Last year, the Tourist Board of Vienna asked six well-known design studios to update the idea of the city souvenir. The winning design, a deck of playing cards by Formafantasma, was an attempt to counter the reputation of the souvenir as something tacky and only bought as an afterthought.

The cards are as edifying as they are entertaining – mixing a modern aesthetic with themes that reference Vienna’s history down to the minute details of their graphics. The set of clubs samples the weave of the straw in the Thonet chair no.14, while the ace of diamonds features Hoffmann’s iconic Kubus armchair, designed in 1910.

Nods to Vienna’s famous characters, architecture and literature appear and reappear among the deck – the king of hearts’sword is carved with the title of the essay by Adolf Loos ‘Why a man should be well-dressed’ while the designer say the texture of his vest borrows from a  Josef Hoffmann textile for the Austrian company Wiener Werkstätte. The queen of hearts is the French American-born dancer Josephine Baker, who wears the house designed for her in 1927 by Adolf Loos, that was never built. The two jokers appear as waiters of a Viennese Kaffeehaus. One wears the iconic hat of  famous coffee brand Julius Meinl, while the other carries the ‘candy dish’, one of the most iconic pieces of J & L Lobmeyr, the well-known Viennese glass manufacturer.

The deck is locally produced in Vienna by the traditional playing card makers Piatnik & Söhne.

Photos Federico Floriani