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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Ken Sommer of Portraits of the Zombie Apocalypse Playing Cards




This is NOT your regular zombie themed deck that features zombies in various poses doing what they usually do. The Portraits of the Zombie Apocalypse Playing Cards is a tribute to what it was before and a reminder that zombies were once people too. Inspired by post-apocalyptic fiction, Ken Sommer designed the deck to stand as a testament to humanity after the zombie uprising comes to pass.

Presented in an eye-catching tuck and unique back design, this deck features portraits based on real people. Backers who pledge on the 'be on the zombie court' tier will have their likeness immortalise on this beautifully illustrated deck.

We caught up with Ken to have a chat about his design background, Classy Horse Industries, inspiration behind the Portraits of the Zombie Apocalypse deck and his thoughts on Kickstarter projects.

Can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background?
My name is Ken, I work under the moniker logicaloperator. I’ve been an illustrator and designer for seven years, and I spent the majority of that time working in the print publication industry.

Like any designer, I love creating, but I identify with the idea that good design is problem solving. My passion is working on full projects rather than just single pieces. I personally feel the beauty of design and satisfaction one derives from working in the field is found in all the unseen details behind every project.

I have a love of all things “post-apocalyptic” and like most people of my generation I am better prepared for the zombie apocalypse than I probably should be…but who doesn’t have “a plan”.

This is Classy Horse Industries’ first Kickstarter Project. What is Classy Horse Industries’ and why Kickstarter?
Classy Horse Industries was initially born from making cards, games, puzzles and print media for other clients. We’re both fans of cards and games, and with our experience in the field, we wanted to launch a project of our own.

We chose Kickstarter for our first major project because it’s a great way to get ourselves out there as well as really connect with other like-minded people. We’ve only been live for a few days but we’ve already gotten an enormous number of responses from both fans, designers, and vendors. The instant feedback makes it possible for us to grow as creators as well as make sure we are able to make something that everyone loves.




What is your inspiration behind Portraits of the Zombie Apocalypse Playing Cards? How did you come up with the idea?
As I mentioned, I have an affinity for all things post apocalyptic as does Andrew so we knew we wanted to explore the subject in our first deck. We tried out a few concepts but really like the idea of having a painted portrait as the court and the zombified version on the reverse. Initially we wanted to use public domain victorian portrait photos to be the subjects of our decks, but the USPCC requires model releases for all likenesses public domain or otherwise, which would have easily fallen into challenge part of the “risks and challenges” Kickstarter category. So we reached out to our friends and family to see if anyone wanted to become a zombie. The response was amazing so we thought we definitely need to extend the offer to the backers.

How much time did you spend working on the deck?
Probably somewhere between six and seven hundred hours over the past few months. This has been my main focus once we got underway and includes everything from concepting to finalization as well as the various work involved in forming a new company and creating our first Kickstarter.

Can you briefly go through the design evolution of one of your unique card design?
Our initial concepts were monochromatic, and very busy with a good deal of superfluous design elements and weathering effects; I like to start big and refine with the idea that “less is more”.


For the final design, I moved the floral elements behind the character in the background splatter and made the border a simple stroke on the living side and a scrawl on the zombie side with subtle blood effects throughout the border.


We tossed around the idea of making the pips “realistic items” that were in keeping with the theme, but nixed it believing that even though it looked cool, the pips might not be instantly recognizable as the traditional counterpart they were depicting, thereby decreasing the decks usability. We ultimately settled on a splattered effect for the “zombie side” of the card.



For the portraits, I work digitally but I started my career using traditional tools and techniques so I employ a process one might use if they were going to paint a non-digital portrait. Typically a non-photo blue sketch, followed by a refined grayscale sketch over that and finally painting in full color over that.

57% of the top projects in 2012 missed their delivery dates? What are your thoughts?
Projects slip, it happens, for many reasons. I think the key is communication. I’ve seen projects where backers are completely understanding and it’s because the creators are actively engaging the backers and keeping them informed.

There is so much involved in delivering any print product and with Kickstarter. It’s not just designing a beautiful product, it’s also managing a marketing campaign, being an accountant, a customer service rep, a logistics and supply chain manager, a shipping clerk, a backer liason. It’s a lot of work and no matter how much you plan there are always surprises.

Andrew and I have worked together on projects including cards, packaging, puzzles, stickers and textbooks. Through these experiences we understand the logistics of a project like this and are able to set realistic goals for our Kickstarter while realizing how important it is to keep backers informed whenever issues arise.

Finally, what are your favourite playing card decks?
I have a long list but I can name a few from past Kickstarters. Anything by Jackson Robinson, Postumo, Oracle, Pedale Designs Misc Goods deck, Karnival, and the 8-bit deck was an amazing project overall, great cards, great rewards.

Thank you for your time Ken and all the best!

The Portraits of the Zombie Apocalypse Playing Cards will be printed by the USPCC and pledge currently starts at $10 (early bird). There are multiple add-ons available such as t-shirts, art prints and uncut sheets.


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