Playing Cards from Kenneth Aidan Foo
Combining Artistry with Isometric Geometry




Kenneth Aidan Foo

Kenneth Aidan Foo, or Kafoosh as he is known on Instagram, is a cardistry expert. And he's also the designer of the Isometric Playing Cards.

Now like me, you're probably wondering what the word "isometric" means. It originates in Greek, and means "having equal measurement". For our purposes, it refers to the style of the design of Kenneth's playing cards, which have a strongly hexagonal theme in which equal sized lines play an important role.

But before we get to the playing cards, let's first meet our man Kenneth.



"Hello Kenneth!"

"Hello readers!"

Oh wait, actually Kenneth isn't going to be the one talking to you in this article, I am.

But I do want to introduce you to Mr Kafoosh, his art-form, and especially: his decks of playing cards.



Cardistry

But before we start, maybe we need to take a step even further back, by asking: what even is cardistry?

I'll let Kenneth himself explain, as he's done in this video that he put together with some of his friends from Singapore to answer that exact question. So to get an idea of what cardistry looks like, check out the great showcase and mini-documentary, by watching this two minute video (here).



Why do I say "what cardistry looks like" and why do I use the "watch"? That's because cardistry really needs to be seen rather than just described. It's a modern and growing art form, where traditional card flourishing has been taken to a whole new level. From being a magician's servant, card flourishing has evolved and matured into becoming a mature master of its own, and an independent art form. Sometimes described as card juggling, it takes a traditional deck of playing cards to a new level, by turning it into a new game of its own, with no real rules other than a quest for beautiful visual aesthetics, full of movement, grace, and style.

Enter Kenneth Aidan Foo, a featured young man who hails from Singapore, and who is very accomplished at cardist cardistry. He's created cardistry video tutorials for the New Deck Order team, he's very active in the Singapore cardistry scene, and he's an attendee at the most recent Cardistry Con held in the USA in July 2017, which is an annual and international cardistry convention that typically features all the big names of the art, like Dan and Dave Buck. See some amazing footage of this year's convention in this video from Kenneth here. Kenneth's cardistry resume also includes being the creator of the popular card flourish Ripple, and the viral video Cardistry A-Z, which you can see here.



Now those are some pretty impressive cardistry credentials!

Isometric Playing Cards

And because card flourishing is all about looks and appearances, the tool that cardists use is going to be carefully chosen. Sure, you can use any deck, but the artwork design on a traditional Bicycle deck will often interfere with the visual grace that a card flourisher wants, and can distract and confuse. To be at its best, cardistry fans will want to use a cardistry deck of playing cards, that is one designed specifically with card flourishing in mind.



So in 2015, Kenneth used his own experiences and expertise in cardistry to design his first custom deck of playing cards: Isometric No. 1.

And now, in mid-2017, he's given his original design the benefit of tweaks and significant improvements, and has just released its follow-up, Isometric No. 2. In this article, I'll introduce you to both of these lovely decks.



Isometric No. 1 Playing Cards



Here's the tuck box of Kenneth's original Isometric No. 1 deck from 2015, which has a simple but effective wrap-around design.



Taking his inspiration from one of his all-time favourite decks, the Tally Ho Circle Backs, Kenneth combined this with his long-standing fascination with hexagons.



The result: Isometric Playing Cards, a design centred around a hexagon with triangles.

It pays tribute to the classic Circle Backs, while at the same time using a modern geometric design.



The simple shapes are accentuated by Kenneth's decision to use a limited colour palette, that employs an eye-catching blue in tandem with just two tones of grey.

This minimalist colour scheme combines with the geometric design to enable the cards to be fanned in both directions, and also accentuates any flourishes that rely on spinning moves or rotations.



For the most part, this version of the Isometrics deck has what are effectively standard faces.

But an exception is the Ace of Spades, every deck's signature card, which is takes the geometric shapes from the card backs and translates them into a unique design in keeping with the rest of the deck.



Some have seen similarities between this design and the Virtuoso deck, but this is primarily due to the use of geometric shapes; Kenneth's design is an independent one.



The Isometric deck was crowd-funded via a successful Indiegogo campaign, and printed with Legends Playing Card Company using their Emerald finish.

But you really need to see these cards in motion rather than just rely on photos! See the launch trailer video below which superbly shows these cards in action here.



Isometric No. 2 Playing Cards



But Kenneth wasn't going to rest on his laurels after the success of his first Isometric deck. He had ideas to make it even better, with a new colour scheme, and with customized faces to fit with the geometric theme.

