Suiting Up: A New Spin on Holiday Cards

Philadelphia University regularly collaborates with industry partners like Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Target and Comcast on interdisciplinary projects that give our students the opportunity to identify and solve real-world problems.  It’s a hallmark of the University’s distinctive approach to teaching called Nexus Learning – active, collaborative, connected to the real world and infused with the liberal arts.  It’s what every student who attends PhilaU can expect from their academic experience here.

Play SolitaireIn spring 2013, PhilaU Director of Admissions Greg Potts became one of these clients, commissioning the University’s graphic design students to come up with a unique, PhilaU-branded deck of playing cards.

Potts requested that the cards, which would be sent to prospective students, demonstrate Nexus Learning and showcase the talent of PhilaU students.  Frank Baseman, graphic design program director, didn’t hesitate to accept this challenge on behalf of his PUDW (Philadelphia University Design Workshop) students, and so the games – er, new partnership – began.

“Students had creative freedom to choose whichever direction they wanted to go,” Baseman said. “We made several presentations to the client throughout the semester for approvals.”

To get started, the students carefully considered their audience–the prospective PhilaU student–and the value of the PhilaU experience.  They also were careful to keep the cards functional because, otherwise, what’s the point?  Over the course of the semester, with guidance from Baseman and adjunct professor and illustration guru Mario Zucca and regular client check-ins with the PhilaU admissions team, a novel and artistic deck of cards was produced.

“We spent a large portion of the semester brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other,” said student designer Dan Dinsmore ‘13.  “Through experiences at PhilaU like this one, I’ve learned the importance of client interaction and meeting the needs of business.”

For the suit of Diamonds, Dinsmore drew portraits of famous innovators–Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin and PhilaU benefactor, inventor and entrepreneur Maurice Kanbar ’52, H’03–who reflect the University’s focus on innovation.  The boisterous and exuberant Spades were created by Rebecca Cox ’13, who was inspired by Mardi Gras and masquerade.   Giovanni Frias ‘14 brought new life to Clubs by depicting typical college experiences–from acceptance letters to the notorious “freshman 15” and graduation.  The final suit of Hearts was depicted by Krista Serianni ‘13, who drew whimsical inspiration from fairy tales.

“This project added to my experience at PhilaU, especially how to work with the needs of a client to benefit everyone,” Serianni said.  “At the end, there was nothing cooler than unwrapping the deck of cards, opening the box and playing a game.”

Working with industry partners and business clients on real-world projects is part of the reason PhilaU students are career-ready upon graduation.  It’s what gives them a competitive edge in the work place.

“Professional designers learn quickly that their work has to communicate use, meaning and value in an instant,” said Mike Leonard, academic dean of the School of Design and Engineering.  “I can think of no better example of the real-world power to communicate than this deck of cards. These graphic designers have elevated an everyday product into a must-have possession.”

These PhilaU playing cards already are a big hit with students, faculty and staff.  Now they have been used to create a one-of-a-kind game that can be played on any computer or mobile app as part of the University’s holiday greetings.  The fun is nowhere close to over with these cards, but we are already excited to see what PhilaU will make next!

Interested in purchasing your own deck? Visit the PhilaU bookstore or click here to purchase online.

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