The Women of Science Tarot Deck is a multi-year, multi-edition publishing project started in 2018. I led the graphic design, manufacturing, and fulfillment of a 78-card deck of tarot cards with an accompanying 96-page bound guidebook. The deck was illustrated by Matteo Farinella and edited by Nadja Oertelt, with scientists from the Massive Science community contributing much of the writing.
Players use the cards in the deck to play storytelling games, informed by the important scientific concepts and under-recognized women scientists depicted on the cards. The guidebook provides in-depth explanations for each card, its possible meanings, and biographies for the 56 women we feature. The deck and guidebook are packaged and sold together in an attractive box for safe-keeping.
The first edition was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2018. 308 backers pledged $19,063, far exceeding our fundraising goal. By late 2019, we were shipping finished decks to backers and selling the remainder through shop.massivesci.com.
In leading the design of the project, I established the visual language of color and typography, leaning on the existing Massive Science brand standards. I created standard layouts and templates in Adobe InDesign for the cards and the guidebook. Using test prints and production proofs, I fine tuned the designs and the packaging until it was ready to manufacture.
After manufacturing, I coordinated the overseas shipping of 500 units from China to our storage site in the US. The most challenging part of the entire project was figuring out shipping and fulfillment to backers once we had the project in hand. Ultimately, we cobbled together a process using off-the-shelf software, Stamps.com, and a label printer. In retrospect, I should have found a 3PL service who could help us with this sooner in the process—we only found the right fulfillment partner after all backer decks had been shipped out.
The second run of the deck was produced in partnership with the MIT Press and distributed through their partnership with Penguin Random House. I needed to find a new manufacturing partner to print a run 10x what we made for the Kickstarter, which was made more difficult by navigating COVID-related shipping and manufacturing delays. But we were able to get the deck stocked in major and independent booksellers for the 2020 holiday and, since then, we’ve fulfilled a second printing of our second edition. This means you can find the Women of Science Tarot Deck in stores (and in the Massive Science Gift Shop) today!
Accomplishing this project required jumping into the deep end of print publishing, card game manufacturing, and international manufacturing/shipping. The project required careful budgeting in order to ensure we maintained safe margins and fallback funds, cautious design for the creation of a physical product at scale, and the on-the-fly creation of an ecommerce warehousing and fulfillment solution.
This is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on. I earned invaluable experience in creating a physical product and deepened my appreciation for the challenges of shipping and fulfilling thousands of things at once. Looking forward, this project continues to pay dividends as we print additional runs and each run is easier than the last. And, as you might imagine, I’m absolutely elated whenever I encounter a copy out in the while while browsing a bookstore.