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  • Writer's pictureJW

Minimal effort

As you may know, I started collecting playing card decks last year. To make my plays of Patience more colourful, and also out of nostalgia. I have very good memories of playing card games when I was young. One of the first times I was abroad as a kid I bought a souvenir card deck. I don't know. I like them. So I've started window shopping in specialized online shops, and I check the Playing Cards section of Kickstarter regularly as well.

Today I came across a neat idea. Not for me, as it's too pretentious. It's for people that buy Apple products, and keep the walls in their house completely empty after having painted them meticulously uniform in RAL 9010. But still. Interesting. It's called Simpl: Minimalist Playing Cards.

Here's what they say:

This deck was created and tailored specifically for the minimalist minded. Unnecessary details were excluded, empty space was retained, shapes and positioning have been meticulously determined and are evenly spaced.

The deck is available in black and white versions, and the backs only contain a cross.

"Great idea, not for me," I shrugged. I wanted to continue my browsing, but first I stopped by the comments. There was exactly one.

Bro, this is 100% the same as my project.

Could it be? I checked the (failed) campaign for X. Minimalist playing cards. What have we here?

Bringing minimalism to playing cards, X. is a cure to the chaos of life. If you love straight lines, white space, simplicity, and order, then X. playing cards will be your drug.

While I wouldn't call that 100%, it's very similar, yes. The Simpl cards use heart shapes instead of triangles. I guess it's due to a different philosophy: leaving out what's unnecessary, instead of using straight lines. But when you look at the clubs, and then check the backs...

Those elements aren't that different, are they?

Of course I went to the comments section again. Errr.

These cards look to have been "inspired" by Joe Doucet's Minim Cards. Perhaps you might want to give him some credit?

Off to the Minim Cards!

But first, I'll show you the reply of the X.-designer (the very one that complained to the Simpl-designers):

I admit, the playing card design you reference is strikingly similar to X. playing cards, but most minimalistic playing card designs are fairly similar. There is a limited amount of design variation that can occur while still maintaining the standards of traditional playing cards, so it is simply not reasonable to credit every designer that has designs with similarities to ours.

So. All minimal decks look kind of the same? What was your own complaint about then, bro?

Anyway, Minim. By a Real Designer and Entrepeneur, not some Kickstarter kids.

Minim is a deck of regulation playing cards that considers how much design you can take away while still maintaining a playable deck. Simple geometric symbols are reductive versions of hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades.

OMG. Deck X. only added the X! At least Simpl went back to the playing card roots and used a heart. And then put a symbol in the middle of the card, as they didn't fully understand what it means to leave out all unnecessary details. Amateurs.

So, no matter how classy Simpl may look, in the end it's just a cheap variation on a theme.

Like all good art, this whole journey left me in a pensive mood. And the creative juices started to flow. As I think I can do one better. I can take away more design elements while keeping a playable deck. Basically, you only need numbers. The Ace can be represented by a 1, the Jack, Queen and King by 11, 12 and 13. Then the suits. There's absolutely no need for symbology. Just print the numbers in different colours.

I'm not going to reinvent the wheel, but like all true artists I will stand on the shoulders of a giant. I'm going to reverse engineer the Rummikub tiles into two decks of playing cards. One will have a cross printed on the back, the other a circle. That way you can also use them for Tic-tac-toe. Brilliant.

Now I'm off to paint a black square.

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