7 Questions with Dennis Consorte of Steampunk Goggles Playing Cards

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7 Questions with Dennis Consorte of Steampunk Goggles Playing Cards

SteampunkGoggles is a unique website that sells Steampunk inspired goggles. Managed by Dennis Consorte of Consorte Marketing, this website is a testing-ground for new marketing ideas before offering them to their clients.

We managed to get hold of Dennis over the busy holiday period to have a quick Q&A about his first Kickstarter project, the Steampunk goggles playing cards and his thoughts on crowd-funding.

Can you tell us about Steampunk Goggles and what is your design background?
SteampunkGoggles.com is a side project that my design & marketing teams work on with me, in-between client stuff at my online marketing firm, Consorte Marketing. It gives us the opportunity to explore new marketing methods that might be a bit too risky for our clients. Sometimes ideas work and sometimes they don't, but that's what makes it fun. Besides using the goggle website as a testing-ground for new marketing ideas, I enjoy meeting and connecting with people outside of my usual group of friends and colleagues. It's been a real pleasure to work with some of the artisans behind the steampunk goggles available on our website, and those who have been a part of this project have been very supportive.

My personal design background doesn't really go beyond web design and Photoshop. I'm good at looking at things and providing direction to make them better. That's why I brought Mike Lees in on this project. He's a very talented illustrator and it's been a lot of fun working with him. I feed him concepts and he makes them better and turns visions into actual images on paper. Then I provide some feedback on direction to tweak his images in a way to follow my vision more precisely and he executes with perfection.

Here's what Mike Lees had to say about his background:

 In 2006, I escaped my lifelong home in North Carolina to go to school at California College of the Arts in San Francisco/Oakland. There, I received a BFA in Illustration in 2010.

I'm probably influenced less by other artists than I am by all of what I see in world around me. I suppose you could say I'm most inspired by the study of history, science, and literature. And with these as my favorite subjects, it was only natural that I find an affinity for Steampunk and its combination of science-fiction and Victorian aesthetics. So when I was approached by Dennis to create a full deck of cards based around this theme, I was overjoyed. It has been a blast working on the deck - from research, to concept, to execution. 

This seem to be your first Kickstarter Project. Why Kickstarter? 
This goes to my background in marketing, and pushing my limits. I'm an expert at things like search engine marketing and directing the design of websites to make them more effective for conversion. However Kickstarter is something entirely new to me, and the learning curve has been steep. I enjoy pushing my abilities outside of my comfort zone, and learning new things. In the past 2 weeks, I've learned so much about Kickstarter -- what works and what doesn't work.

It's been stressful, but I've enjoyed the challenge every step of the way. I can tell you that it's no picnic -- Kickstarter is a fulltime job. Combine that with running a company and trying to fit in time for family and friends over the holidays, and you get a sense of what my life's like right now. Still, I believe I made the right decision. The one thing I can tell you is that Kickstarter success is all based on networking. I'm more of a technical guy than a sales guy, so this is definitely outside of my comfort zone, but that's how you grow.

We looked at Indiegogo and some other platforms but Kickstarter looked the most "playing-card friendly." We noticed more decks getting funded on Kickstarter than the other platforms, so we decided to give it a go.

What is your inspiration behind Steampunk Goggles Playing Cards? How did you come up with the idea?
We wanted to do something fun and different to showcase the really cool goggles we have available on our website. It's been so much fun working with the artists behind them, and we know how much work they put into coming up with new and creative designs. So we thought it would be great to make new art based on existing art. Playing cards seemed like the perfect solution, because you have 12-14 cards to play with, each card showcasing a different pair of goggles.

I then gave Jenelle Sosa ownership of the overall concept. She has a background in performing arts, manages the content on our goggles website, and knows a lot more about steampunk than I do. She came up with the brilliant idea of assigning different archetypes to each of the 4 suits, and then assigned each of 4 lines of goggles to those suits. Hearts became "Lover and Rogues" - consisting of the Jack who's a playboy, the Queen who's a madame, and the King who started out as a gentleman that we've been transforming into a magician that has gentlemanly and subdued roguish qualities with his sleight of hand skills. You're going to love this card. Diamonds became the "Gliterati," Clubs the "Aviators" and Spades (my favorite) became the "Industrials."

How much time was spend working on the deck?
A lot! Mike has spent countless hours drawing, sketching and painting. Jenelle, the staff and I have spent hundreds of hours conceptualizing, brainstorming and marketing the decks. I'd say that personally I've invested over 200 hours in this project to date. The video was a colllaborative effort between Consorte Marketing and The Joey Creative Agency that took around 60-70 hours to plan and produce. This time doesn't even count the many hours that the artisans spent on their parts of the project.

