Beatles Playing Cards | Theory11

The first time I heard the Beatles was when I found an old Sgt Pepper cassette tape in my house growing up, and wore it out over the next year or two, as my collection expanded to all their albums (mostly from Revolver forward). So I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to design this deck for Theory11, in behalf of my friends at Mattson Creative. We featured of course the Fab Four themselves, as well as multiple songs and other easter eggs. In addition to the card deck, we also created a collector box.

These can be purchased on

Client: Theory11 / Apple Corps (Beatles)
Creative Director: Ty Mattson
Design / Illustration: Russ Gray

Tuck Box

Four separate tucks were made, one for each Beatle. The colors reflect the colors of the costumes worn on the iconic Sgt Pepper album cover: Yellow/green = John Lennon; Blue = Paul McCartney; Orange = George Harrison; Pink / red = Ringo Starr. Each deck has the same cards, but with corresponding card back colors. The boxes were printed by Studio On Fire.

The Cards

Our main goal was to feature the Fab Four, and we chose to have them wearing their costumes from the iconic Sgt Pepper album cover. We also hoped to make these cards look as traditional as possible, even using the actual eyes / mouth / nose of standard, traditional playing cards when possible. By simply rotating Paul's eye slightly, it was amazing how a traditional King of Spades could be turned into Paul McCartney. And, as an interesting side-note, Sir Paul himself reviewed the card, and I'm told he liked it! However, in the end, legal concerns meant I had to redraw all the faces in the style of Heinz Edelman's Yellow Submarine characterizations of the Fab Four. That version of the Kings is shown a ways down below, toward the end of the post.

For the other face cards: our approach was to not simply reference songs (which we did), but since these are face cards, we tried to pick out songs that feature characters. But in addition, each one includes multiple references to lyrics from the songs. Mr. Kite's clock notes the time of ten to 6:00, Father McKenzie writes the words of a sermon that no-one will hear, while darning his socks. Eleanor Rigby holds her face that she keeps in a jar by the door, while picking up the rice in the church where a wedding has been.

Editor's Note: If you buy a deck, the likenesses seen directly above are what will be on the cards. For legal reasons, we were not allowed to make new likenesses of the Beatles, we learned late in the project. I then redrew the characters in the style of Heinz Edelman's artwork for Yellow Submarine (see another deck here done in conjunction with this deck, by a friend and colleague, Luke Bott). I love the Heinz Edelman versions of course, but the fun of the original versions was to take standard court card characters, and with minor modifications, tweak them to look like the Beatles. I showed the original versions here because it represents the original design intent, and it's the only place they'll see the light of day!

Collector Box

This collector box was beautifully produced by Studio On Fire, and features all four of the card deck color ways. 

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