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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Rick Davidson of Origins Playing Cards



Inspired by the elegance and charm of playing card history, designer and illustrator Rick Davidson (@OriginsCards) has masterfully created Origins Playing Cards. Playing cards have evolved over many hundreds of years, with the echoes of the pattern we know today forming around the 15th and 16th century in Rouen, France. A design emerged that was adopted and copied in England, and then spread across the globe.

After months of hard work and anticipation, Origins is now LIVE on Kickstarter. All of the cards are individually researched and custom designed. The super fine details on the backs will feature metallic gold ink. The tuck cases will be printed on the highest quality stock, fully embossed and the box details will be embellished with gloss gold foil, giving it a touch of elegance and sophistication.

We asked Rick to join us for an interview about this project, design inspiration, challenges and Kickstarter. We think you’ll find a lot of insights in his answers, just as we did.



Can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background?
I'm a designer based in Hamilton, New Zealand. Or Middle Earth if you go with the marketing hype. I've always enjoyed the art of creating. My father is a talented musician, my mother a talented artist, so I grew up with my sister in a house of guitars and paintings, making comic books and recording bad songs.

I love to create and often have a pet project on the go, I like to push my skills and try new things. But I knew early on I wanted to work in design. I have an strong interest in world events and history and that led me to work for a number of years as an editorial newspaper artist. During this time I illustrated and covered major events graphically, including the Millennium, Gulf War and 9/11. I loved that job, and saw the best and worst of humanity during that time.

But I had a desire to work more creatively and I'm now a designer at a web design studio, Black Sheep, working in both traditional print and online interface design. In my spare time I keep busy with 3D animation and sculpture, and entertaining my three amazing boys.



Origins is your first Kickstarter Project. What inspired you to launch your own kickstarter project?
I didn’t have any plans to run a campaign until enthusiasm for the Origins deck began to grow. That interest encouraged me to explore options to have the deck produced and Kickstarter was obviously a clear option.

Not that Kickstarter is an easy choice. I think it's by far the hardest route to take. Building a campaign from the ground up is difficult, especially working from the southern hemisphere. I originally approached all of the major players with my concepts, but received few replies. When I first began the project, Kickstarter was still unavailable here, and I hit a lot of walls and considered shelving the project, so it felt like the stars aligned when they opened to NZ recently.

For an independant designer like me, Kickstarter opens up so many possibilities. It's great to have the freedom to develop an idea, a dream, without the limitation of lack of funds. Funding isn’t assured of course, but you have a half open door, a sliver of light. So you if work hard, who knows.

What is your inspiration behind Origins Playing Cards? How did you come up with the idea?
Well I have always thought today's card art was far from beautiful and I decided to explore how that art managed to become the standard. With my love of art and history, I became fascinated once I began exploring the evolution of the art and wound my way back to the 16th century. From that elegant art to the clunky almost mathematical shapes of today, it felt like this beautiful work had almost been forgotten and replaced by something less.


Just out of pure inspiration, with no plan to produce the deck, I put together some rough ideas based around reviving this art for the modern era, and posted them online for other designers to critique. Card collectors saw the designs, kindly invited me to join their forums and my journey began. It really has been a huge amount of work, with as much time spent researching and money spent tracking down the historic art, and learning about the industry, as working on the designs themselves. And I've loved every moment of it. What a great community.

How much time was spend working on the deck? Can you briefly go through the design evolution for one of your unique card design?
I’ve worked most nights for around 10 months. It's been a lot of work. The first part of the process was tracking down as much of the historic art as I could so I had a broad selection to work from. That was a number of weeks as it required contacting various historians and experts and finding my way to the locations of the different art.

Once I had as many versions of the originals as I could, I put them together and tried and find the recurring design elements. Matching necklaces, pikes. I then began the final art, first with rough sketches, then to the computer. I wanted the linework to be crisp and sharp to match today's cards so I did everything in vector which is very restrictive creatively, but has given me the sharp strong lines I was looking for.


The redesign had three main challenges. The addition of the indices, the placement of the pips in the top left corner, and reworking the full length art for the reversible design of todays cards. It was really difficult to chop the bottom half of the these cards away, but I tried to retain important elements and patterns where I could. I battled with the style initially, but settled on something clean and modern over the more medieval woodcut style. So I hope I have retained some of the style of the originals, whilst still creating something fresh and modern.

Being based outside the United States, what challenges did you faced trying to get your project up on Kickstarter?
I was very keen to base the project in the States to reduce cost to the majority of the people supporting me. And I was also set on printing with the United States Playing Card Co so it made sense to keep everything central. I would like to think with the power of the net distance isn't a problem, and it isn't. But TIME is. I wake up as the work day is ending in the States and I would basically be able to get in one email to an associate. Then I would have to wait for a response the next day so it has been a frustratingly slow process building the campaign. But I have had wonderful people on my side which has made actually bringing everything together great.

57% of the top projects in 2012 missed their delivery dates? What are your thoughts?
I love your stats. Well I hope I see the Origins in the top of the Kardify delivery dates for 2014! I can see how it can happen when you rely on others to produce your product, some things are out of your control. But I know from working on many design projects you really need to allow for issues, because they will happen. I have contacted all of my suppliers for an honest estimate on delivery times and built a schedule accordingly. Then I've added a month. You of course want to get the product to your backers as quickly as possible, but it's much better to promise late and deliver early than the opposite.



Very true! Finally, what are your favourite playing card decks?
That's so tough. As an artist, I look at every deck and I admire the variety and style in every one. Every artist has their own style which I love, and it's getting expensive buying my favourite art. But in cards, there is also the element of quality, and I get a thrill out of holding a deck that just feels beautiful in your hand. Embossing, quality of the stock, metallics. So for me the Blaine Split Spades are special, followed by the Theory decks.

Thanks Rick! If you like what you’ve read here and want to support Origins Playing Cards, you can find it on Kickstarter here The First Edition features a unique gold foil titled tuck box which will not be printed again. They will be printed at casino quality Bee stock with magic finish by the USPCC. Pledge starts from NZD$15 (approximately $12) and there are multiple add-ons available such as collectors coins, t-shirts, posters, uncut sheets and unique pencil sketches of each face cards (extremely limited!).

There are also multiple rewards that are waiting to be unlocked once the project hits its stretch goals. Most notable is the Grail Limited Edition deck. It will become available if funding reaches $58k. The deck will be limited to a maximum of 2500 decks and will not be printed again. The Grail cards will feature metallic inks, front and back, and the tuck will be printed in gold foil on a special high quality pearlesque stock. Don't miss out! 

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