Interview with Derek Bishop, Creator of Tom of Finland Playing Cards
How did the partnership between Kweer Cards and the Tom of Finland Foundation come about?
Kweer Cards is a gay greeting card company. We launched in June of 2018 with about 20 gay greeting cards ranging from coming out cards, gay birthdays, weddings, pride and of course a “Daddy” card. We thought the “Daddy” card would be a great card for both people who were about to have a baby — and also for guys who were dating a much younger counterpart. It was just our way being sly and witty. The “Daddy” card has a fun illustration of a biker on it, which is very much in line with the type of men that Tom of Finland drew. When it came time to promote the cards on social media, I was tagging it with hashtags like #LeatherDaddy #TomsMan and even #TomofFinland. Apparently those hashtags caught the attention of the folks at the Tom of Finland Store and Foundation. They reached out to us within a month of us launching the company, asking if we’d like to partner with them, designing Tom of Finland greeting cards. We of course said “YES!”
What was your favorite part of the deck making process?
My favorite part was having the opportunity to create something that fans of the art would treasure. Tom of Finland has a dedicated and strong fan base, so I wanted to be true to the art — but also present it in a way that had not been seen before. I started off with some very cool and elaborate designs — all of which were great — but I soon realized that the illustrations needed to be the star of the show — not any additional bells and whistles. For every card you see in the deck, there were probably 5 or 6 different versions of that card. Framing, cropping, and just playing around with the layout provided so much creative enjoyment and fulfillment on my end. And of course, how could I, as a gay designer, not be thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such important and historic art — art which has been in countless museums and stores. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Any advice for queer card creators?
There is a lot of sameness out there in terms of queer products. If you’re looking to create something that’s going to stand out, then offer up something unique to the market. As soon as we got the licensing deal with Tom of Finland, I researched what had been designed and released before — and then made sure I took our products in a different direction. Not only do you want to create something new and unique, you also need to work overtime to put your own stamp on it. Find out what people want, what isn’t out there, and then create it for them even more fabulously than they ever imagined. Don’t follow the trends, create your own!
How did you choose which illustrations to feature?
Once I realized that I could print EVERY card with its own unique Tom of Finland illustration, it got my design wheels turning. That’s over 52 playing card designs! So I needed a unique and fun way to organize them that would be both visually interesting and pay off when people actually played with the cards. I took each suite and gave it it’s own style: The HEARTS were all seaman/sailors; The SPADES were all cops/bikers; The DIAMONDS were all cowboys/western; and the CLUBS were all everyday/blue collar guys. Then I gave a each number it’s own category: All the NINES had shirtless dudes from the waist up; All SIXES focused on the boots/shoes; all the TENS had bare butts; the FOURS were all face-only illustrations; FIVES were all couples, and so on. I presented my ideas to the Tom of Finland Foundation and they loved the direction. Overall, we are all so pleased with both the design and the quality of cards that Print Ninja helped us achieve. Customers have commented on the quality quite often. So it’s been a hit on both the creative and retail side.
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