Kickstarter: 7 Questions with John Powell of Occults Playing Cards

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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with John Powell of Occults Playing Cards

Following the success of Double Black Playing Cards, Gambler’s Warehouse released their second custom playing card deck- Occults, on Kickstarter. Featuring the original artwork of John Powell, this mysterious deck is the result of extremely high demand for a coloured version of their previous release. Occults Playing Cards features 56 playing cards with custom Faces, Courts, Jokers and Tuck.

We caught up with John to talk about his design background, the inspiration behind the Occults deck, the design evolution of the deck and Kickstarter.

Could you introduce Gambler's Warehouse (GW) to our readers? What is your design background?
GW: We have been involved with the playing card industry for over twenty years. We recently expanded to be able to handle 300+ orders daily and have opened a new retail store-front based in Dallas/Fort Worth Texas. We are excited to finally be creating custom decks and have several designers that we are working with to bring the community fresh ideas and unique, quality playing cards. We want to give John Powell the opportunity to speak on behalf of his own design and his experience in working with us. So without further ado, Herrrrre's Johnny! ;)

John: I've been a graphic designer for 18 years now. I've worked primarily in licensing and merchandising with companies like Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Sony Signatures, Cartoon Network and a bunch more making products licensed for movies. I then kind of fell into product design after playing professional paintball for a few years. I've been lucky enough to get to work with Gambler's Warehouse on my first card deck and we already have more planned.

Can you describe the Occults deck and why you’re passionate about it?
The Occults deck is my very first deck. I grew up in a very strict Mormon house in Utah. We weren't allowed to have playing cards in the house. The very idea of something associated with gambling and devious behavior was pretty taboo so of course I absolutely loved them. Plus some of the first cards I ever got my hands on had naked ladies on them so they were twice as amazing and I'd fallen in love with playing cards ever since (and b00bs).

Occults was kind of my effort to show some of that love back and being not allowed all those years growing up to be anywhere around them. I was always fascinated with the courts and felt like each one of them had these faces that were just holding secrets. I have always been equally fascinated by secret societies, (mormonism is one already) sacred geometry and the marks and symbols associated with them that have this immense history or story behind them that tell it all with just simple shape or mark. I wanted to have as many stories packed into my Occults courts as I had imagined there were when I was a kid. For example in the Occults courts the queen of clubs is in love with the jack of hearts hence the heart on her chest and she's about to poison herself because he's just beheaded her brother (who is also in the courts but I'll let you decide who).

I just had all of these kinds of stories going on as I was constructing each one. There are dozens more of these little secrets hidden away and I don't want to give them away as I think the stories other people may come up with are even better than the ones I'd imagined. I basically wanted a deck that brought some of that mystery and taboo to everyone that I got sneaking away with other neighborhood kids to play cards on camping trips.

This will be the second Kickstarter project for Gambler's Wareshouse. Why Kickstarter?
Kickstarter is pretty instrumental to what I feel like GW's is trying to do with their custom decks give everyone what they want in a deck. I think they listen to all the feedback and adjust the decks art rewards whatever according to the feedback. I think its a win/win situation for backers and GWs gets to focus on producing the highest quality products that ultimately are what the backers are wanting.

How much time did you spend working on the deck? Also, can you briefly go through the evolution for one of your unique card designs (maybe the evolution of the back design)?
Each court essentially took about three days to complete. Typically I'd take a day to roughly sketch out and plan the story for each card basically build and research my secrets for it. Then a day for drawing a half of the court drawn well enough I could then scan it to the computer.Then a day or two for building them in vector in the computer. Then coloring. I built the courts in 2012 so its been over two years now since I was able to finish the Box, the back and the rest of the deck. They all seemed to fall together really easily once the courts were completed and I'd had so long to see them and run them over in my mind as to what I wanted them all to look like.

So its been such a long process I'm not entirely sure of the answer as to how long I worked on it. There was a period of over a year where the project sat and I wasn't really sure if it was going to be produced at all. I'm obviously thrilled that there has been such a great response to it and people seem to be as excited about it as I am.

What are a few key elements and principles you incorporated into your project that you think future Kickstarter creators could benefit from knowing?
Again I think its vital to listen to your backers. GW has listened and I think people really respond to that and see hey these guys care about our input our ideas and we get a better product because of it. I think its important to set realistic goals and set great stretch goals that make it worthwhile to maybe back a project for a little bit more to get a better reward.

Playing card projects on Kickstarter has grown exponentially over the past few years? What are your thoughts?
I think the capitalist market is the greatest thing of all times! I think that collectors deciding whether or not they want to buy something before it gets made is an awesome opportunity. As well as for creators who wouldn't otherwise have the money to do it. Collectors get better cards and rewards. Artists produce better quality work. Everyone comes out ahead in my opinion. I've heard about other people developing their own Kickstarter like platform where they wouldn't have to pay the fees and such and I think that's an even better idea.

Finally, what are your three favorite playing cards?
Jaqk by Cellars, Federal 52 by Jackson Robinson, Empire by Lee Mckenzie are my personal faves!

Thank you for your time John and congratulations on hitting the funding goal! 

Occults Playing Cards will be printed by the USPCC and is available in two separate editions: Limited Edition (Unbranded) and Standard Edition (Branded). Pledge starts from $13 and there are multiple add-ons available such as Card Clips, Poker Chips, T-Shirts and Collector Coin. There are also multiple rewards that will be unlocked once the project hits its set stretch goals.

Kickstarter: 7 Questions with John Powell of Occults Playing Cards Reviewed by Ivan on 5/14/2014 Rating: 5


  1. Thanks a ton for the opportunity and the amazing resource you guys have built!

  2. Hey John...! Love your insights and you amazing design. Keep up the good work!


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