Crafting Additional Playing Card Suits

It isn’t much of a secret that I am fascinated by the idea of playing card suits. In fact, I’ve previously written an article on the subject. During my research into alternative suits (aside from the French hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs, that is) I became so fascinated with the idea that I created my own set of four additional suits (being represented in a 104-card deck) which were revealed at the end of the aforementioned article. In the time since then, I have become less satisfied with these designs and more capable in my own design skills, which led me to attempt this project again.
The first thing I did was go back to my research, collecting again every attempt at a different set of suits that I had previously looked at. Then I reviewed as much additional information as I could (several comments on my previous post led me down interesting paths, and with the constant exponential increase in data on the internet, there were a myriad of options that had either been created or come to light since my previous search. Links to as many of these as possible will be provided at the end*). I then created a master document where I cut out all of the various suits I had found and aligned them with all the others for comparison purposes (I also found that, strangely, some designs seem to have been “lifted” from elsewhere, which surprises me, one would think there wouldn’t be money in doing such a thing). I then reviewed the reasons that people had listed for creating each of these additional suits (at least, those that weren’t regional variations from centuries past) and found James Robert Watson’s methodology to be what I would consider the most sound (and his designs, in my opinion, the most successful). I reviewed the elements of the standard French design for the features that made them a cohesive set, and their symbolism. I then attempted to create as many different possible shapes that utilized these features and could be made to symbolize something easily recognizable (and, if possible, similar to those of the regional Spanish, German, or Italian suits).
One of the things that I noted when reviewing the myriad of ways others had attempted this challenge was that the symbols were often either too complicated or attempting to signify something more complicated than the 4 shapes they were meant to harmonize with. Indeed, looking at the 4 suits they don’t have that much in common aside from the “obvious” derivation of the spades and hearts. Perhaps a part of their cohesiveness is familiarity. I don’t have many symbols paired together in my life the way card suits are, but there is something pleasing about the 4 of them arranged in the abstract, even though they range in complexity from two lines to six, and don’t use lines that behave in consistent manners. Upon studying these details, I laid out several rules for myself in constructing my additional suits:
  • A symbol must be made of either straight lines or simple curves.
  • A symbol must be horizontally symmetrical.
  • It is okay and, at times, preferable to have a symbol be derivative of another symbol.
  • All symbols must be easily differentiable at a glance without color being a factor.
  • A symbol may not exceed 7 lines (clubs, the previous highest, have 6).
  • A symbol must have characteristics such that it can be paired with at least one other suit and fit into a group of 4 suits.
  • A symbol must be passably recognizable as what it is attempting to symbolize.
  • A symbol must feel as if it fits with the others.
Admittedly, the last one is a bit subjective. However, during this run, cohesiveness in design was central to what I wanted to achieve. My previous attempt looked like everyone else’s, so I wanted to make something that was my own, that fit. I sketched a series of designs starting with my previous attempt and working in some of what I have found in my research. I determined that in order to visually fit in, the designs had to represent items that could be considered “timeless”. Modern mechanisms just wouldn’t fit in, and there was a reason things like flowers or swords had been chosen as suits in the past (though often not as stylized). Beyond those conscious decisions it is difficult to explain how an iterative process creates, so I will simply display the result, laid out in a way that I believe makes its connections to the source material apparent.

2018 – Is the Revolution Over?

This article is an excerpt from Smith’s Almanack (2018).

By: Austin Smith

In late April 1918, Vladimir Lenin said, “In the end, countries will coalesce into a great socialist federation or commonwealth — seventy-five or one hundred years.”* I don’t believe at this point that it will be a controversial statement to say that, with less than a year left, that isn’t going to happen. But was that definitely the case when Lenin said it? Was the course of Marxism and Leninism pre-ordained at that moment? It wasn’t as if Lenin was posturing; this was said in a private conversation. He wasn’t “out of his mind;” in the same conversation he correctly predicted the Kaiser wouldn’t last the year. But of course he was not a future-seer. How long this revolution would go on without him was not his to know.

