To celebrate hitting $1 billion in pledges on Kickstarter, we’re putting the spotlight on the people who made that happen. We’ll be posting excerpts from chats with some notable backers, talking about projects they love and the joys of supporting someone's idea.
When we were figuring out which backers to feature here, we had an idea: Let’s find a Kickstarter fan who lives as far as possible from our home base. We discovered that if you were to dig a hole from Brooklyn straight through the Earth’s core (while wearing special fireproof clothing), you would end up in the ocean off of Western Australia.
That led us to Gareth Braid, a tech-support guy at a university in the port city of Bunbury, population 32,000. We were immediately struck by the singular focus of Gareth’s backing history: 65 projects, nearly all of them involving playing cards. It turns out that his Kickstarter rewards are just some of the more than 1,300 decks in his collection. Kickstarter is home to a passionate subculture of playing-card aficionados, one of the many globe-spanning communities that hum along under its surface. We emailed Gareth a few questions about Kickstarter and… playing cards.
How did you find out about Kickstarter?
I first found out about it in 2011 when Lance Miller wanted to make a deck of cards using this strange platform to fund what probably appeared to be a risky project. I'm not sure I eventually pledged for those decks, but the seed was born. Not long later another deck became available, and it had begun…
Why back projects on Kickstarter?
There are several reasons — in some cases this is the only way to ensure you get the decks! But really it's much more than that. In many cases you get to glimpse the designers performing their craft. You see designs being polished, find out about why some things are as they are. And occasionally as part of a group you also get to influence the direction the project heads.
Why playing cards in particular?
I do believe my collection began due to my love of playing card games. My family played Euchre when I was a kid, where being able to beat one's parents by wits and skill (or luck) was empowering. Since then I’ve learned 500, Canasta, and Texas Holdem Poker, playing all reasonably regularly, and now I'm one year into what will probably be a lifetime of learning Bridge. Added to the game element is, the level of artwork that goes into a good design of a deck of cards is simply amazing. And they're small, so they don't take up too much storage space... unless it gets completely out of hand!
What appeals to you in a playing-card project?
The projects I back are generally printed by U.S. Playing Cards. Primarily it comes down to designs I like, where the artist has something new to say, and often where they can shift the status quo. Obviously I try to pick projects by people who appear trustworthy and likely to be able to deliver, but most often it’s more about avoiding the boring — I am regularly surprised where some talented people can take 52 small pieces of paper.
All-time favorite project?
It is a popular choice, but overall it would have to be Jackson Robinson's Federal 52 campaign, just for the sheer quality of the art design. You really got a feel for the hours Jackson was putting in to come up with something unique. For simplicity, UUSI’s Royal Optik is a standout too — particularly as I appreciate more classic, simple designs.