Ever tried selling a literal box of cow poop to someone? No? Well, the staff at Cards Against Humanity did for Black Friday, and they had 30,000 buyers. They also made over $70,000 by selling — wait for it — nothing. People actually paid $5 to get absolutely nothing (Cards donated this money to charity; read more on that here). If I could get rich quick by selling nothing, I’d certainly go for it, wouldn’t you? But who in the world comes up with this kind of stuff? The answer is simple: the Black Friday haters at Cards Against Humanity; specifically, Amy Nicole Schwartz and her fellow collaborators at the company.
Almost everyone now (at least in the younger, college age generation, although the phenomenal card game is spreading to other age groups as well) has heard of the shockingly offensive, yet hilarious card game. Cards Against Humanity is basically an adult version of the children’s card game Apples to Apples. Just look at their slogan: “A party game for horrible people.” Sounds about right. With cards that range from “Edible underpants” to “Picking up girls at the abortion clinic,” Cards never fails to surprise and shock on every round played.
Suzanne Glover (a professor at Champlain College) had the honor of hosting Cards Design Director Schwartz for an evening to speak to the students of the graphic design major, and anyone else who wanted to attend. Amy is a quirky, talented twenty-something with an impeccable sense of humor who had her audience in stitches after telling them her stories. She has an extensive design background (including working for Gravitytank, a “design-led innovation consultancy,” and Threshold Literary & Arts Magazine) and was willing to share her knowledge with the Champlain community.
“I hate giving advice,” Amy began her talk. “I’m going to give you my strong opinions instead.” From there she disclosed her background and design insights to those in the room. Her opinions consisted of several practical points for young designers like “people are your most valuable resource” (AKA network like hell), “the best inspiration comes from outside the graphic design world” (AKA get out into some sunlight and interact with actual, real people), and “the thesis is the work.”
Wait. What? What does that mean? Simply said: the ideas are what actually drives the final product. Stay on course with your ideas to make a project cohesive.
Using her own experience as an example, Amy told of the company’s Black Friday ventures and other hilarious marketing techniques they’ve used. Cards is a whacky company with an *ahem* peculiar sense of humor. This means their marketing is, well, whacky with a peculiar sense of humor.
Amy told her listeners that many of her coworkers had a history in improv, which would explain a lot. Coming up with offensive (but not entirely stupid) words and phrases for Cards can be more difficult than you think.
“We decided to come out with ideas for a Jew pack we were releasing in the spirit of Hanukkah and needed ideas for the cards,” Amy said. “So myself and a coworker went and sat in a Jewish coffee shop for a morning until we had come up with the perfect phrases.” [Fun fact: all the Cards Against Humanity writers are indeed, Jewish, according to the Cards Against Humanity website.]
Among their other expansion packs, Cards has released a “Vote for Hillary” and a “Vote for Trump” pack. They even came out with a “Post-Trump Box” which includes 25 cards and a Donald Trump Bug-Out Bag (complete with food rations and a gas mask) should a post-election apocalypse break out. You can only imagine what those cards say. Amy told her audience that they typically come up with ideas by having their team hang out at someone’s house for hours. Eventually, they’ll have accumulated a small collection of lines to choose from for their upcoming expansion pack.
“I’m not going to tell you the classic
‘drop everything and follow your dreams’ bullshit.”
Moral of the story: Not everyone can make a living off selling cow poop.
Okay, maybe that’s not the moral. But have you ever even considered working at a company like Cards Against Humanity? A company that makes games, or sells ridiculous stuff? There are opportunities galore out there (for writers and designers alike) to pursue, and if you find your niche you can have a blast while doing it.
“I’m not going to tell you the classic ‘drop everything and follow your dreams’ bullshit,” she said. “I’m going to tell you what worked for me.”
Real moral of the story: Everyone is different and as one of Schwartz’s strong opinions goes, “You know what is right for you.”
There you have it. Now go get out into the actual world, meet real people, and do what is best for you.