Use poker to control your life


Playing cards have been used for entertainment, guidance, and connection for centuries, and despite the increasing shift to digital technology and environments, they remain popular.

Many Pratt University students and faculty have recently taken advantage of the qualities that make playing cards so popular—their ease of use, clever design, and community-building potential—to create their own decks, either as standalone games or Research projects as part of a larger game.

Ying Fu, M.A. Packaging, Identity, and Systems Design ’24, developed tarot decks as part of her thesis project to explore mental health through different prompts about love, friendship, situations, work, and obstacles.

Tarot Card Kit by Ying Fu, MS Packaging, Identities and Systems Design '24
Tarot Card Kit by Ying Fu, MS Packaging, Identities and Systems Design '24

Saphrinna Phin, BFA Communications Design ’24, designed the cards for a project called “Khmer Joy,” which aims to bring greater well-being to Cambodian Americans. Each card has a prompt based on one of several categories, such as “Mindful Observation Meditation,” “Affirmations,” and “Walking Meditation.”

“For generations, Cambodian communities have relied on healing practices such as meditation, art, water blessings, and chanting to promote health and strengthen community bonds,” Phin explains in her thesis project description. “Recognizing and preserving these ancestral traditions is critical as they help reconnect communities, promote healing and enhance existing cultural strengths.”

Metta Bhavana Mindfulness, Meditation, and Affirmation Cards by Saphrinna Phin, BFA Communications Design '24
Metta Bhavana Mindfulness, Meditation, and Affirmation Cards by Saphrinna Phin, BFA Communications Design '24

Students also came up with other creative uses for the card decks. Catherine Nina, BFA Communications Design '24, created a colorful platform that showcases the complexity of Indonesia through illustrations of everyday objects, landmarks, flora and fauna, and tropical fruits.

“My favorite part of this project is printing my designs and displaying them at the 2024 Pratt,” Nina wrote in her thesis project description. “This has been an incredible experience and a great way to end my college journey. I am extremely proud to represent my country through my work and share my culture and identity with others.

Batik Playing Cards by Catherine Nina, BFA Communications Design '24
Batik Playing Cards by Catherine Nina, BFA Communications Design '24

Chelsea Li, Communications Design '24, redesigned the classic board game Monopoly with a deck and board inspired by New York's Chinatown. The board itself features local businesses, transportation options, and parks, and the cards use cultural references to drive the game forward.

Chinatown Game by Chelsea Li, MFA Communications Design '24
Chinatown Game by Chelsea Li, MFA Communications Design '24

Card decks also appear in contexts other than thesis projects.

School of Information Assistant Professor Sai Shruthi Chivukula and Shikha Mehta, MS Information Experience Design ’25, created a deck of cards to “expose designers’ unconscious manipulative and persuasive roles in the generative design process” and guide users toward more productive and Empowering role.

The “Anti-Hero” deck on display at the 2024 Research Open House includes cards depicting archetypal characters that hinder or undermine the design process, such as “Trap Setters,” “Pretenders” and “Empathy Manipulators.” If the cards are turned over, empowering archetypes such as the Outspoken, the Liberator, and the Revealer are revealed.

“Anti-Heroes,” by Sai Shruthi Chivukula, Assistant Professor, School of Information, and Shikha Mehta, MS Information Experience Design '25

Erica Weidner, MSLIS '24, Gabriella Evergreen, MSLIS '24, Meina Naeymirad, MSLIS '23, and Claudia Berger, MSLIS '21, and School of Information Visiting Assistant Professor, won the Best Group Project Award at InfoShow24 for their project “I Play Called Her and She Answered Me: An Oracle Interpretation of Technospiritual Feminism,” which includes a deck of Oracle cards.

“This deck was created to spark conversations and ideas based on the nine archetypes, symbols, and dualities in order to provide women with important lessons on gender, spirituality, and technology, as a simulation course for AI training, and as a teaching tool for communication cultural history and knowledge,” they wrote in the project description.

A Feminist Oracle of Technological Spirituality is written by Erica Weidner, MSLIS '24, Gabriella Evergreen, MSLIS '24, Meina Naeymirad, MSLIS '23, and Claudia Berger, MSLIS '21, and visiting assistant professor in the School of Information
A Feminist Oracle of Technological Spirituality is written by Erica Weidner, MSLIS '24, Gabriella Evergreen, MSLIS '24, Meina Naeymirad, MSLIS '23, and Claudia Berger, MSLIS '21, and visiting assistant professor in the School of Information

At the 2023 HASTAC Critical Enactment and Social Justice Conference at Pratt’s Brooklyn campus, attendees received multispecies design cards designed by School of Information Assistant Professor Nancy Smith and Abby Hurst, MSIXD ’23. The cards feature illustrations of plants and non-human animals as well as words like “prosperity,” “future” and “materiality” designed to inspire creative thinking.

Multispecies design card by Nancy Smith, assistant professor in the School of Information Science, and Abby Hurst, MSIXD '23 (Photo by Ted Ngai)
Multispecies design card by Nancy Smith, assistant professor in the School of Information Science, and Abby Hurst, MSIXD '23 (Photo by Ted Ngai)

These projects inject new ideas and possibilities into traditional card design, cultivating community and inspiring creativity in the process. As these decks find new audiences, they invite us to gather, play, and explore—a powerful reminder that in an increasingly digital world, the simple pleasure of drawing cards can still bring people together.



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