Provocative playing cards designed for Occupy Wall St

The project started small but soon ballooned as more and more illustrators got involved

"I was contacted by a member of alternative banking group Occupy Wall St, who wanted a few illustrations for a deck of informative playing cards," begins illustrator Marc Scheff, discussing ‘52 Shades of Greed’ - a huge illustration project aimed to educate people about the current US recession through a deck of cards.

Scheff was personally committed to the Occupy Wall St project

"I agreed to a handful of cards depicting some of the people and institutions responsible for causing the financial crisis," Scheff recalls. "As a freelance illustrator I don’t get many opportunities to visualise ideas that I’m personally committed to, so this project was an exciting departure. I thought I would do some face cards and combine those with a standard deck of numbered cards for a sweet little project."

But the project soon grew. Scheff’s co-art director Daniel Nyari suggested bringing in more illustrators, and expanding the concept from just information to a bigger artistic vision for what is essentially a collector’s item with custom art on every card.

The playing cards are meant to signify the gambling that has been done with global finances

Scheff continues: "We sent out an email inviting some other illustrators in our network who we trusted to just kick butt. We only had a few days to get all the art together for a fundraiser and for the printer."

Within a few days, the project snowballed into a massive collaborative undertaking involving 28 artists from around the world. The deck grew to 56 cards (52 in the deck, plus four bonus cards). "All of the illustrators came in with incredible excitement and ideas for this collaboration," says Scheff.

Scheff now wants to create a new deck, '52 Shades of Progress', that will focus on the positive

"The vision evolved into making a visually dynamic and coherent set of cards with text and illustrations that would give people a snapshot of who the players are in this casino we call the world financial system. I’m thrilled to say that it is a huge success."

This showcase was originally published in Computer Arts issue 207.