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Designers: Questions With Artisan Playing Cards Designer - Simon Frouws


Simon Frouws is a highly sought after designer from South Africa. Last year, Theory 11 teamed up with him to created one of the most beautiful playing card decks ever produced - The Artisan Playing Cards. Just last month, the White Edition Artisans were released. Although an extremely busy designer, Simon was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his design career and the work with Theory 11...

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Tuck Case: Can you give me a background of your design career?

Simon Frouws: I've specialized in wine & spirits label design for 17 years. Along the way, I've had the opportunity to brand a few other types of products, including coffees, teas, custom guitars and playing cards.

I'm based 20 minutes north of Cape Town, South Africa, in the picturesque Durbanville wine valley. I create over 85 new brands a year, for clients in South Africa, France, Chile, the UK, Australia and the USA.

My equipment set-up is very simple. I have a 17-inch MacBook Pro and Wacom tablet, which I bought recently to help alleviate early signs of carpal tunnel. It's the big drawback of producing such intricate designs! I also have an colour inkjet printer, B&W laser printer and foil laminator, for producing foiled wine label mock-ups, primarily for the big wine shows each year.

Tuck Case: How did you get to work with Theory 11?

Simon Frouws: They found me on Dribbble. They particularly liked the style of my Jamaica Blue coffee design, and wanted something with that type of Cuban cigar box / artisanal aesthetic.

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Most of our discussions were on email, but we also had a few Skype sessions, where I was taught a few nifty card tricks too!

Tuck Case: Was the Artisan deck your first playing card design? If not, which deck or decks did you work on?

Simon Frouws: I had a little bit of previous experience in playing card design, having worked with a Chinese company, as well as developing a set of Tarot cards for a Middle Eastern client. The latter was pretty interesting, as we developed a strong theme with each card illustrated by hand.

Tuck Case: Who came up with the concept for Artisan?

Simon Frouws: I just set out to design the most luxurious, detailed and artisanal deck of cards ever! Other names we considered were Reserves, Greenbacks, Vanguards and Five Points. Inspiration definitely came from many different sources - cigar boxes, share certificates, bank notes and whisky labels.

I'm a sucker for punishment. I tend to make things ultra-challenging for myself, so other than a few fonts used for the small text, everything on the Artisan's box is custom drawn.

Tuck Case: What exactly is The Guild of Artisans?

Simon Frouws: It's my fantasy of swopping my Wacom pen for a blacksmith's hammer. ;)

Tuck Case: Do you have any favorite playing card decks on the market?

Simon Frouws: I'm only familiar with the theory11 decks, so I'd have to say Monarchs and Steampunk.

Tuck Case: Are you currently working on any playing card decks for the future?

Simon Frouws: There are a few possibilities in the pipeline, but classified "Top Secret" for now.

Since the success of Artisans, I've received lots of requests (but not always the budgets to match)! Artisans took a few months total working time to develop, and that's without custom faces.

Process shots of the Artisan Playing Cards:

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Photos Courtesy of Simon Frouws and Dribbble.
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