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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Nick Nisco of Elemental Playing Cards


The Hydrogen Deck is the first in a series of Elemental playing cards inspired by the Periodic Table of Elements. The deck is an homage to the simple beauty of the periodic table — and a nod towards the many ways it mirrors a deck of playing cards. According to the Kickstarter campaign page,
Elements from the periodic table can be rearranged to form any substance in the known universe, each with their own unique properties; playing cards can be rearranged and placed in different orders and sequences to create different hands. Both feature symbols and numbers. And both live within order and structure.
Elemental Playing Cards exists to explore these similarities, starting with the first element from the periodic table: Hydrogen (H). The semi-custom deck showcase molecular hydrogen (H:H) on the card backs with two hydrogen atomic models bonded together covalently in the center.


The face cards are pretty much standard with semi-custom recolored court cards subtly embedded with hydrogen design elements within the garments and ornaments. The deck is packaged in tuck box featuring the element symbol for hydrogen as well as the hydrogen logo centered in a thick outlined circle representing the atom. When placed next to another hydrogen tuck case, it forms molecular hydrogen (H2).

Last week, we had a quick chat with Nick Nisco of Elemental Playing Cards about the design, inspiration and design process behind the Hydrogen deck.


For those of us who don’t know, tell us a little about Elemental Playing Cards?
Put simply, Elemental Playing Cards is an amalgamation of my love of design, science, and playing cards. I studied graphic design in college and it was while working as a designer at a firm post-graduation that I first became interested in magic and began collecting cards. After a few years, I decided to go back to school to pursue a career in science education. Today, I work as a middle school science teacher in NYC, teaching kids everything from forces of motion to chemistry and the periodic table of elements. My card collection has grown exponentially in recent years as I've acquired decks from the many talented designers out there and it inspired me to go back to my roots a bit and design a deck of my own. Elemental Playing Cards is my attempt to contribute to the playing card community with a deck that combines three of my passions.

Can you describe the Hydrogen deck and why you’re passionate about it?
The Hydrogen deck is meant to be the first deck in a series of playing cards that pays homage to the simple beauty of the periodic table of elements. Since I always envisioned the deck as the first in a series, I'm most excited about all the possibilities it opens up. The concept allows so much room for creativity which is what I am really drawn to, and what I think (hope!) other people will be drawn to as well. I'm also always passionate about the ability of design to elevate something seemingly ordinary (like the periodic table) into something beautiful.


Walk us through the process you took to design the deck. How did you come out with the idea and how did you get to this finished product?
I had been working on a deck previously but didn't love it because it was just a design that had no substance or story behind it — I didn't feel any attachment to it. When I started fiddling around with the idea of designing something around the periodic table, something just clicked. It checked off all the boxes of things I wanted in a deck of playing cards — something recognizable, something collectable, and something I hadn't seen before. I've been working on the Hydrogen deck (as well as a few of the other elements) for close to a year. It went through numerous iterations before I got it to point where I was satisfied with it.


What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
The whole purpose of an atom is to interact with other atoms to form the matter that makes up the whole universe. The breakthrough came when I realized the tuck case could be used as the interactive vehicle to mimic that purpose. Future element releases could visually "link" with one another to represent chemical bonds to form molecules. I thought this idea was extremely nerdy, which is what made me fall in love with it. It would add a collectable aspect to the deck. People could collect all the elements, or just their favorite. If people even have favorite elements. I might be the only card nerd who does —and it's carbon in case you were wondering.


With so many playing card projects competing for funding, why should potential backers choose your deck?
I am well aware that there are so many big players when it comes to the niche market of playing cards. And I'm also aware that adding a layer of science to my deck makes it even more niche-y. But, ultimately, I hope that my idea is different enough to stand out yet familiar enough to strike a chord with people. I feel like science has become more "mainstream" in the past few years with the help of people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Elon Musk, Michio Kaku. I love seeing people go crazy over cosmic events such as the recent solar eclipse or when the first photo of the black hole was developed, thanks to the work of Dr. Katie Bouman. Also, it's hard to ignore the parallels science and magic have with one another. The idea of using the periodic table of elements as an inspiration behind the series gives people a chance to follow along with something they're familiar with and, hopefully, something they look forward to collecting over the years. I've given so much thought to the series and I'm really excited for the chance to bring those ideas to life.

What’s next? Are you planning to release more playing card decks in the future? 
For sure. I recently announced that oxygen would be the second deck to be released in the series. I decided to follow up with oxygen to showcase the interactivity of the series. With hydrogen being the first release, and oxygen being the second, card collectors could combine the decks to make water (H2O), the most important molecule needed to sustain life. I envision each deck having its own aesthetic. Each element has its own unique property and characteristics and I'm striving to do the same for each element deck release.


Finally, what are your favorite playing cards?
This might be the most difficult question to answer — with so many amazing decks out there, it's hard to narrow it down to just a few. I'd have to say my all-time favorite deck is the V1 Smoke and Mirrors from Dan & Dave. When I first saw this deck, it made me realize the possibilities for playing card design. I consider them the pioneers for breaking the mold of what a deck of cards could be. From the ornate back design and ace of spades to the simplification of the court cards, it was the first time I considered playing cards to be a work of art.

I also love the whole Orbit series. The V4 most of all. The Orbit series, as well as the Planets series from Vanda (another brilliant series), are the only other series that I know of with a science theme behind it. Chris Brown did a great job making the whole Orbit series really fun. I mean, who doesn't love spaceships, space, and aliens? He's also been doing a great job of teasing the upcoming V7.

More recently I've been a huge fan of what Luke Wadey has been putting out as well. I'm a typography nut and as soon as you see his decks, you can tell that he must be too. His Grid series, while very untraditional, is a re-imagination of what a deck of cards can be, and is extremely attractive to anyone who loves type. He is doing things that are very different than what other people are putting out and it's all very clever. His Mono-X release and upcoming Xero release has me feeling just as excited as I was when I first stumbled upon the Smoke and Mirrors series.

Thank you for your time Nick and all the best! At the time of writing, the Hydrogen deck is only 80% funded with 19 days to go. If you like what you've read here and would like to support Nick, head on to the Kickstarter page here!

The Hydrogen will be printed by the USPCC. Pledge starts at $11.

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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Nick Nisco of Elemental Playing Cards Reviewed by Ivan on 5/21/2019 Rating: 5

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