Deckstarter: 7 Questions with Blake Brenneman of the Revelation Deck

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Deckstarter: 7 Questions with Blake Brenneman of the Revelation Deck

Designed by Blake Brenneman and Michael Messer, Revelation is an extraordinary deck of playing cards inspired by medieval cathedrals and their gothic style. This meticulously hand-illustrated deck features gothic details, symbolic carvings and stained glass ornamentations from the stunning Nidaros cathedral in Norway.

A fully customised deck of cards, the Revelation tuck box, jokers, Ace of Spades and the eye-catching backs features artwork inspired by the beautiful stained glass of the cathedral while the illustrated skeleton courts pays homage to the silent skeletons of Norwegian royalty still resting in Nidaros’ catacombs. A strangely beautiful, simple and visually stunning theme.

We caught up with Blake for a quick chat about his design background, the inspiration & design process behind Revelation and Deckstarter.

Can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background?
I’ve been involved in the world of magic for many years with a special interest in gambling sleights and casino protection. The beauty of magic, for me at least, is the psychology behind it; the truest version of magic happens with the most normal of objects, with sheer perception being the thing manipulated most of all. This fascination with psychology kind of plays into my interests in college; I’m currently wavering between a psychology degree and one in business and history.

As far as my design background is concerned, things are actually kind of ironic. My design background is almost nonexistent. That being said, my three biggest loves in life (other than my fiancé, of course) are theology, psychology, and fine art, and it is at the nexus of these three concepts that I derived inspiration for Revelation.

Revelation will be your first playing card deck. How did you and D&D end up collaborating together for Deckstarter?
My big design team consists of Michael Messer and myself. When we started this project we new that, since this is our flagship project, we wanted to go the crowd funding route, both for financial and marketing reasons. As a long time fan of Dan & Dave playing cards, I knew that the durability and artisan nature of our cards would have a wide-enough appeal with niche interest to be successful on a platform like Deckstarter. After we’d solidified the design concept, we inquired into Deckstarter, and now we’re here.

What is your inspiration behind the Revelation deck? How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always wanted a stained glass themed deck of cards, as there really aren’t any on the market that I’m aware of. Michael has a unique style of drawing that revolves around a deft hand with a ink pen, rather than charcoal or graphite or paint. As we spoke about possibilities for this first deck, I suggested something with stained glass, and with Michael’s help, that idea ended up in the realms of Gothic art and architecture. As we moved through that concept, one of the inspirations that really stuck with us was the Nidaros cathedral in Norway (which unbeknownst to me, Dan & Dave had also explored in Papercuts).

Talk to us a bit about going from the first draft to the final version. How many iterations were there? How did you get feedback?
We birthed the deck onto the paper and saw it and said it was good. Actually, Michael and I fed off of each other for most of the design. I had an expertise in playing cards and their irregularities as a canvas, and Michael—who is one of the brightest artists I’ve ever met—truly understands his art form. So we would pitch ideas back and forth to each other and whittle them down and Michael would sketch ideas. Once we’d finished the back, the ace of spades, and the joker designs, I sent out those concept sketches to some of my card designer friends who had launched through other platforms for feedback.

Of course, while the back design and ace of spade were very straightforward for us (it transitioned quickly from Starbucks doodle to finished digital piece), the face cards went through several radical changes. We had a completely different set of face cards finished, discarded them, and ended up with the skeletons that you now see. The joker, without a doubt, was our most difficult design. Unlike any other playing card, the Joker is the blankest canvas with infinite possibility, so it went through the most changes.

What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
Without a doubt our biggest breakthrough was the realization of the minimalist color palette. Originally we wanted to have very open, very colorful stained glass backs, but every draft just seemed cluttered, busy, and managed to obscure Michael’s careful line art. Once we discovered the beauty of the black, white, and red colors it brought out all of the shadows of Gothic art drawn within the finesse of the intricate back designs.

From the project page, what are a few of your favorite reward levels and why?
I have two favorites. The first one is definitely the uncut sheet of cards because I’m a huge sucker for those. At the moment I have nine of them framed and hanging in my apartment. I love the fact that we are able to make Revelation’s uncut sheets so affordable to our backers and that we are able to include a deck of cards along with it.

My second favorite would be the t-shirts available to our backers, which highlight our unique box design. On the front you have the iconic skull that underscores our most prominent motif for Revelation, and on the back you have the subtle accent line running around the entirety of the box.

Finally, what are some of your favorite decks or designers?
Some of my favorite decks of cards have to be Ace Fulton’s, Clip Joints, and Vintage Plaids. Interestingly enough all three of those are Dan & Dave cards; not only are they well-designed, but they handle magnificently. Ace Fulton’s are perfect for close-up magic, Vintage Plaids have the best sort of color illusion on the back, and the simplicity of Clip Joints coupled with their elegant feel make each deck memorable.

Jackson Robinson’s Federal 52 series are amazing as well; his attention to detail turns every card into an individual work of art. Paul Carpenter’s Tendril series of cards show a fantastic balance of color contrast and design. Other cards I love include Ace Fulton’s Chinatown, green Artifice cards, Vintage Pierres and the Urban Punk deck.

Thank you for your time, Blake. If you like what you’ve read here and want to support the Revelation Deck, you can find it on Deckstarter here.

Pledge starts from $8 and Revelation will be printed by the EPCC. Also, add-ons such as uncut sheet and t-shirt are available. The tuck box will be specially foiled and embossed when the campaign reaches it's stretched goal of 125%.

Deckstarter: 7 Questions with Blake Brenneman of the Revelation Deck Reviewed by Ivan on 10/20/2014 Rating: 5

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