January 2014

inquiry cards sylvia wordpress deck ha! yes!

or: Making an 18-year project in 3 weeks

Eighteen years ago, Sylvia Nibley had an idea for a card deck. There were already a preponderance of decks out there—tarot and the like—but none of them prompted users to find the answers to Life, the Universe and Everything within themselves. Plus, many required incantations and the wearing of funny hats.

But creating and marketing cards in 1995 had more obstacles than gay marriage in Utah an obstacle course obese with obdurate obstetricians, so it turned out to be a better time to gestate than create.

Today, we have better printing, better graphic capabilities and Internet marketing. The illustrious Parker Brothers are not needed.

By the latter part of 2013, we had a logo, a design of interlocking question marks, and a way to create kaleidoscopic images without causing Photoshop to burst into flames, but we were immersed in other projects—until mid-November, when Sylvia brazenly suggested that if we got right on it, we could design, print, die-cut and collate a 48-card deck, along with a guidebook and handcrafted card stand, all in a customized box, in time to tap the Christmas Frenzy of Consumerism. I suggested she was crazy, and it turns out she was—like a fox, an animal known for being crazy in a good way, unlike all other animals, especially rabid dogs and bats.

To generate capital and get a feel for how many decks to print, we immediately went into pre-sale mode. We were, at that point, selling air, but it was pretty air with bright colors and good copy. Showing products that don’t exist is one of those can’t-do-in-1995-but-can-do-now things that can be accomplished with paper, tools that aren’t allowed on airplanes, and the ability to bend pixels to my bidding.

It was good enough to sell 700 decks of pretty air before they were even printed. Real, 3-D, tangible decks are now available for purchase. So put on a regular hat, say two Hail Marys and hum your favorite mantra, and order three.

Faking the Web Art

With a product to sell that didn’t have the benefit of existing, I had to spew some cleverness. In the column at left, you can see the site’s original, faked product shot, followed by the real, faked product shot.

The fake deck was card stock that I painstakingly cut into hexagonal shapes with an X-acto knife. The card-back design was then added in Photoshop.

The real card deck (with white edges) received the same facelift, despite having the advantage of possessing colors other than white. The image looked mushy, making it look like we were selling decks of oatmeal, a problem in gluten-free households. Once you get into that let’s-just-make-it-a-little-better habit, it’s hard to stop, especially if you find yourself wondering why you didn’t include butter, brown sugar and raisins in the original design.

A booklet that came with a music CD got photographed then recovered with new cover art. Tough raisins, Tori Amos. For the “real” version, I shot the actual printed piece. . . and still ended up splicing in the digital art–again, for better clarity. But the fanned-out cards were left in their original state. Sometimes, a guy’s just got to draw the line.

This happens throughout the website and on the retail packaging and point-of-purchase displays. I’m not just a visualizer, but also a visual liar. In fact, all the items on the final, “real” product shot were photographed separately and composited together, with shadows making them all tie together realistically.

It’s been said, by at least me, that we make our own reality. Hey, it’s a living.

Pressing on with WordPress

The website I’ve been describing is not a programmed-from-scratch, custom website. It’s from a WordPress template. There are hundreds to choose from, and can be produced with much less expense and time than the traditional method, yet deliver more pizzazz than there are Z’s in “pizzazz,” which is probably too many.

Template, schmemplate. It’s a canvas for customization. You can differentiate yourself and your site with the addition of design appropriate to your business. In this case, the customization of InquiryCards.com involved developing the color palette, use of the Inquiry logo, font selection (there are now hundreds available!) and the lush background I whipped up, based on the question-mark Celtic knot that’s the cards’ identity.

I can do this for you, and all your friends, if your heart is pure and your wallet is fat.