Already funded on Kickstarter, Dominus is a deck of playing cards featuring two stunning limited edition decks. This is the second volume in the ‘Light vs Darkness’ series by designer Nicolai Aaroe. Dominus illustrates the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek to gain power through activities related to the underworld and magic. Dominus seek to represent light and darkness with a mirrored 2-deck theme, Divinus and Obscura.
Fully custom, the card backs represent the European monarchs moral codex and reign and are decorated with royal, divine, religious and occult symbolism. The meticulously illustrated courts tell a unique story of fate, destiny, choice and consequence. The rulers in the elegant Divinus deck represents the moral right path while the darker-coloured Obscura deck features the same rulers in their darker versions. Both decks are housed in an eye-catching matte deluxe tuck designed with hot stamped gold foil and embossing effects.
We had a quick chat with Nicolai, and asked him about being a designer, inspiration and design evolution of Dominus Playing Cards and his takeaway lessons from previous Kickstarter projects.
What do you most love about being a designer? and what are some favorite projects you’ve worked on?
I like to express myself and communicate with visuals, form and shape. Design is a language and the colors, fonts, and shapes are the words you use to create a certain mood or a specific message. Often the perfection of the communication lies in the detail, and certain words can ruin what you are trying to say or express. Like a symbol that is misinterpreted or doesn’t fit well with the rest of your story. My favorite projects are those where I get a chance to create a concept from the ground up. I’ve been doing that for retailers, video games, movies and tv shows. And I tend to have a personal preference for the more gloomy concepts.
What is your inspiration behind the Dominus? How did you come up with the idea?
Both Indictus and Dominus are inspired by historical dramas such as The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, and The Wars of The Roses. I also find much inspiration in historic writings and ancient paintings and portraits. The Indictus tuck cases were directly inspired by an antique, french and golden cabinet held at the Versailles Palace in France. The Dominus theme is visually inspired by occult artwork and a scarf I found in Germany. Ancient European monarchies have so much historical drama to draw upon. So noble and elegant to the eye, and so backstabbing to gain power. Display is important, but simplicity must rule our hearts. Doing good and doing bad is a tough balancing act, and monarchs of ancient times must have had quite a struggle choosing between them.
How much time did you spend working on the deck?
About six months. I had a lot of fun working with Eugen Poe (Dead Inside Ink) to illustrate the court cards. He liked the idea and concept so much that he was willing to work on it even during nights and weekends, out of devoted and passionate interest. We started working on the first sketches in October last year and I did dozens of drafts for the tuck designs in several months after. In total, I would estimate that more than 300 hours of work went into this project before I even got to the design of the Kickstarter pitch.
Can you briefly go through the design evolution of one of your unique card design?
Queen Rumyna was one of the first courts we did. Eugen made a rough sketch based on my briefing and concept for the character. When approved he inked the character in hand and more detail. Then I edited his illustration technically, made golden parts and formed it into a two-way court design with all that follows in a detailed card such as this, with symbolism and more.
What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
Originally the Divinus tuck case was designed with a Kings Crown on the front to represent a regents power and potency, but I felt that it didn’t match the face of Obscura in some way. My wife and I did some sketches with a Fleur De Lis instead and we the very ornate version was an immediate breakthrough in regards to the matching of style and visual power between the two decks. I am so pleased that I didn’t just settle with the crown design as it kept haunting me style wise for reasons that I couldn’t really point out or explain.
With so many playing card projects competing for funding, why should potential backers choose your deck?
Backers should scan and pick the theme that they find the most interesting and appealing. My designs are not more valuable or above any other theme on the market. There are so many themes covered and we all have different tastes and preferences for our playing cards and collectibles. But hopefully, the amount of effort, work and background depth of the court cards that went into the Dominus theme shines through in the pitch. That is my only hope really.
Finally, you have previously launched 2 successful playing cards projects on Kickstarter. Are there any takeaway lessons from your previous projects you would like to share?
Be transparent, be honest, and be responsive to your backers. Be a backer yourself so you have insight and hands on experience from both sides of the table. Never promise more than what you are able to deliver. Do your homework prior to launch. Be in contact with your manufacturers to avoid surprises as much as possible. And finally, make sure that you don’t compromise on product quality to avoid delays on fulfillment. These are my personal priorities at least.
Once again, thank you for your time, Nicolai! At the time of writing, the project is already 163% funded with 21 days to go. If you want to support the Dominus Playing Cards, you can find it on Kickstarter here!
Pledge starts from ~$12 and the deck will be printed by the NPCC. Dealer chip, uncut sheets and satin pouches are available as an add-on. There are also multiple rewards that are waiting to be unlocked once the project hits its various stretch goals.