Creative ideas from Discover Magic
Michael Rosander and Brian South are two guys behind a company called Discover Magic, which creates material used to teach magic classes across the United States. They use magic to teach kids how to build character and healthy self-development, including important characteristics like being respectful, prepared, enthusiastic, confident, humble, creative, authentic, and giving. They both have a solid background in magic - Brian for example is a former magician, who was involved in the creation of magic tricks, and now works with educators.
Before I get to the playing cards, you need to know something about their creativity. As part of their involvement with magic, they've come up with the brilliant idea of handing out tricks instead of treats for Halloween. Not nasty tricks, of course, but tricks that ARE treats, in other words, magic tricks that kids can take home and learn! In today's age, kids get enough sweet things, and many people are looking for healthier alternatives to hand out, so what better way to do that than by handing treat-sized packets of magic, which your costumed door-knockers can enjoy with family and friends at home and school. Plus it gets them learning about magic, thinking about others instead of themselves, and developing their abilities in new and exciting ways. In other words:
That's the concept behind a Kickstarter that Michael and Brian currently have running (Google "Tricks Instead of Treats Kickstarter" to find it). Why do I mention this? Because it explains the kind of innovative thinking that these guys are all about.
It's this kind of clever and creative thinking and interest in magic that has also led to the creation of some truly original custom playing cards as well. In fact, the two decks I'm going to be reviewing are among the favourites in my own personal collection, because of the ingenuity involved. Here's the two outstanding decks of playing cards that Brian has created:
- Mazing deck: each card has an individual maze, which can be combined with other cards to make a single massive maze.
- Different deck: each card has a single pip with multiple images and words reflecting its value, e.g. a Club of 3s instead of a 3 of Clubs.
It's amazing, and it's truly different! In this review I'll show you what these decks are like, and briefly tell you something about the current Halloween project as well.
Mazing Playing Cards
The deck of Mazing Playing Cards was brainchild of Brian South. He has had a life-long interest in mazes, dating back to his childhood.
Brain prefers to think of the Mazing deck not firstly as a deck of cards with a maze on it, but rather as a maze that functions as a deck of cards.
Why? Well first of all, each individual card in this deck contains a unique maze.
Each of the 54 mazes - which he has painstakingly created himself - can be solved as a separate challenge, by going from either corner pip to the opposite one.
To illustrate, here's a larger sized close-up of the Jack of Hearts:
But there's more - and this is the amazing part! All these individual mazes can be combined to make a single massive maze!
When you add the two Jokers (featuring boajes), now you have one big maze that starts at one Joker and ends at the other. in this way, the entire deck becomes one big maze going from card to card.
But now, instead of working from pip to corner pip, you start at either corner you like and must work your way to one of the center icons, which indicates your next card.
And just to complicate matters, your starting card gives you several choices. When you start on the Joker with the S (for START), there are several possible paths to pick from. You might choose to go to the 2 of Diamonds and there you start at either corner you like and then find your way to the center, which takes you to the 6 of Spades; from there you would go to the 3 of Clubs where again you have a choice of two possible paths. And so it continues on, until you successfully make it all the way to the Joker with the F (for FINISH), on which you need to maze your way to the light-bulb.
But be warned - some choices lead to dead ends, others will result in an endless loop, and others take you to new cards. Your job is not only to navigate the overall maze, which requires taking a different path than the individual maze challenge of a single card, but to figure out what cards you should go to and what cards you should avoid.
This is certainly an instance where an uncut sheet is fantastic, showing the entire deck of mazes from start to finish!
The card-backs are also quite stylish and pretty, clearly inspired by the classic rider back design, but with a maze theme.
From beginning to end - literally - this is a thoroughly unique and original deck of playing cards, that has potential to provide a huge amount of entertainment on its own.
Different Playing Cards
While the Mazing deck was already a solid success, Brian South's next project, the Different deck, was an even bigger hit, with over 1500 backers on Kickstarter providing almost $75,000 in funding!
Several versions of this deck were created, and while they have the same artwork for the most part, there are some small differences, so I'll start with the unlimited beige coloured deck which is the main deck that was produced.
This creative deck looks normal at first glance - until you look at the pips. The concept is something that Brian came up with already in 2006, and is something he has been thinking about for a long time. Finally he was able to find a capable artist (Nike Meyer) from Florida, who shared his vision and had the talent to bring his idea to life. And that idea is this: each card has a single pip containing multiple illustrations of that card's rank. As the deck itself explains on the box back: "The Different Deck is a standard deck of playing cards except every card is reversed. There is no 2 of diamonds, just a diamond of 2s."
To illustrate, instead of the Two of Clubs in a regular deck, the Different Deck has a Clubs of Twos, i.e. a single Club pip with detailed artwork showing multiple twos.
Similarly instead of a 3 of Clubs, there's a single Club made up of threes; instead of a 5 of Diamonds, there is a single Diamond made up of fives; and instead of a Queen of Hearts there is a single Heart made up of Queens.
So if you look closely at the Queen of Spades above, you will not only see the word "queen" written in several languages, but you will also find a queen chess piece, and even a Queen Elizabeth signature! Now that's creative and ingenious, isn't it?!
