by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame
Who is Lorenzo Gaggiotti?
Lorenzo Gaggiotti is considered one of the most popular and sought-after designers of collectible and creative playing cards, which he publishes under the banner of his own brand, Stockholm17 Playing Cards. The name Stockholm17 already gives an obvious clue about his present home, which is the city of Stockholm, Sweden. The Italian-born Lorenzo moved to Stockholm several years ago due to the challenging economic climate in Italy, and in order to start a new life in Sweden. Fortunately for us he took with him his abilities as an artist, which were already evident at age 3, while being raised in a home where his mother was a painter, and where his passion for drawing had lots of room to grow.
And grow it did. Today Lorenzo is a product designer and illustrator, and has a job in a small company as a graphic designer, besides his own projects at Stockholm17. His discovery of custom decks of playing cards proved to be the ideal platform for him to explore his love for creative design. While he has no experience in magic, cardistry, or in playing poker, it is his passion for design that fuels his creative process as applied to the world of playing cards. Typically he gets inspired by a theme or idea, and does a lot of thinking and sketching with this in mind before starting a digital version of the final design.
So far he has successfully produced several decks, each in a number of variations: Requiem, Heretic, No.17 series, Ravn, Gemini, and more recently, House of the Rising Spade. All of these bear the typical hallmarks of Lorenzo's work: elegance, class, creativity, and art!
As part of a series of interviews with designers of playing cards, Lorenzo made an ideal candidate to ask some questions about playing cards, to get some thoughts from his perspective as an experienced designer. I am pleased to be able to share his insights with my readers, and so without any further delay, let's hand the floor to Mr Lorenzo Gaggiotti, aka Stockholm17!
For those who don't know anything about you, what can you tell us about yourself and your background? What do you do for a day job and/or what are your other interests?
Basically I am a creative, I like to invent/create/design. My formation is as an illustrator, graphic designer and product designer, which comes from my education: school of art, product design course at university level.
Now I work as a senior artist in a small company that makes online slot machines, but I am about to change - spoiler alert - and focus on my playing cards only. Fun fact about my background: I used to draw graffiti (yes, that hip-hop related art) when I was a teenager; the last one I made was in 1999 or late 2000. About my other interests: mysteries, the unknown, sci-fi, archaeology, and the combination of all of them.
When did you start designing playing cards, and what got you started?
I started in 2012 after getting inspired by a few custom decks on the market mostly by Theory11 and Ellusionist. The very first project was called "Der Alchemist", which then became "The Alchemist". I tried to sell it to Theory11, Ellusionist and HOPC. Theory11 didn't even reply, Ellusionist was somewhat interested but eventually they declined; I signed a contract with HOPC to produce it with another name (Oracle), but after one year of waiting and nothing happening I took it back, improved it, reworked it, and launched it on Kickstarter as Heretic Playing Cards. It was 2014.
How would you see yourself as a designer today, compared to when you started?
With much more understanding and insight about the world of playing cards and all its branches... and with a lot of competition.
What are some of the things you especially enjoy about designing playing cards?
Working on a concept, telling a story, and diving into details.
How do you come up with an idea for a deck design?
It depends on the whole concept and the style of the deck. Also, I decide in advance what kind of features I want on it (e.g. hotfoil for Gemini Noctis and No.17 Le Chat Rouge) and how it will be printed.
How many decks have you designed so far, and which of these have been your most popular and successful designs?
Eight decks and their variants in colors and design. I think the most popular and successful one is Heretic.
Which deck (or decks) in your portfolio of created designs is your favorite, and why?
The House of the Rising Spade is definitely my favorite because those big one-way court cards are like small paintings, and at the same time they work as court card.
How would you describe the style of your playing card decks? Are there any particular features or characteristics of your decks that you hope people will notice and appreciate, or help make your decks different from the many others out there?
It depends how I approach the project; I can design a cardistry deck or a deck for magicians (e.g. Ravn) or a 100% illustrated one. That is a choice made before the project starts.
Features and characteristics: quality and attention for details.
Which printer do you use to make your playing cards, and why? What has your experience with them been like?
I tried USPCC, EPCC, and Cartamundi so far. Also, MPC but only for the prototypes.
Each of them has pros and cons. For example the USPCC production schedule is precise, but their registration (how precise they are with centering the graphics) is lousy. EPCC on the other hand is the opposite: 6 months to deliver a deck, but perfect registration and more flexibility. Cartamundi jumped into the world of playing cards with a great approach and I liked the way they handled it, that's why I printed at Cartamundi two times in a row.
What are some of the easiest, and what are some of the hardest parts of the process in making a deck of custom playing cards?
