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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Alex Chin - Part 1: The Seasons series (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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*** ALEX CHIN & SEASONS PLAYING CARDS ***

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Achievements

Imagine having over 1000 backers for a Kickstarter project. That's a pretty good indication of strong support, and that's exactly what Alex Chin had with his Magna Carta Playing Cards back in 2015. But Alex is not a one hit wonder. He also had over 1000 backers one of his most recent projects, Apothecary Playing Cards, which was fulfilled earlier this year. And his first project, Seasons Playing Cards, was also very successful.

In this review I'd like to introduce you to Alex and to Seasons Playing Cards, which is his online home. Established in 2011, he describes Seasons as "a global lifestyle brand dedicated to the art of card collecting." Alex is the one who established Seasons, and you'll find all his designs under that label.

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Awards

The Seasons website brags quite an impressive set of accomplishments:
- Premium Quality: "Our Aristocrat stock and New Magic Finish give a guaranteed performance and handling over other standard decks."
- Award-winning Series: "Our designs and illustrations push boundaries and we have the awards to prove it. Winner of over 4 different international awards including the 2016 A'Design Award."
- Iconic Packaging: "Our innovative and iconic packaging has garnered international attention and placed us as an industry leader in interactive playing card packaging and experiences.

I'm all for innovation and seeing new things, so as you can imagine, these accolades immediately drew me in and had my attention! The award referred to can be found here, and was the "Silver A' Design Award Winner for Packaging Design Category in 2015", for Alex's 800th Anniversary Magna Carta deck. In fact, the Magna Carta deck is one that Alex is particularly proud of, since in areas outside of the realm of playing cards (i.e. where it had to compete with other consumer goods), it was the most awarded playing card deck of 2016. And of the six awards it won, three of them were international awards, which is also an amazing achievement!

It's not the first award he's received either, with other credits including "Deck of the Year 2012" from UnitedCardists for his Primavera/Seronda decks. After the creation of the follow-up Verana/Inverno Alex won "Best Deck Series" in 2014 for his Seasons Playing Cards series from Playing Card Awards. He's also been the keynote speaker for the 52 Plus Joker Playing Card Convention in 2012, and was chosen to make their annual deck for 2017. Most recently he was been nominated for Joker Plus 52's "Artist of the Year 2017", and his Apothecary deck was nominated as their Deck of the Year 2017. Clearly he is a man who is being widely recognized for his talents!

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Abilities

So how did all this come about? Alex has always enjoyed drawing, and in his high school years developed an interest in card magic. It was Ellusionist's Black Tiger deck that first introduced him to the world of custom playing cards at that time. After high school, he attended university, majoring in architecture, where he continued to develop his skills at illustrating and design. Today he runs his one-man design studio, SHUNG SHUNG, where he demonstrates his ability to work in several different disciplines and markets. He's self-described as a visual communications professional who works with companies and clients, and who specializes in interactive package design.

But it was when he was still trying to figure out his direction in life during his university years, that together with a friend he tried starting a tea company called Mood Company. The project was unsuccessful, but in the process Alex learned valuable lessons about package design. It was around this time that the custom playing card industry was expanding significantly, and the arrival of Kickstarter meant that individuals could compete with the big and established companies. This created an explosion of new custom decks, many of which rivalled the very best that the big publishers were producing. It was in that setting that Alex created his first two decks of Seasons Playing Cards, investing a lot of time in designing the court cards in particular. Fortunately all his hard work paid off, with the success of these projects being greater than what Alex had ever imagined.

When applying his vision to custom playing cards, Alex describes it as follows: "Since the start of our journey in 2011, Seasons Playing Cards has been consistently focused on crafting high quality decks for the world with a dedicated passion for what we do. Through the artistic world of card collecting, we strive to create memorable products for our community that give inspirational pause to your day. Playing cards to us are more than just pieces of paper, they're an under-discovered medium of craftsmanship, passion, and storytelling. Each deck added to our collection is a growing extension of ourselves, a tangible totem of time and dedication created for you to enjoy. We strive to create timeless designs that continue to inspire, because when done properly these decks become a shared experience between artist and collector - and it is for these moments that we celebrate. Each deck has an experience waiting to happen. It's up to you to discover it."