Here's another example, the Heart of Kings - can you see multiple "kings" on the card pictured here?
But there's more: the pip on each card is a unique piece of art that is filled with symbolism and hidden elements. As the back of the box notes: "Each card is a work of art. With over 100 languages and countless other historical and pop culture references, this deck is filled with wonder."
So the letters and artwork are far from being random "filler". Every dot, swirl, language, and hidden item was carefully, thoughtfully, and deliberately placed with purpose and intent. The more you study an individual card, the more you will see: like ambigrams, and words sharing letters (e.g. the "T" in one word makes an "X" in another). It's an astounding accomplishment to think that over 100 different languages and numeric systems are represented! The clever symbolism goes far beyond the letters, because there are also cleverly placed pictures on each cards too. For example, a queen pip might include a picture of an ant (representing a queen ant), a jack pip might include a picture of a toy jack, and an eight pip might include a picture of an 8-ball. The material included covers subjects ranging from science and math to history and mythology.
Here's an image of an uncut sheet, which clearly shows how every card just has a single pip - this uncut sheet will offer up its own secrets to the dedicated person willing to try unlocking the secret messages and hidden words therein. The published deck is packaged in the same order as the cards here, so it's easy to reconstruct if you have the deck. To give you a hint of the secret messages therein: The cards numbers correspond to the letters on a telephone key pad, and these letters make up words in a crossword puzzle style fashion (e.g. 4673 = HOPE, 5683 = LOVE). So you won't want to shuffle the deck right away; within the pre-arranged sequence of cards you will find inspirational words like "dream", "believe", "imagine", and more. Are you blown away yet?
Fortunately an explanatory card also comes with the deck, inviting you to explore and enjoy the details: "Over 100 different languages from around the world and from different times in history appear in this deck. If you look closely you will find everything from sign language, Yiddish, Morse code, and Braille to Cherokee, Klingon, Pig Latin, and even binary code. Look for more - you just might find it."
To get you started, there's also another card with a list of some things you can look for in the deck, including: Lion, Penguin, Bowling Pin, Yin-Yang, The Deadly Sins, 80s Movie Star, Traffic Signs, Rainbow, Virtues, Fibonacci Spiral, Music Notes, Solar System, and many, many more.
I already mentioned that several versions of this deck have been produced, and there were three that made up the original project. The unlimited and unbranded deck pictured above has a beige colour on the card faces, to evoke the style of antique parchment, with faux aging. In addition to that deck, also created was a limited edition white deck that was Bicycle branded. The faces are identical to the unbranded beige deck (but in white), but the back of this version has a slightly customized design that implements some small changes to the details. Like the original, it's full of symbolism and hidden imagery, but if you look closely at the card-backs you can see that the word "Bicycle" is hidden several times.
Here's the Heart of Aces and the Club of Fours from the White deck:
It should not be too difficult to figure out which cards these pips come from!
There's also a Black deck which has charcoal colored faces, and black card-backs.
Featured below are the Heart of Tens, and the Club of Nines:
A year after the creation of the original Different deck, a new project was launched to successfully produce a green backed version, themed on L.U.C.K.
Green-backed - get it? The card backs are identical to those from the original unlimited edition, but now the overall look is inspired by the style used for US currency! This idea was first suggested by one of the backers of the original project.
There are some differences from the original deck besides the colour, the most significant one being that all four Aces have been changed to have a financial/money theme. The Aces are all a solid green colour, and have all new graphics and texts, with images and words relating to finances and money.
All this is very clever in itself, as an elaborate puzzle and challenging game. But there's a deeper vision and significance behind the Different deck. Behind this concept, Brian wants us to realize that we should explore the possibilities in life, recognizing that there is often more to life than meets the eye. In his view, if we look for more, we'll find it. As he said in an interview: "I want the deck to be a reminder that we don’t have to just take things the way they have always been, that we can think outside the box or try to do the same old thing a little different and suddenly it becomes completely different and probably more interesting. I am a firm believer that our lives are more fulfilling and richer when we look for meaning in things. Even if its not there on purpose if we look for symbolism or patterns we will find them and that makes everything more interesting." Brian is encouraging us to adopt this perspective to our own lives - one which is different, but also promises to be rewarding.
Tricks Instead of Treats
While still clinging to the coat-tails of Brian's creativity, let's depart briefly from the world of cards, and join the world of costumes. At the end of every October it's the same routine: a knock on the door, and an army of neighbourhood kids in cute costumes, all begging for candy: "Trick or Treat!"
The Discover Magic team of Michael and Brian have come up with the idea to hand out magic tricks instead of sweets. Their project is currently up for funding on Kickstarter, under the title Tricks Instead of Treats. Now there's already a trend for people to give away healthier Halloween treats, like small toys and stickers, so why not something that stays closer to the Halloween theme: mini magic kits?! The project is in part about giving you more options when treating the young trick-or-treaters that will frequent your doorstep on October 31st. But the vision is much bigger than that: Michael and Brian are of the firm conviction that through magic, kids can develop communication skills, learn to interact with others around them, and develop many other life-skills.
