck by Mankin Chan

A full custom deck of playing cards, inspired by the different cultures of the world; including China, Italy, USA and the Netherlands.

Royal Pulp Playing Cards

Royal Pulp Playing Cards

Two beautifully crafted custom playing cards decks. Featuring brightly colored illustrations and gorgeous typography.

AO MATU Playing Cards by Nastya KFKS

AO MATU Playing Cards by Nastya KFKS

A custom deck with magnificent characters, illustrations and tropical design. Inspired by the nature of the Polynesian islands. Wild and truly unique.

Earth Dragons and Other Rare Creatures

Earth Dragons and Other Rare Creatures

Jessica Feinberg, mostly known for her unique mythic paintings of nature, dragons, is a creator the Earth D​ragons and Other Rare Creatures playing cards.

Lumberjacks 2nd Edition

Lumberjacks 2nd Edition

A preview of Vadim Smolenskiy second edition Lumberjacks deck.

Moderne Art Deco Playing Cards

Moderne Art Deco Playing Cards

This pack created by Randy Coffey is based on the 1920s and 1930s Art Deco style of fine decoration and fashion.

Glitch Playing Cards by Soleil Zumbrunn

Glitch Playing Cards by Soleil Zumbrunn

Glitch art is the aesthetic of digital or analog errors.

Spirit Playing Cards

Spirit Playing Cards

Standard court cards show the king, queen and jack looking sideways and diagonal; these elegant Spirit playing cards show the court characters front-facing.

Jetsetter Playing Cards by Paul Ruccio

Jetsetter Playing Cards by Paul Ruccio

Jetsetter playing cards, inspired by aviation, air travel and jet-setting.

MEMENTO, A NEW Bicycle Playing Card Deck

MEMENTO, A NEW Bicycle Playing Card Deck

Memento, a unique Playing Card Deck designed by Valerio Aversa and Antonios Fiala, inspired by the history of playing card design.

Kingdoms of a New World

Kingdoms of a New World

“Kingdoms of a New World” playing cards designed by Nathanael Mortensen, 2014.

Different Playing Cards by Teach By Magic

Different Playing Cards by Teach By Magic

Instead of the usual ace of spades, or a seven of diamonds, this pack has a "spade of aces" and a "diamond of sevens"; meaning that the spade is made up of aces using a typographic and illustrative style.

Requiem Playing Cards

Requiem Playing Cards

This pack has been inspired by the Requiem Mass, a Mass celebrated for the souls of one or more deceased persons. The dark style of illustrations features occult symbols and imagery such as horns, hearts, thorns and skulls and the typography reflects ancient latin scripts.

Oracle - Mystifying Playing Cards by Chris Ovdiyenko

Oracle - Mystifying Playing Cards by Chris Ovdiyenko

A pack inspired by subjects such as spirituality, the occult, ouija boards, spirit photography and generally all things spooky.

Surena: The Persian Playing Cards by Diba Salimi

Surena: The Persian Playing Cards by Diba Salimi

Diba Salimi has created a hand illustrated pack inspired by Persian ancient history, art and Persian rugs.

Seven Seas Playing Cards

Seven Seas Playing Cards

The deck is about the dichotomy of a life at sea. Exploring famous sailors, explorers, pirates, and privateers of the age of sail.

Meeple Playing Cards by Geek Dynasty

Meeple Playing Cards by Geek Dynasty

Meeple playing cards is where the iconic shape of the “meeple” used in many board games meets playing cards.

Kadar Playing Cards

Kadar Playing Cards

The Kadar deck designed by Christopher J Gould aims to break the norms of playing card design. The vibrant and fun pack has drawn inspiration from travelling fortune tellers and gypsies.

War of Omens - A Digital Deck-Builder by Fifth Column Games

War of Omens - A Digital Deck-Builder by Fifth Column Games

War of Omens is a card game combining deck-builder and collectable-card-game mechanics, featuring fast, strategic play and 3 different playable factions.

Edgar Allan Poe Playing Cards

Edgar Allan Poe Playing Cards

A Kickstarter campaign for a fine deck of playing cards inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe

Steampunk playing cards

Steampunk playing cards

These steampunk inspired cards are based around a pair of real steampunk goggles that you can purchase and wear to look just like your favorite court card.

Global Unrest Playing Cards

Global Unrest Playing Cards

Global Unrest uses a traditional playing card style mixed with a WWII military twist..

Metropol NOX Playing Cards

Metropol NOX Playing Cards

A custom deck of playing cards designed with a modern, minimalist flair.

Sherlock Holmes Playing Cards

Sherlock Holmes Playing Cards

Three fine deck of playing cards inspired by the characters and stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Kingdoms of a New World

Kingdoms of a New World

Enter the Kingdoms of the New World with these fantasy themed playing cards by Nathanael Mortensen,

Mana Playing Cards

Mana Playing Cards

These beautiful playing cards designed by Erik Mana aren't just your ordinary set but they also hold a secret codes and riddle.

4 Thrones Solitaire Game

4 Thrones Solitaire Game

A fresh and minimal pack and iPhone app designed for solitaire games.

Irish Gaelic Playing Cards

Irish Gaelic Playing Cards

A set of cards to help bring awareness to old and infrequently used languages, created by E Brewstein. Each card in the pack also functions as a mini language lesson, great for playing games and also learning about Irish heritage.

Pagan Playing Cards by Uusi

Pagan Playing Cards by Uusi

A beautifully hand-painted pack inspired by wildlife and the wilderness created by the Uusi design studio.

Decked Out

Decked Out

Connie Lim has created a beautifully illustrated set of fashion inspired playing cards, a tangible telling of her story, intimately realized in the palm of your hand.