First Friday off in a while. Catching up on life. Out and about. Look at my watch. It’s about that time. We were about to launch our project of the year. Smoke & Mirrors V6.
The pandemonium struck like fork lightning in a desert monsoon. To put it mildly, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Our stable server. Our workhorse. Down for the count. The demand was insane. Beyond our wildest dreams. History was made.
Last year we had a closed door meeting between Dan, Dave, and myself. We focused solely on what we knew would be the end of an era. The grand finale. Our love letter to a card series that had evolved from a small idea into a legend. An American Classic. It was time to end the Smoke & Mirrors Card Series and send her out in high style.
That day I took out all of the original Smoke & Mirrors and laid them in front of me. It was a timeline of so many personal memories. I laughed at naming the originals in a local Japanese Market while drinking tea. Listening to Dan explain the idea of going “borderless” for the V3 (my personal favorite of the series). Making jokes that Dan only loved the V4 (Eco) because they matched his ever present “uniform” of earth tone clothing. Dave showing off the new metallic ink proofs for what would become V5 (Paper Denim). The series held much more than boxes expertly bundled by the USPCC; they were landmarks of where we had been as a team.
With that sentiment it was clear to us that we go out the only way we know how. GO BIG OR GO HOME. We never saw the grand finale, the V7, as a “typical release” or even a “pet project.” We couldn’t justify ending the series with a color change and a kiss goodbye.
Since the Original Smoke & Mirrors we have released roughly 31 decks of playing cards. Over that time we have learned so much. Various embossing and foiling techniques. Our intimate understanding of tactile attachment between tuck box and hand. Relationships with International fine paper vendors. All of these assets came into play as we deliberated what to do for the grand finale. With this in mind we came to the overwhelming consensus that V7 is not “just” one deck– it is a library of perfection. V7 IS SMOKE & MIRRORS as we always dreamed they could be.
Our design for the V7 began with carefully examining each individual series deck and seeing what could be improved. Using much of what we have learned over the years we brainstormed various techniques to perfect the finale. As perfectionists, the first requirement was to aim for the sky and throw budget concerns to the wind. The first stage of design at D&D is solely based on ideas. We asked each other many questions.
“What if we were able to foil the interior and make it reflect light like a mirror?”
“Can we deeply emboss this element to accentuate the texture of the matte paper finish?”
Our list went on and on. Further refinements followed. Then we travelled to various paper importers we have worked with over the years. We collected hundreds of samples; even going so far as assembling prototypes by hand to realize the tactility in practice.
We selected the specific versions of Smoke & Mirrors to refinish based on numerous factors. For us, the original are significant and should stand alone as the first and only printing. The birth of a classic series need not be diminished or diluted by excessive numbers. For this reason we looked to the most progressive of the original “Classic Black & White Colorway” to lead us into the future–The V3, or “Luxury Edition.” Following our refinement process it now exceeds its ambitious birth name.
For V4 we were able to perfect the play between earth tones–amber and olive with an amazing new metallic inking and printing process that resembles the earth and the trees. Paper Denim “V5″ now effectively reflect light the way we always intended; they deliver the comfort and familiarity found in your favorite heritage pair of selvedge denim jeans. V6 now majestically settles into the hand with Bold Rouge and Royal Burgundy to play in harmony and remind us of the tones found in numerous films of the 1970′s that we love. V7 “Carbon” solidifies the series with deep black, thick embossed foil inlayed within a light mist of metallic silver on luxurious and strong matte paper.
With the series individuals complete it came time to concentrate on our most ambitious box to date. The Deluxe Box to house each individual little masterpiece. For new artwork it was a no-brainer. Only Si Scott would be appropriate to return for a grand finale of a series he initiated. We needed Si to deliver an illustration familiar to the complete series as well as unseen and able to bridge the years that passed from his classic inception to the future he never imagined. He took his familiar illustrative strokes and hand shaded them to appear as a realistic representation of rendered smoke. Once combined with the shiny foil inlay we had our SMOKE & MIRRORS.
No release at D&D is complete without a thorough discussion of how to best release and deliver a finished product that our fans will cherish. We examined numerous release strategies and various scenarios. Should we release singles? Should we offer uncuts? Would our customers wear a T-Shirt with Si’s awesome new logo? Decisions such as these are never easy. It is impossible to make everybody happy. That’s one hard fact you come to learn over years of business experience.
I can still remember waking up months ago and receiving an inbox of mail from various customers following the quick sell out of my “Ace Fulton” Deck. Some people were furious and accused me of printing a limited quantity to drive a collector driven economy (totally untrue…the cards were just more successful than I could have ever imagined or printed). Others congratulated me and shared their excitement for their bricks to arrive. Some wanted just a solid brick of “Midnight Fuel” which was only offered with the limited offering of Ace’s Dealer’s Dozen; while many thanked me for giving them a rare treat. My point is–it’s impossible to cover all sides and still get the product to market the way it needs to be presented. In the end we make the ultimate decision.
As I sit here today in my studio and hold our Deluxe Smoke & Mirrors Box in my hand I have nothing but absolute joy. I think of the road travelled with my partners Dan and Dave Buck, and all of the happy memories these individual decks hold for me personally. They represent all of the amazing people I’ve had the chance to touch across the globe through my design input over the years.
This represents the end of an era for us here at D&D. But never fear. We only end journeys to begin the next.
Creative Director, D&D