And so the Isometric No 2. deck was born as a follow-up deck. It was released via Kickstarter earlier this year, the project reached a staggering 1000% of the original funding amount, and is just recently available for purchase online, as of June 2017.



The tuck box is very simple in its visual presentation, with an almost full red panel of red coming up to a triangular peak on one side of the box.

The very top part of the tuck box says the name of the deck, Isometric No. 2, but these are in fact the only words you'll find in the entire deck!



In terms of changes from the first version, the first thing you'll notice is that the colours have been changed from the original blue and grey, and replaced by a simpler and brighter two toned colour scheme of red and gold.

The actual geometric design of the card-backs is unchanged, and as with the first deck, displays give the impression of a three dimensional effect - but even more emphatically with the new colour scheme.



The card backs have thin borders, to ensure that the cards don't blend together too much while in motion, while still creating a beautiful blur of colour.



Just like the first Isometric deck, there's a geometrically flavoured Ace of Spades.



But unlike the original deck, which had standard court cards and face cards for the most part, the court cards in the Isometric No. 2 deck have been completely redesigned. The new court cards use a minimalist design that relies on embedded geometric shapes, intended to accentuate movement.



Like the Isometric No. 1 deck, the main feature of this deck is the isometric geometry of the card-backs, which are intentionally designed to emphasize all cuts, fans, and displays.



But now the pips on all the face cards also fit with this isometric and geometric style, to incorporate a fully geometric design that lends itself even better to cardistry.



All the face cards also have corner brackets, which add an extra element of impact to fans. The effect of this varies, depending on which way the deck is fanned.



Once again, you really need to see this deck in motion to get a real sense of how it looks at its best, so see the launch trailer video which shows these cards spectacularly in artistic action here.



Conclusions

Cardistry inspired design: You certainly could use this deck for playing card games - all the cards have indices and standard suits. But over the last couple of years we are seeing decks being designed with aesthetics geared specifically for card flourishing. Notable examples of this are the Virtuoso deck (link to my review), and the New Deck Order's School of Cardistry deck (link to my review), the latter having the unusual distinction of even having entirely non-standard card faces. The Isometric decks are still playable (although the unusual choice of red for the traditionally black suits might be confusing), but they have been designed by a cardistry expert, and these playing cards with their geometric designs are going to be at their best when used for card flourishing.

Simple but unusual colours: Aside from the white borders and faces, the Isometric No. 2 deck feature only two colours throughout. That's right: the same two colours are used for the box, cards and all - nothing else! These two colours are not often seen together in playing cards, especially in the way they appear here. The first colour is a standard red, which in itself is nothing unique and unseen before - until you notice that it has been used for the traditionally black suits! When I asked the designer about this, he explained: "I went with the colour choices for the pips mainly because traditionally "lighter" colours have represented the hearts and diamonds and vise-versa. I also thought it made a really interesting contrast to most other decks.. The second colour is a gold/cream colour. The result is a simple but effective colour scheme, because these two colours combine on the card beautifully to create a nice look, without being too `out there' like some decks. An interesting thing to note is that these two colours look especially amazing against a blue background - a handy tip to remember for those who make cardistry videos!

Geometric card-back design: The back design of this deck is very simple, with not too much in it to distract, and yet it produces a very geometric look arising from the use of triangles. The design has in some way been taken from parts of the Tally-Ho deck, a classic cardistry deck, and inherits some of the shapes and lines from that back design, although some of this is only obvious when the cards are twirled and spun. The main hexagon on the card back is designed in such a way that when a card is spun, visually it creates a very obvious circle that consists primarily of the gold with two red bands spinning with it, along with a plain white circle in the middle helping to focus the spin. The geometric shapes also give emphasis to spreads, fans, and other moves, while the deliberately limited colour palette ensures an elegant look.

Thin card-back borders: The card backs also have very thin borders, which produces one of the most ideal cardistry back designs I've seen. Some cardistry decks are entirely borderless, which admittedly can sometimes enhance moves like spreads and fans, as the cards blend into each other to create beautiful patterns. However, the big issue with a borderless back is that for multiple packet cuts it becomes more difficult to identify which packet is which, as they blend together and confuse what is happening in the cut. Having a border ensures greater clarity by showing the packets very clearly, thus enhancing the visual impact of cuts. At the same time, utilizing a thin rather than a thick border still allows the colours and design of the cards to easily be seen in spreads and fans, thus enhancing them as well. This use of thin borders allows both cuts and fans to look amazing, allowing card flourishers to get the best of both worlds, and without needing to choose for a design that sacrifices one at the expense of the other.