Now it is time for us to become part of this experience for ourselves, by discovering some of Alex's beautiful decks and taking a look at his work so far.

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*** THE SEASONS SERIES: Part 1 ***

The Seasons Playing Cards series consists of a themed set of four decks, produced in pairs, first Primavera & Seronda (Spring & Fall), and then later Verana & Inverno (Summer & Winter).

Each deck was illustrated individually to represent a different season, so that the entire series represents a deck that is changing over time. Each contains different artwork, and yet there is a consistency between all the decks of the series.

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PRIMAVERA & SERONDA (Spring & Fall)

The first two decks

The series began with the Primavera and Seronda decks, which represent Spring and Fall.

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These two decks focus on the themes of white and black respectively.

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Tuck boxes

Like the decks that would follow, the Primavera and Seronda tuck boxes that are completed with stunning foil platinum accents and stylish embossing for a gorgeous and luxurious look.

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Primavera deck (Spring)

In terms of thematic significance and artistic feel, the Primavera deck has ideas that emphasize the new beginnings of Spring.

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Seronda deck (Fall)

The Seronda deck, on the other hand, has a darker theme that corresponds to the darkening days of the Fall season, while remaining consistent with the flavour of the artwork from the Spring deck.

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Primavera and Seronda decks were Alex's first decks, which he created via private funding rather than crowdfunding. They were printed by USPCC at their Ohio plant (prior to their move to Kentucky). These were later reprinted again in a platinum edition, so some of these reprinted decks are still available.


*** THE SEASONS SERIES: Part 2 ***

VERANA & INVERNO (Summer & Winter)

The second two decks

The Seasons series that began with Primavera and Seronda was completed with Verana and Inverno, which represent Summer and Winter respectively.

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Concerning the Summer-Winter pair, Alex writes: "I have always been inspired by the ideas of transformation and growth. In the midst of change, there is a moment of serenity around what was and what it becomes. This set is made to capture this rare moment of duality through a luxury collection of playing cards."

Tuck boxes

The tuck boxes again have beautiful foil accents and embossing.

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Here's a close-up, showcasing the luxurious look of the stunning embossing and foil on the boxes, as they are placed alongside each other.

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The touch of golden luxury even includes the flaps!

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Inside the two tuck boxes are some inspiring quotes: "Great art picks up where nature ends" and "To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often." Added touches like this echoes something of Alex's own commitment to perfection in his art, and also reflect something of the seasonal themes.

As for the card backs, the Verana summer deck features white, red, and gold colours, while in contrast the Inverno winter deck features a darker colour scheme of black, blue, and silver colours; in the following sections I'll go through each deck separately.

Verana deck (Summer)

Pictured here are some cards from the Verana deck, displaying bright and vibrant colours. The court cards all have a very elegant and royal look, which is a result of a distinctly fresh take on the standard artwork. A simplified colour scheme works well to accentuate the gold and black which is used on the card backs and faces.

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The pips are especially noteworthy, and the idea of having flowing lines inside the pips isn't something I recall seeing before. Certainly it adds a touch of class to all the pips, and makes them look very unique and stylish. If you look carefully, some of the pips (e.g. on the court cards, and the center pips on some cards) also have thin gold borders for an added touch of sophistication.

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For the court cards, Alex has tried to create bold figures that are reminiscent of the traditional cards that we are familiar with, but significantly customized with his own style, and further polished with layers of shading and highlights.

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Inverno deck (Winter)

The Inverno deck has a much darker colour scheme, which is evident from the blue and black on the card backs and card faces.

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The colour scheme changes from the summer gold of Verana to to the winter silver of Inverno. This works particularly well in combination with the blue and black that dominates this deck.

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All black decks can be somewhat hit and miss in terms of aesthetics, and sometimes they can look awkward or unnatural. But the Winter deck has to be one of the more classy black decks I've ever seen, particularly with the strong use of silver to complement the other dark colours (although reflective metallic ink would have heightened this effect with even more luxury!).