Lenin, at that moment, could not have predicted how poorly the proletariat revolution would go in the other countries across Europe. In Germany, as the First World War ended, the bourgeoisie “lucked out” when the country was proclaimed a republic before the communists could assert too much influence, and the “spartacists” were violently suppressed. How could Lenin have foreseen the violence with which the “middle class” and even the workers would resist the revolution throughout Europe, with what vehemence they would speak of “communists”? The “Fascist” movements that grew as the influence of the kings waned were certainly a troubling development for the Comintern (communist international). While the actual politics of Mussolini’s Fascists, Hitler’s National Socialists, and Sima’s Iron Guard were quite different from one another, they all shared a hatred for the communist party. By the late 1930s, with General Franco having crushed the republican resistance (who were supported by the Soviets) in Spain it seemed as if the USSR would remain alone in its “capitalist encirclement.” Perhaps the revolution was already finished.

Of course, the worst was yet to come. Neither Lenin nor anyone in the 30’s (save perhaps Hitler himself) could’ve conceived of the brutality of what might be considered the death-knell for international communism, the Second World War. One might, with the benefit of hindsight, look back and think it obvious that in the duel between superpowers the relatively untouched United States would win out against a country that had just lost some 30 million people (9 million soldiers killed {2-3 million of whom were prisoners}, 11 million civilians exterminated {1.3 million of whom were Jewish}, 8 million starved, 3 million used as slaves and then killed.† And that doesn’t even count the 500,000 Tartars, 500,000 Volga Germans‡ and sums of Cossacks, Volksdeutsher, Muslims, and all others deemed untrustworthy during the German invasion who were deported by the Soviets and forced into labor camps or killed, nor those who were murdered in Stalin’s purges). Such massive losses would account for 10% of the current United States population (it was perhaps 14% of the Soviet population then), and combined with the facts that most who died were young men, and that massive amounts of equipment and farmland were also destroyed during the war, it seems a miracle that the Soviets could remain a superpower at all.

Indeed, as the war neared its close, Soviet influence extended only as far as the Red Army could take it. In Western Europe, after heavy losses of manpower and equipment, it found itself butted up against a wall of troops it could not pass through with a guarantee of success. Despite communists gaining ground in Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia, the US (relatively fresh as far war was concerned) and its allies had them caged in. In Korea and Vietnam they rattled this cage, but even though the US ceded ground it was clear that any significant advance would be checked. The fact that in Vietnam the number of communist casualties was more than double that of US and allied casualties⁑ should have been enough to give pause, and the Americans had only left, they were not defeated.

Yet, there was hope for the revolution. The Soviet Union and its rising ally China were still formidable opponents with room to consolidate and expand their influence with cooperation. But this idea, and the last possibility for a worldwide dictatorship of the proletariat, died when the actual dictators got in the way. The communist nations publicly broke with each other. Tito’s communism would be different from Stalin’s, and Mao’s different from Khrushchev’s. There would not be a unified front, and any dreams of coalescing would be put on hold. The communist sphere had reached its zenith, and it would only recede.

Still, had it really taken that long for the end to be near? Had not the spirit of communism died when it became a dictatorship? Some would argue that it wasn’t always, and didn’t always need to be, that way. The principles of communism aren’t meant to be those of dictatorship. Were Lenin (whom, we should not forget, organized the killing of thousands and said “Do you really think that we can emerge victoriously from the revolution without rabid terrorism?”) and Stalin (who ordered the murder of 500,000 and starved millions more) just flukes that could be overcome? Those many other party leaders, who eventually agreed to Lenin’s decisions, or allied with Stalin to oust Trotsky, or accepted their death sentences out of loyalty to the party, obviously thought that things would turn out better. Most only realized the blood they had waded into when it was too late. While history has shown us that it is the unfortunate place of such naïve and idealist men to be taken advantage of by the ruthless and the tyrannical.

But the real end can be traced even farther back. In 1918, two weeks before Lenin spoke of “seventy-five or one hundred years” the Red Army murdered hundreds of members of anarchist groups. Murders like this had happened before to different groups, and they would continue. The idea of a revolution that could elevate everyone’s lives had been abandoned swiftly. And now, in April 1918, Lenin was admitting that rapid communization would be difficult, and the régime would need to make concessions “for the moment” in order to keep pace with the world (concessions which, when revoked under Stalin, led to the starvation of thousands). In that moment when Lenin spoke, the revolution had already been undermined, and a struggle for power had taken its place. In that moment, as Lenin spoke of the future of communism, the revolution was already dead.

