Suitable for Framing: Fonts take spotlight in artistic playing cards

August 31st, 2012 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

It’s no secret we love cards. We put a lot of work into each one of our custom decks, making sure each detail is perfect (even on spot cards — you won’t believe the sleepless nights Mike Clarke has spent working on the pips for the Sultan Republic deck).

Magicians have a special place in their hearts for playing cards. But we aren’t the only ones. Many other artists use cards to feature their own designs, loves, tributes and purposes. We’re always finding unique, creative decks that turn traditional pips and suits on their toes, and wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of a gallery.

With that in mind, we’re starting a new feature on the Ellusionist blog: Suitable for Framing. While we can’t vouch for the functionality or affordability of these decks, we love the design and creativity behind them and think you’ll appreciate them. They might even inspire your magic.

And what better way to start this feature with one of the most compelling yet underrated forms of art today? These three decks feature typefaces as part of their artistic themes.

Typography Deck

Adam Bauer’s Typography Deck adds function to a game of solitaire. Each card features a well-known, workhorse font and a sample. Bauer’s court cards are especially cool: They give different weights of a font a chance to shine. Classics and Moderns are featured, from Baskerville to Trebuchet. Of course the Ace of Spades features the king of all fonts, Helvetica (keep reading; that font got its own deck). And Bauer gets things absolutely right with his jokers, featuring Papyrus and — shudder — Comic Sans.

According to a report from Fast Company Design, Bauer is a recent graduate of the Art Institute of California in San Diego. He designed the deck as a quick reference tool for design; it was rewarded with a Golden Addy and featured as one of the top 100 packaged designs of 2011 on


The Helveticards deck is in love with just one font: Helvetica. Ryan Myers designed the deck in an effort to modernize the design of the traditional pips. Those pips are one of the more creative aspects of the deck: their modern design widens the pip and kills stems (like the font, those pips have no serifs) in favor of more streamlined, geometric shapes. Helveticards gives the A, K, Q and J letters a chance to shine, as well as the numbers. The minimalist design is gorgeous.

Hat Trick’s Deck Playing Cards

Where Helveticards eschews serifs, this ingenious deck embraces them. Hat Trick’s Deck Playing Cards uses the swoops, strokes and swooshes of a font to create the shapes of suits. Designer Jim Sutherland went all out by sticking to a set of design rules, according to a report from Eye. The cards feature 54 different fonts with no repeats and no alteration of any kind. All he did was rotate and duplicate. Sutherland used the shape of a certain number to recreate suits.

Sutherland brilliantly makes use of everything to form the suits, from the serifs of a script to repetitions of the entire character, or even the white space in between. He uses four 6s in Garamond Semibold Italic to make a spade. But his four of diamonds is made from four 4s in Times New Roman arranged in a box; the empty space in the middle makes the diamond. His Jokers use the letters of that word to make faces.

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