Just as with piece of high art, there are varying opinions on what constitutes beauty. Some decks are intricate like our Egyptian Legends #202 deck illustrated by Mark Stutzman, minimal like the NOC series by Alex Pandrea, or abstract like Onida by Nick Vlow. All these decks can be appreciated for the beauty though they vary greatly in style. We have years of experience with card artwork from 150 years ago to the present, and below we outline our thoughts on what makes a deck aesthetically beautiful.
Balance is a critical factor in playing card art, in particular the card back. What makes designs like Bicycle's Rider Back #808 and Casino BEE® decks so iconic, memorable, and universally loved? A card needs to have visual appeal from arms length, meaning it should have a bold or recognisable element when you see them from afar. In the case of our Legends #852 deck, we went for a light diamond shaped theme. In the case of Bicycle 808 Rider Backs, there are two dark symmetrical circles symmetrical circles.
Details are the second factor. Your eyes should be drawn in by the balance of the card back, and when you look closer you should be able to discover small and exciting details about a playing card, such as the angel riding a bicycle, or a wolf jumping through flames. All these elements alleviate boredom and allow your mind and eyes to wander and enjoy the elements that make up the overall balance of the art.
Both of these factors make up an iconic playing card design, and it isn't always easy to get right from the start. There are over 10 versions of the Bicycle Rider back before it's current iteration, some have varying line widths and details levels, and don't have the same balance and beauty of the decks you see today. The same goes for BEE playing cards. There are many variations printed by the US Playing Card Company before it's current iteration, earlier versions of BEE decks try two lines to form each diamond, some try smaller diamonds.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming classically themed deck of cards we believe will be an instant classic for the magic community. We spent years creating the perfect art that will be universally loved and admired, while not arousing suspicion with laymen.
Next in our article series we will delve into the functional elements that make an excellent handling deck of playing cards.