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Inspiration

Alex describes the inspiration behind these two decks as follows: "The Verana deck is a captured moment of summer. This clean white deck with metallic gold accents emanate elegance as it displays a design in full bloom. "

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In contrast, the Winter deck has a very different feel: "The Inverno deck is a frozen moment of winter. The stunning black deck commands attention with a perfect touch of metallic blue accents that frost the back. The rigid central structure couples with the loose flowing winds throughout for an added element of depth and contrast."

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Alex explains his thought process in this way: "These designs are created by abstracting the elements of the seasons. The style of the artwork focuses on soft highlights, bold shades, and subtle hatching to create these eye-catching illustrations."

The card-backs also feature a design that is ideal for card flourishing, but they also look beautiful when shuffling and using in a typical card games, with intricate flowing designs that have exquisite and attractive details.

Jokers

Special mention must be made Jokers, which are absolutely gorgeous. They feature a stunning looking peacock, with intricate line detail that easily makes this among my favourite Jokers of all time!

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Two extra cards come with these decks: a double backer (useful for magicians), and an ad card.

Limited edition

The limited edition of the Verana and Inverno decks has seals with limited number. There's an added touch of luxury inside the tuck box with a completely gold and silver foil interior! Inside these boxes are more inspirational quotes: "Art is stored honey of the human soul" and "The power of imagination makes us infinite."

A notable feature of the tuck boxes is the wrap-around design, which is a feature evident in more of Alex's decks, and is one of the ways in which he enjoys innovating. The front and backs of the deck form a single image, and both the Summer and Winter decks can be placed alongside each other to make a larger picture, and in a variety of configurations, depending on which decks and which sides you place adjacent to one another.

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*** CONCLUSIONS ***

What do I think?

Packaging: It's obvious from the moment that you look at one of the packages of these decks that Alex isn't an amateur. There's good reason he's won design awards for his creative packaging, and he knows how to make decks incredibly stylish right from the outset. These decks have all the luxury you can expect: not just the embossing and gold/silver foil accents that we often come to expect of high end decks nowadays, but also a very elegant style, with innovative wrap-around artwork that is stylish and beautiful.

Innovative: Alex likes pushing boundaries, and doing things different. Not only has he really done something special with his wrap-around packaging concept, but he's shown innovation in other ways as well - a colour changing deck, for example, which adds a whole new element to a tactile experience; and the two piece design of the 2017 NPCCD deck. He's a guy who likes to create, and experiment, and that immediately makes his decks very unusual and unique.

Artistic: I appreciate quality artwork, and the artistic designs of these decks are terrific. That begins with the tuck cases, but is especially evident on the card backs and the court cards, which are very stylish and stunning to look at. Everything feels beautifully balanced, and the colour scheme works well to enhance these delightful visual aesthetics.

Elegant: Everything about these decks screams elegance and class. The packaging. The artwork. The colours. The design. Alex really has what it takes to produce an absolutely classy product in every way. Even his website is stunning, and an outstanding example of elegant design!

Luxurious: I own quite a number of decks of playing cards, but these are easily among the most luxurious in my collection. Everything contributes to an experience of complete class and luxury, with refined and beautiful artwork, goil foil accents, and high quality tuck cases.

Thoughtful: I also really appreciate the depth of real thought that lies behind Alex's designs. For example, the Apothecary deck explores the theme of curiosity, and highlights the importance of exploring our curiosity, a sentiment that is largely becoming lost in our digital age, and yet which is an essential element that serves as the engine of achievement. Also the 52 Plus Joker deck explores the paper making process in all aspects of its design. This kind of thoughtful and philosophical underpinning behind Alex's designs gives them extra significance.

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Series: Unlike many creators of custom playing cards, the different editions and versions Alex offers aren't merely different colours of the same thing, but genuinely represent a well thought out series that shows a consistent style. The Seasons series is a particularly good example of this, with a theme that returns and is worked out through several different decks that are individual and unique, and yet clearly linked.