The easiest part is copy-pasting standard faces and doing color-swaps. The hardest part is keeping the project together in terms of visual consistency. The back design has to work with the rest of the faces and the tuck-box. The colors are tricky because on screen you work in RGB and on paper it is CMYK. You get a nice bright deep red on screen, and when you get the proofs you see brown.
What is it about designing a deck of playing cards as a creator that you wish consumers realized more?
I have well defined type of customers that understand the work behind my decks. I wish consumers in general would understand what my customers do.
The playing card industry has changed rapidly over the last decade. Do you have any thoughts on the explosion of custom playing cards that we are seeing today?
There are a lot of custom decks, but not all of them are attractive. It is hard to make an appealing deck of cards even if it is well drawn. It is not about nice illustrations only, it is about the whole product. You might find finely illustrated playing cards with the ugliest tuck-box and poor back design.
I am not fond of easy color-swaps, when it takes only a two minute job to produce another color variant of the deck.
What impact has crowdfunding like Kickstarter had on the custom playing card industry? And what has your own experience with this been like?
Kickstarter is the gateway to produce custom decks and of course its accessibility makes it easy to launch a project. It is much less easy to get funded. It is a great platform to get the funds and produce runs of thousands on the best paper stock. Planning, running and fulfilling a Kickstarter campaign is a complex job and it takes time, energy and a lot of patience.
Where do you think the custom playing card industry will go from here, and what innovations or changes might we see in the coming years?
Probably playing card manufacturers will offer more flexibility, better social media promotion and interaction, more features and hopefully lower prices for fancy tuck-boxes.
Do you belong to any playing card organizations, or connect with other designers, either online or in any other way?
I follow UnitedCardists forum and several Facebook playing-cards-related groups. I am in contact with a few designers via email or Facebook.
What advice would you give someone just starting to collect playing cards today? What do you consider to be important elements of a quality design, and what they should look for in a quality deck of playing cards?
Collect ONLY what you really like and what you think is worth spending money on. I used to collect and buy anything published on Kickstarter (that was in 2012-2013), but now I am full of decks I do not like that much.
Do you have any recent, current, or upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
Ravn III is going to be on Kickstarter soon. Then I have a big one for 2019 which it will be very demanding in terms of design, and another one I cannot talk about, but I will start it in September. In September I will finally deliver The House of the Rising Spade.
That wraps up our question and answer session with Lorenzo Gaggiotti from Stockholm17 Playing Cards. A big thank you to him for his willingness to take the time to share his observations and reflections about the creative design process. Personally I have been blown away by Lorenzo's creativity and the thought he puts into his designs, and his ability to incorporate artistic and even poetic elements full of meaning into his work. He has produced some stunning work, which reflects a unique inimitable style that is very much his own, and which stands out from a lot of other custom decks of playing cards, precisely because of these stylish aspects.
Lorenzo clearly has a real gift with and a passion for creative design, with a remarkable attention to detail, and he approaches his craft with the zeal and enthusiasm needed to produce decks of the highest caliber. He has a real passion and perfectionist drive for polish, and is committed to making something the very best that it can be, so it is little wonder that his playing cards are among the very best you will find. Artistic genius alone will not make something successful, because it needs to be published, produced, and brought to the public, and Lorenzo is one of the rare breed that has the creative skills and connections to back up his artistic creativity with the ability to turn it into a polished product that becomes a reality. He is also very active on social media, since he recognizes the importance of community, getting feedback from and interacting with his customers, and regularly involving and updating his fan base, as well as offering glimpses of what happens behind the scenes.
With much experience gained after multiple successful projects, an established fan-base, a unique style, and a creator of quality and creative decks, Lorenzo is definitely an artist and creator to keep an eye on. While all his decks of playing cards are excellent, each has its own feel, and I look forward to see what shows up next under the label of Stockholm17 Playing Cards! Bravo Lorenzo Gaggiotti!
Where to get them? You'll find some of the Stockholm17 range here at PlayingCardDecks.com, such as decks from the Gemini and the Ravn series. Also check out his official website (stockholm17.com), where you can sign up for Lorenzo's newsletters, and follow him on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).
Do you have a favorite Stockholm17 card deck? Let us know below!
About the writer: EndersGame is a well-known and highly respected reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, cardistry, and card collecting, and has reviewed several hundred boardgames and hundreds of different decks of playing cards. You can see a complete list of his game reviews here, and his playing card reviews here. He is considered an authority on playing cards and has written extensively about their design, history, and function, and has many contacts within the playing card and board game industries. You can view his previous articles about playing cards here. In his spare time he also volunteers with local youth to teach them the art of cardistry and card magic.
Thanks for all the information.