Debbie Rounds and Hans Meier & Matthew Winkelmann put some really creative videos together to give the project more personality, and Graham & StacyFaye Dehuff created new designs for the King & Queen of Hearts goggles, just for this project. We've also had support from some of our backers and other people in the community who have been kind enough to volunteer their own personal time to the development of this project. It's really amazing how people come together to achieve a common goal, without being so concerned about the money side of it. That's what makes Kickstarter such a great community that I'm glad to become a part of.

You just released a new back design for the LE decks. How did you come out with this unique design and why not just another colour variation?

Originally we were planning to only release one deck, using the black and brass-colored design. However in my research it became apparent that most successful decks on Kickstarter had a limited edition version. So, that card back was initially an afterthought, and we started with just a color variation to make it different than the Standard Edition.

However, we realized that a Limited Edition deck needs to have some special qualities about it. So we added things like signatures on the first 1000 LE decks, metallic ink and embossing of the tuck box. However we felt that wasn't enough, so we brainstormed ideas for the back design. Among these was a steam-powered locomotive. I gave Mike the idea of taking this locomotive and turning our Steampunk Goggles logo into a stylized cow-catcher at the front. He came back with a brilliant rendition of a train that was exactly as I had pictured it in my head. However the train spanned the full length of the card back and had a giant plume of smoke coming out of the top. It was beautiful but I wanted to tweak the design from a functional perspective.

Personally, I like playing cards that can be held in the hand without appearing upside down, and that's just not possible with a design that spans the full length. So we shrunk the train and added context. To make it interesting, I wanted to create the illusion that the bottom half of the card was a reflection of the top half. So I pictured the train running down the middle of a river, with old buildings on either side to give it a more industrial context (design 2). This isn't something that you would find in real life - trains cross rivers all the time, but you never see one running down the length of the river. That's the beauty of Steampunk - it's a genre of science fiction that's based on a future that never happened, with a strong Victorian influence on it. People wear these funky goggles and gears and gadgets that don't necessarily have a functional purpose to them. So why not have a big, bad, bold train run down the middle of a river?

I found some pictures on Google Images and sent mock ups to Mike that married the train to the rest of the concept and the result is what you see now. We of course are open to feedback from the community, and are trying several different design directions before deciding on the final version. So, it's possible that we won't go with the river concept in the final version. But, that's the inspiration.

What are your thoughts about the exponential increase of playing card projects on kickstarter?
It's both a blessing and a curse. I love the fact that Kickstarter provides a platform for artists and other creators to get real backing for projects without giving up full control, and without having to conform to the requirements of a more corporate engagement. The result is that you get a wide variety of decks in multiple genres, several of which have been steampunk-inspired. This is the blessing. The curse is that sometimes you get very creative people who produce beautiful designs, and get backing, but they haven't necessarily thought through the business side of it. The result is that they get funded and then realize that costs are substantially higher than what they set as a funding goal.

Sometimes this has resulted in projects that got funded, but where the creators never delivered. It also makes it challenging for those of us who have taken the time to crunch the numbers, and when we set reward levels that are slightly more costly than some of the other decks, or set a funding goal that's double-to-triple the goals of many past decks, backers get turned off. For example, a minimum run of 2500 Bicycle decks is going to run you $6,000 - $7,000 just for the printing. This doesn't include postage, packaging, or the labor required to produce the artwork, market the product, coordinate with the printer, ship the product to backers, Amazon fees, Kickstarter fees, credit cards that don't successfully get charged at the time the project is funded, damage and returns.

I can tell you that for my personal project, I would need to raise about $30k to cover all of my costs - and it's much higher than that if I were to put a dollar value on my personal time. I set the funding goal of $24k because I can live with investing $6k into this project to see it come to fruition, and I know I'll make that back over time. My deck is a little different than most because it's part of a "bigger picture."

We're raising awareness about the steampunk goggles we carry by introducing a beautiful work of art to the public, and would have spent this money on advertising anyway. We're also picking away at another website where we will be selling steampunk jewelry and have other domains like SteampunkFashion.com and SteampunkArt.com - so you might see some more deck themes come out depending on the success of the goggle campaign. Because these names are generic, the branding doesn't overwhelm the backer but rather is more category-defining. Who wouldn't want to own a deck of Steampunk Goggles playing cards?

Finally, what are your favourite playing card decks?
There are so many great decks on Kickstarter. Some of my favorites that come to mind include the Sherlock Holmes deck by Jackson Robinson, the Extraordinary Voyages deck by BentCastle Workshops, and the Pagan deck by Uusi.

Thank you for your time Dennis. 

Pledges starts from $12 and Steampunk Goggles will be due out to backers on February 2014.

7 Questions with Dennis Consorte of Steampunk Goggles Playing Cards Reviewed by Ivan on 12/25/2013 Rating: 5

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