An Entrepreneur With All Hands on Deck

Whether you're playing poker or doing card tricks, there's a lesson in Ben Barrett-Forrest's card decks.

What if you could learn about cannabis or typography while playing a game of rummy? And I mean real, coffee-table rummy — not the online version.

Victoria entrepreneur Ben Barrett-Forrest creates playing-card decks that do just that. Each of his decks is illustrated with custom suits to match the deck’s topic, and each card conveys a simply stated, well-researched fact.

His latest, the Weed Deck, covers the more critical aspects of cannabis. “It’s not endorsing smoking weed, it’s not demonizing it,” he says. “It’s just presenting useful, scientifically backed facts about cannabis and its effects.”

Previous decks include the Design Deck, a carefully curated history of graphic design, and the Font Deck, a detailed look at the evolution of typography.

The Design Deck launched after Barrett-Forrest was encouraged by a professor to start a Kickstarter account to raise funds to get the deck printed and distributed professionally. He raised $26,615 over his $600 goal, allowing him to have the cards printed by the United States Playing Card Company, producers of the world’s most recognizable playing cards (think Bicycle).

“There seems to be an amazing appetite for graphic design and typographical information,” says Barrett-Forrest, a former Globe and Mail art director. “It’s just so hot on the Internet right now. I think people realize graphic design is part of everything — it’s a useful skill.”

Barret-Forrest followed the Design Deck’s success with the Font Deck in 2017. Then, inspired by months of headlines and contradictory information around cannabis, he created the Weed Deck.

Illustrated by Celia Krampien, the deck covers everything from chemistry to mental effects to strains, edibles and oils, and involved hundreds of hours spent researching academic and scientific papers about cannabis.

“There’s something about having 52 cards with fewer than five sentences on each card about just the important topics,” says Barrett-Forrest, “and the promise that everything you read on each card is relevant and important.”

With his Design Deck and Font Deck selling in 90 countries, and the Weed Deck just released, one has to wonder what Barrett-Forrest will think of next. But if he knows, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest.

This article is from the December/January 2019 issue of Douglas.