Quality: From the decks I've seen from Seasons, the quality of the cards themselves is excellent, and they handle well. Seasons states that "Our Aristocrat stock and New Magic Finish give a guaranteed performance and handling over other standard decks". They give great performance, as you'd expect from decks produced by US Playing Card Company. It has slightly thinner cards than the Casino Bee stock used by USPCC, but the Bicycle stock used has the performance coating used in the higher end decks, making it even better quality than a standard Bicycle rider-back deck.

Outstanding: With the large number of custom playing cards constantly appearing on the market, you really need to do something different to stand out from the rest of the pack. But Alex of Seasons Playing Cards has achieved exactly that. These are truly outstanding pieces of work!

Expertise: You only need to visit the Seasons website to see that Alex really knows what he is doing. He is a skilled graphic designer, and whether he applies his talents to designing a website or a deck of playing cards, the result of his passion and expertise is clearly evident.

Portfolio52: As a creator of playing cards, Alex knows all too well the need for collectors to manage their collection, and his own passion for this has led to the creation of the Portfolio52.com database, the world's largest database for card collectors. It's an outstanding resource - and free to use. If you collect playing cards, then you absolutely can't afford to miss this wonderful tool. And do look out for the National Playing Card Collecting Day decks that have been launched on his website and portfolio52.com on October 17th each year!

Future projects: Alex is by no means done with designing playing cards, but is continuing to build his brand. The last couple of months are a good indication of how much of a contribution he is making to the custom playing card industry. The Apothecary series is currently being completed with the launch of its two follow-up decks (Seronda Sentiments and Verana Virtues) in November. In October the next National Playing Card Collection Day deck was launched in support of Portfolio. Alex also had the honour of being the designer of this year's 52 Plus Joker deck. Clearly the future is bright for this creative and talented designer, and if you're a collector of playing cards, you should definitely keep a close eye on his work, and follow what he creates next!

Where to get them? Some of the decks featured in this review series are now sold out, and you'll have to head to the secondary market to try to acquire them. But many of the decks are still available directly from Alex at his Seasons website here. Some of the National Playing Card Collection Day decks are still available at the official website here. And to get notified of the upcoming Apothecary Kickstarter when it launches next week, stay tuned to Alex's social media here.

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Recommendation

It's not hard to tell that I've very impressed with the calibre of Alex Chin's work, especially his creativity and ability to explore new territory in the world of custom playing cards. Certainly his decks of playing cards are superbly artistic and beautiful - but such praise can apply to a lot of custom playing cards in the current market. What makes him stand out above the pack, however, is his willingness to innovate in areas such as interactive packaging, and his superb skills in graphic design, with precise and perfect attention to the details that matter. It's these skills and expertise that enable him to take things to the next level when it comes to adding the small touches of luxury that make all the difference, such as exquisite gold embossing and gilding. It's hard to imagine his playing cards being any better than what they are, because it's evident that Alex has carefully given consideration to every last detail.

Alex's expertise and familiarity with the digital world also means that the images and design of his web site is absolutely second-to-none. Alex has also drawn on these abilities to give back to the playing card community with the creation of Portfolio52, an excellent free database for card collectors, and for that alone he deserves our applause and support.

If you like what you see, then consider heading to his website and seeing what he has on offer. The playing card industry needs important contributors like Alex, and he needs every encouragement to continue the fine contributions he has already made, with the hope that the future will continue to bring more good things from Alex Chin and Seasons Playing Cards.

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Want to learn more?
Seasons Playing Cards: www.seasonsplayingcards.com
National Card Collection Day: www.nationalcardcollectionday.com
Portfolio52: www.portfolio52.com

Follow Seasons Playing Cards on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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Here are direct links for the decks featured in this review:
- Seasons series: Verana deck, Inverno deck, Primavera deck, Seronda deck (Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall)
- Magna Carta series: Rebels deck, Royals deck (White, Black)
- Apothecary series: Inverno Insights deck, Primavera Ponderings deck (Winter, Spring)
- NPCCD 2016: National Playing Card Collection Day 2016 deck (Green, Pink)
- NPCCD 2017: National Playing Card Collection Day 2017 deck
- Kickstarter: Stay in touch with Alex's social media for news about the launch of his latest Apothecary decks in early November.

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BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
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