Data, Design, and Playing Cards

Posted by Lain on May 26, 2015

MailChimp is really good at just one thing: we combine vast amounts of data with empathetic design to make useful products. It’s kind of our only trick, but it’s a helpful one.

Our job on the marketing team is to demonstrate that one trick to new audiences around the world, either through the product itself or the brand that represents our company. The challenge is to do it in a way that’s true to our core values and that’s inclusive of the folks who’ve joined us over the past 14 years.

Our best work should be global yet specific, fresh yet familiar, strong yet humble.

That’s not often easy. So we were thrilled when our friends at Fuzzco came to us with a great idea: MailChimp playing cards.


Universal design and emotional data
Playing cards are universal, and people of all ages and skill levels can play with them. Each deck of 52 contains multitudes of data, but games are easy to learn—and create!—with even just a little bit of specific literacy. Playing a new game can be exciting, but an old one is often just as good.

Cards contain important emotional data, too. For example, each time I learn a new card game, a memory from childhood inevitably arises. My grandfather leaning forward in his chair to lay his cards on the ottoman, for instance, while I sit on the floor getting schooled in Go Fish. He never let me win! Sure, we played together, but it seemed like he was playing a different game altogether.

We couldn’t resist making our own cards, especially once Fuzzco introduced us to Theory11—a magic company that designs, manufactures, and sells the best playing cards in the world.


A few months later and Theory11 had made two colorways of Fuzzco’s beautiful deck design. They’ve since resonated with a variety of audiences, whether it’s at a cutting edge web design conference in Barcelona, a sold-out run of performances celebrating the art of letter writing in London, a video game jam for female developers in New York, or an Italian card reviewing channel on YouTube.

These cards represent what MailChimp and our marketing team does best: a simple, useful gift made from immense amounts of data and empathetic design.

The cards were so much fun that we wanted to share them with a broader audience. Theory11 has a popular e-commerce site featuring their own cards, plus a terrific habit of distributing proceeds to effective nonprofit organizations. We asked them to do the same with our cards. But first, we needed to identify just the right nonprofit.



Community in conflict and play

We chose to help out with an organization in our own community: The Fugees Family.

Fugees Family began 10 years ago just outside of Atlanta. The organization’s original mission was to offer child survivors of war free access to organized soccer. It’s since grown from a ragtag, controversial sports team into one of the handful of schools in the U.S. dedicated to refugee education.

Most students arrive not speaking much English. Although they hail from different countries around the globe, each student must learn our universal language and specific kind of literacy to thrive here in their adopted home.

In a traditional public school setting, children survivors of war have often been neglected. Fugees Family, however, empowers their students through the beautiful game and a generous, rigorous learning environment. After a few years of accreditation they’re still just getting started, but are already an inspiration for other organizations. Their attitude is playful, but their business is serious. We can relate.

The Fugees effectively create change in our community through a specific kind of literacy and empathetic design. We’re honored to help support their mission, and we were delighted to find a harmonious way to do it through these handsome decks of cards.


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