So they've designed 8 collectable mini magic kits, which aren't Halloween specific as such, but can be used year-round - so you can even use them as favours at your kids birthday, or rewards handed out by teachers or dentists. They have been designed with kids in mind, and all the tricks are intended to be easy to learn and perform. Each kit is printed in colour, and is about the size of a pack of collectable cards; you tear off the top and bottom, and open it up to discover the instructions and magic inside. Here's the complete list of everything in the series: #1 Grand Illusions (3 Brain Bogglers); #2 Wacky Weather Machine (Make it rain the unusual); #3 Funny Fortune-Teller (Read someone's mind); #4 Superhero Socks (Predict the future); #5 Appearing Treasure (Find a lucky gold coin); #6 Incredible Shrinking Dog (Instantly change a dog's size); #7 Cool Cards (Turn any card into an ice pop); #8 The Magic Trunk (Vanish an elephant).
The kits are priced to be comparable in cost to candies, but magic has benefits that candy can't offer. In Michael and Brian's words: "Candy lasts for a moment, Magic lasts a lifetime; Candy is all about you, Magic is all about others; Candy rots your teeth, Magic makes you smile; Candy increases calories, Magic increases confidence; Candy makes you hyper, Magic makes you happy."
Some of the higher reward levels come with a Discover Magic Funbook, an activity book valued at $20 on its own. It consists of original material that the guys at Discover Magic created themselves, with over 150 magic puzzles, games, jokes, riddles, tricks, optical illusions, and more, all beautifully presented with the help of a professional illustrator. I've seen a preview of this book (I received an advance copy for review, which came with my playing cards), and my family has been very impressed with it. It's full colour, and has a great variety of activities and puzzles, all of which are magic themed. It has about 80 pages of puzzles (plus solutions in the back), as well as teaching some basic tricks, trivia and tips about magic and magicians, and other magic related things. It's totally kid-friendly and the children I've shown it to quickly became immersed in it.
Google "Tricks Instead of Treats Kickstarter" to find out more out more. This project is already well over-funded, and the idea is to get rewards into the hands of backers before October 31st. I applaud the creators for coming up with a fresh idea to help make Halloween safer and more positive. I've been involved in amateur magic for over 30 years, so I'm all for something that helps put magic into the hands of children, and helps them think more about others, and build character. Bravo Michael and Brian, and I hope that your creativity helps share the love for magic in the next generation! Clearly these guys have contributions to make that go far beyond the world of custom playing cards, and it's good to see them putting their creativity at work for the good of the community.
Amazing: Maybe it's a bad pun, but it's an inevitable and appropriate one: the Maze deck is amazing! I'm super impressed with how simultaneously intricate and big this concept is. It requires small details, and yet taken together, the individual components cumulatively make up an impressive whole. Unlike many custom playing cards, the artwork and design is far more than visual window-dressing, but has become an entirely functional puzzle of its own. This is very well done.
Different: As for the Different Deck, it really is ... different! First of all, the notion of having single large pips that are made up of a collection of words and images relating to the value of the card in question is a very clever idea. But more, this too can be turned into a search-and-find game of its own, with so many details and symbols to explore and discover. I'm glad that the deck comes with a long list of things to look for, to give some notion of what is included, but even just taking a single card and studying it can be rewarding. I'm blown away by the level of thought that has been poured into this, especially when you consider that the numbers can all correspond to alphabet letters, and the packaged order of the cards enables you to make up words as well! And yet, just like the Maze deck, the cards still remain totally functional, with very clear indices. Another job well done all round!
Creative: In the case of both decks, real creativity and ingenuity has been at work to come up with the concepts first of all, and then bring it to execution. Most other custom decks I have might cause people to say "wow" when they see the artwork or design, but in the case of the Mazing Deck and Different Deck, people say "wow" in reaction to the concept and idea. And then they have a lot of fun studying and playing with the cards. This creativity makes these decks stand out from almost every other deck that I have.
Quality: It would be a real shame to see a great concept like this appear on poor quality cards. Fortunately that's not the case, with United States Playing Card Company being the printer used to make these cards. They are produced with a quality like a standard Bicycle deck, and are nicely embossed with an air-cushion style finish, so the cards slide over each other neatly and evenly for smooth spreads and fans, and they should also prove durable.
Where to get them: Fortunately some copies of both these decks of playing cards are still available directly from the creator himself. To arrange purchase of the Mazing or Different decks, Brian South can be contacted directly via his Kickstarter page here, or via the Discover Magic website here.
One is sure to discover magic when in the company of Michael Rosander and Brian South from Discover Magic, and Brian South's two decks are every bit as creative as their concept for magical Halloween treats is. These are decks that I'm not only pleased to have in my collection, but they will give hours of enjoyment to me and my family in years to come, and they'll be one of the first to pull out when I show others my collection of playing cards.
Amazing, different, and very much at home in any card collection!
Want to learn more?
Discover Magic: https://www.discovermagic.com
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- [+] Dice rolls