Who is Jody Eklund? Jody Eklund is the man behind Black Ink Playing Cards, a creator of more than half a dozen successful playing card projects on Kickstarter, and a popular designer with a strong following of fans. The market for custom playing cards often feels saturated, so to be successful you have to have something that sets you apart. But Jody Eklund has that special "something", because what makes his decks of playing cards unique are two things, and the combination of these two elements has created a real demand for Jody's decks and contributed to the ongoing success of his projects: Firstly, historical interest. Jody shares some kind of historical story or historical personages via the illustrations and information in each deck of playing cards. In fact, for many of his projects, he even creates a companion booklet that tells a small story about each of the people featured as characters in the deck! Secondly, stylish design. Jody combines his historical emphasis with a unique style that reflects a real eye for clean artistic design, and an attractive look. Even though he primarily does everything digitally, his work looks like it was done with pen and ink - hence the name "Black Ink Playing Cards" which he uses as his deck publishing brand. Jody's venture into custom playing cards began shortly after he returned to his wife's home town of Aurora, Colorado, in 2013. His Kickstarter project for a Golden Spike deck in mid 2014 proved to be a big success, and was followed by further projects in the years that followed: Innovation, Devastation, Inception, Titans, Iron Horse, and Top Aces of WWI. This might sound like a catalogue of movie titles, but in fact it reflects a real historical interest, because in these different projects Jody has captured some of the most important men and women in history, especially inventors and creators. His latest project (his tenth!) is entitled "Top Aces of WWII", and is a sequel to his popular "Top Aces of WWI" project. Jody was kind enough to answer some questions about playing cards from his perspective as a designer. So let's head straight to our interview with Jody Eklund, in which he shares his insights and observations about creating playing cards and more! The Interview For those who don't know anything about you, what can you tell us about yourself and your background? What do you do for a day job and/or what are your other interests? I guess you can say it all started when my grandfather taught me how to draw cartoons and his crop-duster airplane as a kid. The desire to put down onto paper what I saw in reality or in my mind lasted throughout my childhood. I studied animation briefly at Columbia College in Chicago, then after a stint in the military, I finished my bachelors of fine arts degree from Southern Illinois University. After college, I worked for a product development company designing retail gift products, marketing pieces, retail products and webpages, but didn’t really get the chance to dive into what I love - illustration - until I ran point on a series of children’s books. After working for other people for 14 years I decided to start my own design business in October of 2013. I moved my wife and kids to Colorado and becoming a freelance illustrator and designer became my opportunity to be more selective in the type of work I would choose. When I was going through my military training 20 years prior, I told myself I would live in Colorado some day. The funny thing is, I married the woman that only lived a couple miles from where I was stationed back in 1993 and now only live a few miles from where I said those words 20 some years ago. I currently work as a Freelance Graphic Designer and design playing cards as a segment of my overall business. I enjoy the 360 days of Colorado sunshine, hiking in the amazing Rocky Mountains and spending as much time with my family on great excursions. When did you start designing playing cards, and what got you started? I started designing playing cards in 2014 when a friend of mine suggested I check out creating a project on Kickstarter. My first project "The Hipsters" failed on Kickstarter, but created a passion for making historical, intricate and custom playing cards. How would you see yourself as a designer today, compared to when you started? I see myself as I always have, blessed! Blessed to have been given a chance to do what I love, which is to bring life to stories through playing cards. I have learned a lot about the process of creating playing cards, from concepting, to designing and illustrating 16 illustrations for a deck, to delivering on a promise that I made to a bunch of playing card collectors. What are some of the things you especially enjoy about designing playing cards? I love that every project brings new experiences and just builds from my previous projects. I like to look back and see how much my skills have changed. I also like hearing from those who have been my most loyal supporters. How do you come up with an idea for a deck design? Every once in a while I’ll do a brainstorming session and just write down as many ideas I can think of. I keep a running list of future projects and add to it whenever I think or see something I would like to do in the future. Ideas can come from anywhere, from surfing the internet, to something my daughter says to me at dinner or a simple discussion with a good friend. How many decks have you designed so far, and which of these have been your most popular and successful designs? I have done 9 successful Kickstarter campaigns. I am hoping to add to that number here in the next few weeks with my 10 project called, "Top Aces of WWII". Top Aces of WWII is the sequel to Top Aces of WWI. My most funded project was The Iron Horse, which was the first time I created a fictional story as my theme. I would say that my most successful project was my last project "Devastation Silver". Devastation Silver was a Kickstarter Exclusive based on the original Devastation deck. The overall project, to me, was the smoothest and simplest project I have done. Which deck (or decks) in your portfolio of created designs is your favourite, and why? This is a hard one. I like all my decks, but if I were to pick, I would say the "Titans Signature Deck." It is such a beautiful design and I love the theme of "Titans of Industry".