San Francisco Card Deck

Branding, Cards, Design, Illustration, Packaging, Places, Print, Uncategorized

This year, my client gift was a custom deck of playing cards featuring landmarks from San Francisco, a fun personal tribute to the city I love and that so many also love to love.

I am no stranger to designing cards, having created a custom deck of poker cards for a charity poker tournament, as well as two card-based games for Google (Data Center Manager and Launch & Iterate). I love games, and also love designing for them, so deciding on a poker deck as a client gift seemed like the perfect pair.

I started back in the summer, thinking how to organize the face cards. There are a variety of options, such as by neighborhood, or by personalities (techie, hippie, by park, etc. I decided on buildings and landmarks because they had a pretty decent correlation by category for each set of 4 face cards and also had a certain amount of historical and intrinsic value to the people of San Francisco. But, as no option was perfect for capturing every aspect of the city’s culture, heritage and history, some icons didn’t make it, such as Dolores Park, AT&T Park, or the Presidio, to name a few that got cut from the long list.

What I did include were 3 categories of landmarks for each set of face cards.

Kings

SF Card Deck KingsKings were represented by famous tall buildings or towers: Sutro, TransAmerica, Coit and the Ferry Building clock tower. I think I chose them as Kings purely based on height.

Queens

SF Card Deck QueensQueens were some of the beloved bridges that are either in or connect to San Francisco: Bay Bridge both east and western spans, Golden Gate, and the slightly less famous but delightful bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Perhaps I chose them for queens because they hold some of the real power in the city, as far as connecting us to our neighbors.

Jacks

SF Card Deck JacksJacks comprised of other famous tourist attractions including the Painted Ladies in Alamo Square, Alcatraz Island, Lombard Street, and the Palace of Fine Arts, which coincidentally happened to celebrate its 100th birthday this year.

SF Card Deck 2Of course, the real character of the cards lies in the Joker, whom I aptly chose our dear Emperor Norton to fill the role of. It seemed all too appropriate. (Don’t know who he is? Check out the wikipedia page).

SF Card Deck 3

The final consideration for the cards was the color palette, which is very limited. These colors are the ones I’ve chosen for my personal branding, but it’s not a huge coincidence that the cadmium red (not quite international orange, but certainly in the spirit) and sea green are in play for this San Francisco-based designer.

SF Card Deck 1

Want a deck of your own? Email me, and I can mail you a pack ($20+shipping). While supplies last.

SF Card Deck 4

Texas Hold Em Poker Tournament Custom Card Deck

New Piece, Print

Every year the company I work at hosts a Poker Tournament Fundraiser for Relay For Life (American Cancer Society). A couple years ago, I made a poster for the event and designed a face card with the President/CEO’s face on the card and it was a huge hit. I had been considering making a whole deck of cards with faces of other people from office since, but never quite got my act together to put it together. This was the year it was going to happen though, even in true last minute fashion (isn’t there an expression that great things only get done when you don’t have enough time to do them in?).

The face cards are all of people whose faces most people who work there would recognize. The President and co-founders got the King cards, and the Jacks and Queens are VPs, with one exception being the Queen of Clubs who gets a spot as the official cheerleader for the Relay for Life event, as she’s very active in organizing events and getting people on board to donate. I modeled the cards after the classic “Bicycle” format, and used the colors of the company’s branding. I used the font “Helldorado” to get that western look with the typography.

Getting the cards to coordinate upside down and right-side-up and look the same was a fun challenge. I was more brazen with some designs than others, but overall was pleased with each of the designs. In the interest of sharing the joke with you, since you probably don’t know what these people look like, I’ve done a couple side-by-side comparisons so you can see where I drew the characters from. All of these were designed in Illustrator, and I more or less traced the faces with a .5 stroke to start, and once I was satisfied that I had included just enough detail, I finished off the designs with the neck/shoulders/patterns. I spent roughly 1 hour on each face card design (some more, some less). Most of the images I was able to pull from just 1 photo, but there were a couple that I pieced together from multiple photos to get the right look.

If you are very interested, I’ve posted the full pdf with all the final artwork for a full res viewing experience.

I was super happy with the vendor I chose to print these. There is such a smattering of custom playing card design/printing companies available on the web and I didn’t have much to go on, so was glad the gamble paid off when I decided to use them. How I got past their really terrible 1.0 website is beyond me, but again, they were great, so withhold judgment on the site.

For the record, the event these were made for was a huge success, and I believe raised nearly (or over) $7,000 towards this year’s Relay for Life Fundraiser.