Brad Fulton on Playing Card Design

FultonWelcome to the first in what we hope to be a series of Q&A's with people that inspire us. First up is Brad Fulton. Designer, Photographer, Story Teller, Father. Fulton is known in the playing card community as a creator of story-based playing card decks. His unique style incorporates family heritage, cinema and classic hand-drawn design.  

What is your design background?

I had always been interested in design since childhood, primarily typography. I would buy any book available on early graphic design, particularly those on Saul Bass or Paul Rand--both inspiring to say the least. During college I had a small design firm with my now wife called "Science Design" where we did mostly flash websites and logos.

This was during a particularly design heavy period in my life. I went to USC for Film School, minored in graphic design and concurrently attended Art Center in Pasadena specializing in typography. All of which helped me in some way or another to create my Playing Cards.

Fulton Playing Cards

How did you get into designing playing cards?

Great timing, good luck, and the ability to sell my idea to Dan & Dave Buck. I had been working at the Apple Store in Costa Mesa, CA with Dave Buck. He was so young--fresh out of high school. He liked that I was making short films and into design, because the small town they came from didn't have much access to that but The Bucks always loved creative projects. We maintained a close friendship for many years, and in 2010 I had a major accident where I was pronounced dead for three minutes. That following year was a long road for my brain to heal, and somewhere along the line I had a "vision" for Fulton's Clip Joint. A place my grandfather would have loved. I pitched the idea to Dan at lunch and he took the bait.

Fulton Playing Card Designs

Why are playing cards such a great medium for design?

First of all they're an international design icon. They're a language. A currency. You can achieve immortality somewhat in a classic design. It's like cinema. The masses still cherish Citizen Kane as art all these years later. I hope my decks can be taken out of mothballs in a century and somebody takes a second look.

Also, it's a totally challenging medium. You have to flip or quarter your design and make sure it works in a single fashion. It's like working in a mirror. I love it.

Then there's the cohesion element. From deck, to box, to stamp--it all has to fit and create something bigger than the back design itself.

Fulton Playing Cards - Aces

Where do you look for design inspiration outside of playing cards?

For me it was cinema and Americana. I love America, and our rich history of design. Even old advertising material from our country is mind boggling.

And I love cinema because it can create an atmosphere. I hoped to achieve this same thing with Clip Joint and Ace Fulton's Casino. That the user would open the deck and feel as if they were back in an era they had never experienced first hand.

What are some of your favorite decks that you didn't design yourself?

Golden Nugget and Smoke and Mirrors are the first to come to mind. Timeless.

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Brady

Truly enjoyed this interview. This is my introduction to Fulton playing cards and they look wonderful. After examining the Fulton Clip Joints playing cards I find the line work striking. The quality of the line work reminds me of classic Al Hirschfeld caricatures, especially on the Ace of Spades. Brad Fulton has a fantastic graphic style. I will definitely have to grab some of these packs. Thank you for the article.

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