How many people does it take to Design a deck of cards?

The DevCards
5 min readJan 27, 2024

Hi, my name is Oyeleke Okiki, a Software Developer based in London and I’ll be taking you on a journey on how TheDevCards was designed. TheDevCards are handcrafted playing cards designed to spark curiosity in Tech. Every block of code you see on the cards below can be run on the website (thedevcards.com).

Current version of the cards produced and available for sale.
Final version, available on Amazon.com

Two years ago, I started building an interesting project to use Augmented Reality for real-time text translation, I ended up publishing the Live-Translator app; it was a fun experience since I’d never built anything like it before.

Now the thing about going into a niche area of expertise is you never truly come out. You tend to seek similar interests and yearn for more computing power and smarter ways to work in that domain.

This led me into reading The Book of Shaders. This book is a gentle step-by-step guide through the abstract and complex universe of Fragment Shaders. It’s a fantastic book put out for free by Patricio Gonzalez Vivo and Jen Lowe. I’d like to thank Patricio and Jen for putting out this book. It is a book I’ll recommend to anyone interested in Shaders.

In Chapter 7, I noticed they were using interesting patterns to make Tarot Cards, and I asked myself, “Why stop at Tarot cards? Why not expand from GLSL Shader code?” Playing Cards have a universal audience and are accessible to almost everyone.

I brainstormed on that idea on a flight to Greece and came up with this document. The most important part to me was:

This card deck will pay heavy tribute to the Tech world and a fun way to give other professionals and curious-minded folks insight into the “unexplored territory” of Tech. The concept is intrigue

Also, as a former Industrial Product Design student and an ardent follower of the Bauhaus school of Design, my design priority was:

This will be a deck where you can leave any card around your house and choose not to pick up since it beautifies your house. Form/elegance follows function, then luxury.

With a document in hand and scope set, it was time to find Designers.

My first pick: Adebowale Adebimpe, a brilliant Product Designer who worked with me on Live-Translator so it was instantly decided I’d reach out on this project. We set up the blueprint, iterated on a few ideas and the design blueprint was finally set for the concept of Dark-themed Punch Cards.

Initial Digital design of the Playing Cards
Initial Design of Cards (Figma)

I also brought Great Ndidi on board and there’s an interesting story on how I finally got him to complete the project. I told him I was coming to his house at 11PM, he called my bluff but I did show up. I immediately asked for a blanket to sleep on his couch but he chose to go to work instead. The result? He came up with this in 3 hours.

You have to find unorthodox ways to manage the gifted.

Initial Design of the Website by Great Ndidi
Initial Design of the Website

With the website out of the way, I had to bring on Richard Ekwonye, who is my primary authority on web development. The first thing was I needed him to greenlight the website. It is common knowledge that when you work with extremely talented people, you pretty much want to share the same direction.

Once Richard and I greenlit the website, there was a CSS vs SVG discussion on card suits (♣️♦️❤️♠️) I had with Richard and Great. We all agreed on three non-negotiables:

  • We will not import shapes from any third-party library.
  • The SVG code has to be shorter than 10 lines.
  • The SVG code has to be extremely easy to understand, no decimal points.

With that set in place, I came up with some sketches to use simpler and “conventional” shapes.

These are the initial sketches to shape the design direction for the various suits to be used in the Card Deck
Initial Sketches for Card suits (shapes)

Enter Linda Ojo:

Linda perfected the concept of perfect shapes and their fusion. It took about a week to reduce the code the most complex suit/shape (♣️) to 8 lines. I showed it to Richard, and he was visibly impressed, so we got to work.

You see, personally, I believe in using my best resources: money, good behavior, and praise to accomplish any given goal. That was the motivation behind bringing Linda Ojo on board. Linda is an expert Product designer that majors in icon design. It was a square peg in a square hole.

We came up with designs for the King, Queen and Jack cards, which were intended to be stained glass references. We had at least 50 iterations of this before agreeing on the colors, alongside the style of Joker cards. A 1-week engagement turned into almost a month after a lot of back and forth.

TheDevCards Figma workshop by Linda Ojo
TheDevCards Workshop

The final results:

9 and 10 cards: Ace and Diamond alongside Stained-Glass reference King, Queen and Jack cards
Ace, Diamond, and KQJ “Stained-Glass” cards (Figma)
Real life Playing cards close shots (shot on an iPhone)
Real life cards (shot on an iPhone)
The final website (by Richard Ekwonye)
The final website (by Richard)

The whole process took three months, cost a lot but has been very much worth it.

As I conclude this article, I am obliged to provide a personal answer to the article’s title: My answer is 4. Four people I could never have replaced.

Personally, I’ve never managed people with this extreme level of skill, and I’d like to say a big thank you in the order of those I stressed the most on this project: Adebimpe Adebowale, Linda Ojo, Great Ndidi and Ekwonye Richard.

A big thank you to everyone who gave advice and feedback, to Yewande, who implored me to write an article about it … and to potential customers, if I don’t get the chance to say it elsewhere, “Thank you.”

I wish everyone a fantastic start to the year 🎉 and don’t forget to visit thedevcards.com to run the code on the Playing Cards ♣️♦️❤️♠️

You can also purchase the cards or gift your friends here on Amazon.

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