If you follow the playing card market, particularly the custom decks, you will find a lot of talk about innovation and things that have never been done before. Encarded has been at the forefront of some innovative new design ideas, and while we are small and don't produce the volume of the big card producers, there is no doubt that the small independent producers like Encarded are the ones that push the envelope and try new things.
Each deck that we create has been packed with new design ideas. Some of those ideas were crazy enough that nothing close has been seen before or since, while some others we've seen show up in other decks in recent times. Here's a few highlights of the design innovations Encarded has developed.
Tendril introduced a radical idea: make a "black" deck that has borders on both the back and the face. We called them "Shadow Borders" since they were not a hard line but featured a subtle shadow. The overall effect was unlike any deck seen before, with dramatic contrast on both sides of the cards. The design also cured the problem of the edge chipping that all borderless black decks suffer from. There is no other deck available that looks as dramatic as Tendril does when fanned with the faces showing.
While there have been a variety of decks in the past that have had texture, "dirt and grime" or noise on the face of the cards, Tendril used an actual design element on the face of the cards. While subtle, the tendril lines from the back design were integrated into the faces of the cards, creating the subconscious illusion that the back of the card might be slightly shining through to the front.
Aurum continued this innovation with its complex face pattern which was inspired by Venetian lace and was drawn by hand.
Since the introduction of Tendril, we have seen several recent decks integrating actual design elements into the faces of their cards.
Since the original creation of the playing card centuries ago, the back designs have almost exclusively been plainly symmetrical. That is, even without careful study you can clearly see that the cards have a "two way" design and will look identical no matter which direction the card faces. Even today, the vast majority of card back designs are very obviously symmetrical. Tendril introduced the concept of making a design that on first glance looks very random and organic, but upon closer study is actually 100% symmetrical. By breaking the "reflection point" from its traditional location of perfectly in the center and allowing elements to flow past in both directions, the Tendril back design looks complex and almost chaotic in its arrangement.
Aurum took this concept even further with its incredibly complex "continuous line" texturing that is on the back (in metallic purple ink) and on the faces (in light gray). This design element was drawn by hand and meticulously crafted out of one, single, unbroken line that never crosses itself. It was also designed to be perfectly symmetrical. The reflection point is in the center but tipped at a 20 degree angle, so unless you carefully study it with a magnifying glass it will appear very random. This line is so dense that if it was straightened out, it would be an incredible 279" long, all packed into the space of a playing card!
Deco is a good example of how we try to infuse intense detail into our designs, but in a way that is still subtle and usable. The faces and backs both look very simple and normal from a few feet away. To someone watching you use the cards, they will see simplicity and cleanliness of design. However, if you bring the cards close you start to see incredible detail that invites you to study the cards and view the design carefully. Very few other card designers aim to infuse this dual nature into their decks.
Custom Die Cuts
Aurum was created to be the ultimate extravagance, with every possible luxury feature. The tuck box was designed to be both outwardly simple, but also full of detail. Along with the complex embossing, intricate gold foil and metallic ink, the most prominent feature is the custom die cut reveal window on the back of the box.
While some decks (usually very cheap ones) have had a rectangular area cut from the back of a plain white box, Aurum was designed to have a complex design feature that mirrors the motif of the deck and provides a glimpse of the cards within. Many collectors keep their decks sealed and never get to see any part of the cards within. Even if you keep your Aurum deck closed, you can see a bit of the shimmering gold ad card with its subtle continuous line texture. And if you do open your decks, the die cut can highlight the back medallion, the gold card, or could be used to reveal a pip.
While many custom decks feature foil, embossing and special seals, no other deck yet produced has integrated a custom die cut as an integral part of the overall design.
Laser Cutting & Engraving
This feature, available only on the extremely rare Aurum Laser Cut Edition was a "dream feature" that proved to be so difficult and costly to produce that only 90 examples will ever be available for public purchase. While we have just a handful more in our private reserve, this deck will be one of, if not the most rare deck ever made by USPCC. The US Playing Card Company also said that this deck made history as "the most expensive deck we've ever produced."
We took the already beautiful white gold tuck box and designed a version of the Aurum medallion that could be cut from the paper only through the use of a laser. This design is so delicate that there is no other way it could be produced and it also required careful hand assembly by USPCC, as they simply could not withstand the normal machine assembly. These few dozen decks are beautiful little sculptures of paper, and with the cost and complexity involved in creating them it is doubtful that any company will attempt to produce something like it ever again.
Aurum also drove the development of a laser engraved display item. This rare lucite display, of which only 25 were made, features the intricate Aurum design motifs cut into the lucite. The use of laser cutting, whether on the cards or on accessories was not seen in the card world before, until Aurum.
Encarded strives to make decks that are beautiful, usable, and unique. We don't make to make the same thing over and over again, so each deck we design uses entirely new themes and design concepts. Tendril and Aurum are both packed with features that you won't see elsewhere. Each of these limited decks tries to bring a fresh approach to custom cards, and we hope that collectors enjoy the details we have worked hard to achieve.