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Kickstarter: Paul Michael Kane of Foto Grafis Playing Cards on Turning Failure into Success

Foto Grafis is a unique set of playing cards showcasing the amazing work of, Award winning photographer, Paul Michael Kane. Each image is filled with astounding textures and unexpected depth, transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary and spectacular! His goal is to turn an everyday, ordinary deck of cards that we know into something very special. Pocket sized fine art!

Unfortunately, Paul's first attempt was unsuccessful. He then re-launched his Kickstarter campaign, Foto Grafis Playing Cards Phase II on Jan3 2014. In less than 24 hours, Foto Grafis was fully funded and with 16 days remaining (at the time of writing), the current campaign has even surpassed the funding goal of the original campaign! Amazing turnaround!

We caught up with Paul to talk about the Foto Grafis campaign. In this interview, he shares the lessons he has learned from his first attempt, support from the community, the success of his project and how he turned things around.

Can you tell us about yourself and for your first Kickstarter project, why playing cards?
I am a graphic designer/photographer who is always looking for new opportunities and new ways of displaying my work. When I show my work at different galleries, you’ll find my images printed on glass, wood, slate and even metal, but the challenge has always been showing off as much of my work as possible – playing cards give me the chance to showcase 52 of my images in a nice, portable format – pocket sized fine art!

Why Kickstarter? It’s an exceptional format for creative professionals to present their unique vision to such a broad, international audience. As a self-publisher, much of the challenge of getting a project produced is finding buyers. Kickstarter covers that by turning potential “buyers” into project backers who, I hope, feel a sense of pride for their help in seeing a vision realized to the finished product. It’s a fantastic time to be a creative professional!

Unfortunately, your first project was only 63% funded. In your postmortem analysis, what are some of the things that you could have improved on?
I learned a tremendous amount from the first campaign. The biggest lesson learned was to offer up a finished product – something that was ready to go to production right after the campaign closes. I had a concept for my court cards that involved photographing models as stand-ins for the traditional court. I had only shot one Queen before launch and one during. I also slowly released the images for the card faces . . . thinking that would create excitement throughout the project. The deck clearly wasn’t finished and I think that uncertainty – that unfinished aspect – is what ultimately killed the first attempt.

But I don’t consider it a failure – not if I didn’t move on from it, learn from it and make another attempt at it. From a marketing stand point, it was a huge success – having attained new viewers of my work from all over the world. I saw upticks in all my social media accounts and a rush of new hits to my web site.

Did you get any help or feedback from your supporters during or after your first project?
Feedback from the Kickstarter community was wonderful. It was all positive and it’s what drove me to reevaluate the project and make another attempt at it. The one bit of feedback I heard the most about was that my concept for the court card didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the deck – and after mulling that over for a bit, I realized the backers were right. So this time around, my court cards blend seamlessly with the rest of the deck.

Your second project, Foto Grafis Playing Cards: Phase II was funded in 24 hours and currently stands at 171% of the funding goal with 17 days remaining. What was different and what have you learned about running a Kickstarter project? 
I was just blown away by the response to Foto Grafis the second time around .  What I did this time around was team up with a local printer – which lowered my funding goal – finished ALL the card faces to put them on display . . . and finally, I restructured the entire project to one that was more focused on exposure rather than gains.

This is a personal project for me – not a commercial one. The commercial projects are the ones that help pay the bills – these personal projects are the things that keep my artistic vision fresh, which is very important to me.

Any advice for creators who is looking to relaunch their project? 
No matter how big or small a project is, you need a strategy to succeed  I call my strategy A.P.E.  

Anticipate,  Plan, Execute. 

If you do these three things, you should come away with a success. Even my first attempt’s failure was anticipated. But I had a plan and executed it this second time around and turned it into a win . . . for which I am just wonderfully grateful for!

Constant communication and contact is a must. Update your backers often – not only with words, but show the progress of your project. Personalize the project . . . own it. This connects project leaders with their backers . . . and gives backers confidence in you and your project.

57% of the top projects in 2012 missed their delivery dates? What are your thoughts? 
Hitting the delivery date is a HUGE deal for me – I actually have a personal goal to ship well before the stated delivery date of April. I honestly think that many of the most successful campaigns in 2012 didn’t realize just how big a hit their campaigns were going to be.

Paul's awesome collection! I am envious!!One example from personal experience is the Ondu Pinhole camera. I backed this project in mid-2013 with a delivery date of October 2013. The campaign was a huge success - and the poor guys just weren’t equipped to handle all the orders. These were, after all, handmade, wooden cameras. I didn’t get the camera in hand till after Christmas – it wasn’t something that bothered me by any means – as a backer, it’s one of the risks you take when funding a project. You really just have to anticipate these things as a project lead, going in – anticipate the best case scenario and the worst case scenario – that way you’re covered either way.

Finally, what are your favorite playing card decks? 
Now that’s a tough question . . . seems new decks are coming out all the time – both from Kickstarter and established brands. The one I’ve used the most is the Deland Automatic Playing Cards deck. This is a marked, stripped deck I used to use back when I was doing magic professionally in the early 90’s. While I’ve long (long!) since retired, I still use the deck in tricks for my daughter and her friends.

From a design stand point – I am just blown away by what Jackson Robinson is doing with his Kings Wild brand. The Federal 52 is just an amazing collection and really well thought out project. Can’t wait for the Sherlock cards!!

There’s also a few from Theory 11 that I love – the Rebels and the Monarchs are my favorite from them! See, I told you this was a tough question.

Thank you for sharing Paul! All the best in fulfilment. By the way, I LOVE YOUR CARD COLLECTION!!

Foto Grafis will be printed on premium linen stock by a New Jersey based company. Pledge starts from $9 and there are multiple free add-ons available such as poker chip, lens cloth and sticker. There are also multiple rewards that will be unlocked once the project hits its' set stretch goals.

Kickstarter: Paul Michael Kane of Foto Grafis Playing Cards on Turning Failure into Success Reviewed by Ivan on 1/16/2014 Rating: 5


  1. What an exciting project for Paul, so glad it is coming together! I can't wait to receive my cards!

  2. I agree. I reckon this project is a good example of- If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

    Congratulations again Paul!


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