Card faces: The faces of the cards contain a part border of the red and gold colours used in the deck, which allows the face fans and spreads to look so much more amazing than standard by giving much more colour to them. The pips are red/gold, the same colour as all the rest of the deck. A mentioned already, there's been an unusual but interesting choice to have the Clubs and Spades in red, while the traditionally red suits - Hearts and Diamonds - use the gold colour, since they are usually the lighter colour of the pips. The pips have a geometric style, being composed out of small triangles and they have a custom arrangement on the cards - all designed to enhance the visual aesthetics of this deck in the hands of an experienced cardist.

Court cards: The court cards maintain the traditional feel and shape, so they are readily identifiable and recognizable. At the same time they have been simplified and look much more geometric, with the faces of the characters all being a hexagon shape that composed of six triangles - a style that matches the centre of the back design. The geometric flavoured pips and altered artwork give the deck a notable improvement over Isometric No. 1, which featured standard card faces. The two additional cards (Jokers) are basically an adaptation of the hexagon from the card-backs, as it would look when spun, i.e. a circle with triangular shapes in it, which is also a nod to the Tally Ho Circle Back that inspired aspects of the design.

Handling: The stock, cut and finish of this deck is amazing. It has a very smooth cut, so the edges of the deck are nice and smooth and feel good in one's hands. It has been traditionally cut, which allows for face-down faro shuffles, and in fact, it is probably the easiest deck to faro-shuffle, with the cards sliding into each other very nicely. The stock is quite soft, and handles well out of the box with no breaking in, and is very easy to spring. The finish allows the cards to slide over each other well for spreads and fans, and yet the cards still packet extremely well for cuts. In all, as far as card quality is concerned, it is one of the best out there! I noticed that the card-stock was identical to the School of Cardistry V3 deck from the New Deck Order (review here), and was able to confirm that this deck was produced by the same printer, a company that produces cards for casinos. However, the identity of the printer is being kept confidential, and both the folks from New Deck Order and Kenneth are keen to preserve this as a trade secret known only to them, so they can provide cardists a card quality that is unique and can't be obtained from other publishers or cardistry decks.

Cardistry optimized performance: This deck has been designed with cardistry in mind, and it succeeds in doing exactly what it was designed to do. Both the visual aesthetics and the handling of the Isometrics V2 deck are superb, and card flourishers will love it. A deck like this has an immediate impact on all card flourishing, and instantly makes basic moves look more impressive and visually pleasing. If you enjoy any card flourishing, or are looking to try some basic cardistry moves, a deck like this is going to be a real asset, to help make the ordinary look spectacular.

Cardistry expert: Kenneth Aidan Foo knows what he's doing. He's in touch with the latest developments in cardistry, and for him it is a real passion - as is evident from his social media accounts, and the videos and tutorials he puts out. Cardistry fans will want to check out his contributions in these areas, especially his youtube channel, in which he has some great cardistry videos. He also has some cardistry tutorials of his own making and some in which other cardists participate to teach a move. His tutorials are very well done, because they are very easy to follow along, with it clearly being shown what you need to do. He also has categorized some of his tutorials according to their difficulty (beginner, intermediate or advanced), so you can pick one that suits your own level. Kenneth's expertise and enthusiasm is clearly evident, and these tutorials are well worth checking out! Now with his Isometric decks, he's been able to bring the same passion to a cardistry deck.



Recommendation

The Isometrics No. 2 deck was designed by a experienced cardist, with card flourishing in mind, and will naturally have appeal particularly to those who enjoy the art of cardistry. Kenneth Aidan Foo has made some big improvements to his original design, and anyone who enjoys cardistry will appreciate how a beautiful deck like this has the ability to make their cardistry moves look even more impressive and visually pleasing. Playing cards like these have the ability to make even simple fans and spreads look amazing. It's a great design that handles well, and will find a welcome home in the hands of anyone who loves the art of card flourishing, or wants to give it a try.

Want to learn more?
Isometric Playing Cards: http://www.isometricplayingcards.com
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/FLimagic
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/kafoosh
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kenneth.aidan.foo



Direct links for the decks featured in this review:
- Isometric Playing Cards No. 1 (sold out)
- Isometric Playing Cards No. 2




BoardGameGeek reviewer

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