* Williams, Albert. Journey Into Revolution – Petrograd 1917-18. 1969 pg. 283

Ellman, M. Maksudov, S. Soviet Deaths in the Great Patriotic War: A Note. 1994

‡ Werth, Alexander. Russia at War: 1941-1945. 1964 pgs. 474 and 763

Encyclopedia Britannica (the official estimates of 200,000 South Vietnamese military deaths and 60,000 US military deaths compared to 1,000,000 North Vietnamese military deaths actually bring the ratio closer to three or four times as many).

⁂ Additionally consulted: Keith Gessen. How Stalin Became Stalinist. 2017. The New Yorker Magazine.

Blog 7-10-16 – July Update

Hello everyone, Austin Smith here, and it is July 10th, also known as the absolute last day one could possibly consider in the first week of July. Though I must admit I believe I did fail when I said I was going to have an update up during the first week. I did spend some extra time making sure the two posts I put up as tokens of proof that I am still going to update this site were a little more polished. The update is: I have not reached the point yet where I am in a position to fully restart my posting schedule. But I have said all of the things before about how I’ve seen Internet projects disappear, and how not getting things done snowballs. So I won’t go over them again, instead I’ll tell you about some of the things I did that are holding up the content but were still great to do. I’ll post another update by the first week of September.

The first really exciting thing that I did was go out to California and administrate a wedding for a family member. Unfortunately for me right now the photos haven’t come in, and all of the others that have me in them aren’t great (but I wasn’t who people were there to see) so I don’t have a photo from the ceremony right now. So instead here is one of me in Texas in the same outfit that looks like the Lord is shining down upon me.


I’m also still moving, and here are ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of what a literal ton of books (as in actually 2000 pounds) looks like boxed up and on the shelf.


Most recently I went to both of my local 4th of July festivities, in Alpine Texas. The first one, Fiesta del Barrio, I attended as a vendor selling some of my books. But I’m bad at taking pictures so I only got one of the parade, and one of a horned lizard. I also missed the second parade and only got one picture of it as well.


And here is a panorama someone took of me from the Reds show I was featured in in early April.


Anyway, hopefully those photos and my posts from yesterday sufficiently prove that I am alive and dedicated to these blogs. Thank you for your patience.


Blog 3-21-16 – Announcement and Update

Announcement Part:

Hello everyone. Austin Smith, writer of this Blog and other Internet things here, going to talk about something that I’ve been waiting to talk about since last September (sort of). I’m going to be part of a (art/gallery) show with several artists from my local area.


It’ll be my first show in an actual gallery with me on the flyer and stuff. I’m including links to the other artists (Tommy, Chris), and I know they will be doing some great stuff for the show that I won’t spoil here. But I can say that I’m very happy with what I’m going to have there: including a few new books that will soon also be available on my Amazon page, stickers, bookmarks, postcards, actual work that goes on the wall, and maybe some other really cool stuff.


If you can make it, I hope to see you there, but I know that it’s pretty far out of the way for most people, so I will be posting as much about it as I can, and trying to figure out how to get some of the cool things I made out to a wider audience.

Reds sticker draft 5

Blog Part:

Wow, when I made that post about being late last week I had no intention of it taking a week or more to get back up to speed, but that looks like what has happened. For this I apologize. But migraines carry with them lasting negative effects, and I’ve really only had one good, functioning day this week, and quite a bit of my work time was consumed by preparations for the show that had to be created and ordered in time to make it. Still, I wish I had been able to get more done faster, and I thank you for being patient if you were waiting for new stuff. I will catch up on everything I missed, but it might take a few days to get back to normal.


Table Topics Chit Chat 67 #133-135


  1. What kind of movie do you most enjoy?
  2. If you could own a second home where would it be?
  3. When did your family come to America and from where?

ANSWERS By: Austin Smith

  1. Action, with maybe some comedy, they can be thinky too but I like the action.
  2. Right next to my first home so I could store more stuff.
  3. My Grandmas came from Holland, before the American Revolution. My Grandfathers from Ireland in the 1830s, and my dads side is unknown, probably German sometime before the civil war.