Created by Sarah Ferone, Cocktail Hour is a beautifully illustrated deck of playing cards that celebrate the craft of the cocktail – offering a playful and modern twist to the classic deck through custom art.
The artwork and style are visually pleasing, with the reimagined courts featuring unique characters crafting and enjoying a variety of drinks. The eye-catching back feature a balanced two-way design composed of hand drawn elements. For added charm, the number cards incorporate subtle hand-painted textures and pips that vary slightly in size. The deck is neatly packaged in a gorgeous tuck printed on matte paper with a solid color interior.
Prior to the launch of the project, we had a quick chat with Sarah about her design background, the inspiration & design process behind the Cocktail Hour deck and her thoughts on the support from the playing card community.
For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background?
I’m an illustrator and designer based in Philadelphia in the US. I studied painting and art history in college, but then I changed paths to a different creative track to work as a designer and art director. I had spent some years at an ad agency in Chicago, and then worked at a non-profit here in Philadelphia. It took me a while to find illustration as a career, but it finally feels like the perfect marriage of my fine art and design backgrounds. Now, much of my illustration work focuses on food and beverage subjects for a variety of clients for packaging to editorial commissions.
Can you describe Cocktail Hour Playing Cards and why you’re passionate about it?
My love of playing cards began in childhood during family rummy games and I have so many good memories from those times. I always thought it would be fun to design a deck of my own someday, and it really wasn’t until this past year where it finally felt possible.
These cards combine my interest in cocktail culture and love of cards to offer a modern twist to the standard deck. Using my illustration style to bring in a handmade element to the cards was important to me, too, so you’ll see a lot of bold brush and line work in the designs.
How much time did you spend working on the deck?
I started working on the deck in September of 2015 and finished putting the final touches on it in late April.
Talk to us a bit about going from the first draft to the final version. How did you get to this finished product?
For me, I thought the court cards would be the hardest to tackle, so that’s where I began. I wanted to challenge myself to create a two-way design that would be more complex than just reflecting it. It had been something that always daunted me when I studied playing card designs and knew that would have to be the first thing to overcome! Honestly, I feel like it’s working out a muscle in your brain, cause now I have a better understanding of how to approach designs like that.
But the thing that jump started this whole idea is finding some playing cards from the 18th century. There’s something really charming about how naively the figures are drawn and the bold use of pattern. A strong handmade feeling to the cards was present and my own project suddenly felt within reach.
The courts have definitely evolved over time and they’re much more refined than from the early sketches. My process starts pretty rough because I like to work fast and get the idea on paper, and then I’ll go back and pull out the parts that have potential. This may also be influenced by working in the editorial illustration world where deadlines are tight!
And as I approached the finish line in developing these cards, I had to be sure each part felt like it spoke with the same voice. I really thought the courts were going to be the most challenging part of this project, but creating a tuck box and back design that felt like my own was a huge struggle. I think I had been researching too many other playing card projects with beautiful and complex ornamental designs. It tripped me up for a while, but eventually I found my way back when I focused on elements that make this deck special – the handmade brush work and organic lines.
What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
Finally nailing the back design! It was a HUGE sense of relief to see all the pieces of this project fall into place.
We first noticed the Cocktail Hour Playing Cards on the forums. What do you think of the playing card community in terms of the feedback and support that you’ve been getting so far?
The forums have been so great to get feedback! I first connected with Don Boyer through playingcardforum.com and he has been such a tremendous help to understand the ins and outs of playing card design and the world of custom decks. And then reading through the development threads, it was impressive to see how honest some of the feedback was. I looked forward to sharing my project there and hearing what people had to say. Also, being such a newbie to this world, I knew there was good advice to be gained from the community.
Finally, what are your favourite playing cards?
Researching playing cards opened up a huge world of diverse designs out there for me. So many artists have contributed amazing art to this form over the years, it’s incredible. Some favorites include the weird and surreal deck by Salvador Dali, and another by A.M. Cassandre for Hermes that’s so great. I had already been looking at his poster designs as inspiration so I was delighted that he had also created a deck of his own.
Love the art style! Thank you for your time Sarah and all the best. If you like what you’ve read here and want to support Sarah, head on over to the Kickstarter page to back this project!
Cocktail Hour will be printed Legends Playing Card Co. Having raised 46 percent of its $9.8k goal in 10 days, with another 18 days left to go, a pledge of $14 sets you up with a deck. Also, there are multiple rewards that will be unlocked once the project hits their set stretched goals, most notably the copper foil on the tuck at $12k.