What happens when you take inspiration from a classic, engraved-style deck, mix it with the complete opposite style of an abstractionist painter like Kandinsky, and confine the design foundation to only use a pencil and a set of french curves? Well, I'd say the result can be quite interesting.
One of my favorite classic decks is the red Aristocrat. I've had one on my "favorites" shelf since I began collecting cards and I've always loved the detail of the lines, coupled with the simplicity of just white lines on a single color. There is a purity to having a single color back, and while some of my previous projects have used just one color on the back, I've never attempted a deck design that uses a single color with the familiar 4-way mirror that we so often see on back designs.
With that deck as an inspiration point, I started to explore how I could couple that "feel" with a fresh perspective on the idea of lines and detail. I've been a fan of modern art for a while and Wassily Kandinsky has always been one of my favorites. His themes tended to change over time (which if you look at my card design history, you know I appreciate) and he explored a variety of looks. One thing that is somewhat common in his work, however, is the concept of overlapped lines forming shape. You'll see that strongly in some of the simplest paintings, but even in the more colorful and complex works you can see how he layers lines and color to create something more sophisticated than the components alone.
I began the "Intersect" deck design in the simplest way possible. I got a piece of paper, a pencil, and a french curve and started to draw a (seemingly) random assortment of curves that overlapped in many ways. Each intersection gives a new opportunity to see different shapes and interpret your own meaning, and when you get enough of them together your eye can draw out dozens of interesting details from the seeming chaos. I love being able to mix simplicity with complexity. Most of my deck designs have one feel from a distance but when you draw them closer you see an explosion of fine detail.
With the basic "quarter art" set out in pencil, I took that into the computer and refined all the main lines, working them into smoother shapes and given some more interesting intersections to several places.
Once those were smooth, I took that quarter of the card and mirrored it in Photoshop, and then started to see how slight changes in the size created more interesting shapes in the intersections. I also added an inner border, which combines with the overall line details to create a highly dynamic look when the cards are fanned. I wanted to maintain a classic white border for this deck but also give as many opportunities as possible for lots of visual movement in fans.
Once the overall mirroring was set, I started to work on adding detail. I wanted to continue using only lines, so I hand-drew fill lines throughout each shape, slightly varying the directions and density to give areas of the design different visual weight. At this point I also decided that the center of the card felt incomplete so I designed a central medallion that integrated into the overall lines and gave the eye a place to "rest." (It also will look pretty cool if you are a cardist that enjoys the pirouette.)
Many refinements later, the card back features a simultaneously intense amount of detail with the simplicity of just using lines on a color field. Your eye can find hundreds of shapes, details and patterns. From a few feet away it looks somewhat simple but bring it closer and the secondary detail jumps out. It can feel both technological and organic at the same time, and while it does not try to mimic the classic Aristocrat deck, the DNA of that classic is deconstructed and reinterpreted to be something wholly new.
Expect to see more of this new design soon, and I would imagine it will be available for a pre-order or on Kickstarter in the near future. I also have a few ideas for how we could make some special version, but even I am not completely sure what that will be yet...