The Daily Illini

University graduate takes card players through the seasons with design

By Rebecca Jacobs

The playing cards that Alexander Chin designs aren’t suited for college drinking games. Instead, the cards are made as collectors’ items, valued for their artistic appeal.

Chin is the creator and CEO of SEASONS playing cards, made up by four editions, each representing one of the four seasons. 

He is currently releasing the final two seasons, and to fund those, he created a Kickstarter account with a goal of raising $35,000 in just over a month. The kickstarter, which ends Tuesday, has had approximately 640 backers raise $64,385 for SEASONS since its beginning on Aug. 27.

“The biggest buyers are the collectors, people like myself, who see playing cards not as a game but as a collection of artwork,” Chin, the 2011 University graduate in architecture, said.

Douglas Ott collects playing cards, so he keeps up with websites devoted and keeps a close watch on any new projects on Kickstarter.

“My hobby for many years has been graphic design and Web design so I have a deep appreciation for art and design that also is functional,” Ott said. “Seasons and many of the other custom playing cards satisfies my aesthetic and collecting urges.”

Chin started the project in 2012 with the first two seasons, Primavera (spring) and Seronda (fall). The two won four awards from United Cardists, and The U.S. Playing Card Company called the series “the most detailed cards we’ve ever printed.”

The final decks represent Verana (summer) and Inverno (winter). Inverno is a black deck with a metallic blue that acts as frost, with a design of flowing winds to add “depth and contrast.”

Chin chose to design the cards with the four seasons because he said he is interested by transformation. He wanted to represent time, but time is intangible and clocks are “just tools that track time,” he said. He decided to focus on the effects of time, like aging and deterioration, to represent it.

“I picked seasons because it’s a cyclical concept based around the medium of nature,” he said. “Every year this cycle starts again, which I view as both elegant and universal.”

Joshua McDonald found SEASONS while looking at playing cards on Instagram. Chin’s designs caught his eye.

“I like their unique design,” McDonald said. “And the name of the cards themselves. The name just says, ‘Cards you can use anytime.’ After all, they are with the seasons.”

Chin didn’t want to just design a beautiful card, but instead wanted people to display the cards as art in their homes. Chin wanted to design the packaging so that it wasn’t just thrown away. He created tuck cases where collectors can decide how to display the cards.

“Depending on the user’s display preferences, they can interact and interchange decks to create different but cohesive images and patterns,” he said. “It’s a great way to keep things fresh with the same items you got, which I think collectors really appreciate.”

Chin created the company himself. With the first two seasons, he had a private investor. Now, he is funded by the public through avenues such as the Kickstarter project, but the designs came from him. Chin said he attributes a lot of that to the strong work ethic he learned at the University.

“Senior year was finally when I really understood how to balance priorities, which is something I’ve found invaluable and translatable to any project or relationship. For that, I’m eternally grateful,” he said.

Learning how to balance his work and social life is what helped fuel his passion while being self-employed. He said he learned a lot of the strong work ethic from his architecture professors. 

“Alex was a dedicated student that was willing to engage with the ideas that we were exploring in the studio, even when they seemed controversial or unorthodox in the context of the school,” said Roger Hubeli, one of Chin’s professors who no longer teaches at the University.

Chin’s love of playing cards goes much earlier than his time at the University. In junior high school, he said he began to enjoy card magic.

“It was nice because it was an everyday object that no one thinks much of,” Chin said. “But then you come along and perform something extraordinary with it, whether it’s shooting their card in the air or making their selection change and people go crazy.”

When he reached high school, Texas Hold ‘Em was popular, he said. Chin began playing and collecting cards so that he could have better games at his home.

Years later and on his second company post-graduation, Chin is now completing SEASONS. Depending on how much people donate, buyers can order just the cards for $24.95 or golden editions with certificates and extra perks such as a gold coin, a collector’s box and a card clip. He is even selling uncut sheets of the cards signed by him, never to be printed again.

The cards take about six to eight weeks to make. If everything remains on schedule, Chin said he hopes to ship SEASONS to buyers by the holiday season.

Rebecca can be reached at [email protected]

 
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