Pixel Ponderer | Optimal Deck
Pixel Ponderer | Optimal Deck

Optimal Deck


Think of a classic deck of playing cards, what are you picturing? Based on surveys you're thinking of Bicycle or Realm playing cards, and a layout where the pip symbols are arranged in ways that are hard to quickly scan with your eyes, and suits that are difficult to tell apart. Most reported they had trouble quickly differentiating Clubs and Spades and none knew anything of the history of the pack or who those court figures were. Through an assessment in my media design degree I was given the opportunity to develop a deck of cards with specific considerations toward ease of identification, the history of the deck, the history of the courts and lastly, something that players could emotionally connect with and remember. I conducted rich qualitative and quantitative research which focused on non-verbal behaviour analysis in direct response to the deck I was making and a control deck with continuous surveying after each testing phase to prove why the deck I was crafting could call itself 'optimal'.

The Brief

In 8 weeks - Creating and compiling a creative project that explores a passion of mine within the field of media design and to analyse the contextual issues that relate to it.

My Role

Solo Project- Primary and secondary Researcher, informed consent form writer, product pitcher, creative director and illustrator.

Field of Practice

Product Design, collateral design, packaging design, mockup and visualization, illustration, surveyor, practical testing with participants(detailed in Research Findings Document).


Printed playing cards, printed companion booklet, digital graphics, test findings document and mini CMS document.

The Solution - Accessible and Player Informed Choices

In conjunction with the rich history, this deck prioritizes accessible and player informed design choices. Through testing and survey based inptus I created a format for the Optimal Deck's cards that have defined a clear margin of identification-based benefit in the use of my deck over the control which was a classic Realm style deck.
To touch on the most important results from the final bout of testing there were 3 players who tested each deck twice to identify all 52 cards which were dealt out all in succession only progressing to the next card after the current was correctly identified. The group mean for all 52 cards identified for the optimal deck was 1m.07s and the group mean for all 52 cards identified for the control was 1m.36s. So with this we get an incredible almost 30 second time advantage of 29 seconds.

The Solution - Weaving in History

No existing decks offer a balanced blend of easy identification, historical context, and definitive court figure representation. The Optimal Deck and Booklet attaches deeper and something a player can really connect too by including a condensed yet expansive retelling of the past 800 years of card history - Briefly, I would like to take you quickly through some of what I detailed in the booklet. To lay our scene we go back 800 years ago in China which is where most experts believe the playing card originated. From here I wrote about the mamluk deck and the first initial boom of card popularity, and how the cards spread across the world, early design changes that reflected the history at the time. By the end of the 14th century the pleasures of the playing card were causing a stir throughout Europe and their appeal shot right across cultural and class divides - and it seemed that up to the end of the 18th-century people never played at anything without gambling and this naturally stemmed a raft of behaviours that were thought to be anti-religious that the church took issue with.
Known to few but not many is that each court card in the modern day French and English deck represents a pre 18th century historical figure - as an example lets take the first court card I developed - The King of Spades which is King David. If you read the biblical text about him not as history but as an interpretation of history then what we end up seeing is a very ambitious man who did anything necessary to gain the power he held. Theft.. extortion.. treason and even murder. There's a whole sequence of deaths that befall those around David, every single one of which works in his benefit. A compelling and successful monarch, and at the same time a vile human being.

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You can order one here.

Optimal Deck
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