Oliver Sogard on Exploring Narratives for Playing Cards

Oliver Sogard on Exploring Narratives for Playing Cards

They say a beautiful thing is never perfect. I believe a fascinating thing is never fully understood.

During my time shuffling and making playing cards, I have become increasingly interested in how we can challenge the conventional idea of what a deck of cards should be and bring it into the present—maybe even push it into an imagined future.

I attempt this by exploring ideas and narratives which spark curiosity in any aspect of life, and then find a way of positioning playing cards within that context. After all, the medium through which something is expressed can itself be a statement.

Let’s explore some examples.

Space travel must be exhausting. And if I was traveling through space for years, I’d need something to pass the time. A deck of cards would be great, so what exactly would that deck look like?

Interstellar tesseract image and Offworld playing cards

Let’s try to imagine an otherworldly entity and visualize it. Perhaps future card manufacturers would put newfound cosmic creatures on the back design—either as a celebration of what we have discovered, or as a caution of what will meet you upon arrival.

The alien from Alex Garland’s Annihilation is one of my favorites. It takes on a liquid, cloud-like form and is difficult to grasp. (What are its intentions?) Similarly, the tesseract from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar—although not exactly a life form—plays with our idea of expanse and stretches it with visual grace.

Color is a direct product of light. Within a ray of sunshine, a wide swatch of colors can be extracted depending on which wavelengths are absorbed or passed through.

Lighthouse fresnal and Glisk playing cards

The fresnel lens is a great example of this. Originally designed to enhance a light beam from a lighthouse, it can also produce wonderful sights of color through light dispersion. I find it fascinating how unpredictable this phenomenon is. The angle at which you observe, and the power of the light itself, directly determines what you see. By moving a bit to the side it looks like regular glass, but from another angle you can get a beautiful little glimpse of captivating colors.

You have to search for it. It’s like finding gold.

Within my creative practice, I strive to examine rather than explain. The graph below illustrates it beautifully. You have to find the sweet spot—not give too little nor too much information. Try to keep it vaguely precise.

Curiosity information graph

You can see more of my playing card artwork, as well as cardistry, on

Oliver Sogard is the founder of dealersgrip and is currently co-organizing a new cardistry event in Copenhagen, Denmark, called Card Club. Updates and news for the event taking place August 6 - 7 can be found on Instagram.

Images courtesy of Oliver Sogard

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