Deck Name: Frames
Creator(s): Melanie Schleeter McCalmont, Illustrated by David Hallangen
Publisher & Year: self-published, 2019
Availability: http://insight-frames.com

“Intuition is a thin layer of data below the surface of your skin and consciousness.”

I blinked when I first saw it.  In a time when the card packaging is getting more and more elaborate, I swung in and out of surprised delight.  It isn’t flashy.

The two-piece box is has a matte one-sided print, leaving the inside raw and very clear what this set is about.  The sturdy cards glide and have a standard playing card hand feel at 4 ¾” H x 2 ¾” W. Instead of a LWB, Frames comes with a User Guide, coil-ring bound in simple presentation style, but includes full color replicas of each card and further explanations inside.  Let’s hear it for get right to it reference material that lays flat! It also contains an Example Question section in the back with different than expected queries to broaden the way you approach the deck.

It’s a direct statement about who and what these cards are: simple, functional, and utterly usable.  

To set the stage, here’s the first instructive paragraph:  “Frames is a deck for insight. Each card contains a visual story, beautifully illustrated with science and technology ideas.  When you look at a frame of four random cards, your brain naturally works to unlock your inner data for creative problem-solving and personal insight.”

If you ever feel disjointed trying to reconcile your cartomancy and your modern scientific leanings, give this deck a look.  It’s purpose is to mine your “inner data” for new connections made from a Frame of 4 random cards: science, not mysticism. Personally, I’ve noticed the two tend to run into each other if you dig deep enough so you’ll see no cognitive dissonance from this mystic.

Melanie Schleeter McCalmont is a professional with Master Degrees in Geography and Science Communication.  She teamed up with UK artist, David Hallanger to create Frames, a 54 card insight deck.

The creator makes this deck accessible to those new to using cards for creative problem-solving by including 2 Pattern Cards for the Frames layout, 6 Keyword Cards for ease of reference, and a quick start card that makes it easy to go straight from package to use with little pre-game research.

Instead of suits, the remaining 45 working cards are divided into 9 Archetypes (reminiscent of Major Arcana) and 36 Idea card (more down to earth like the minors).

Rather than antiquated or mystical names, Schleeter McCalmont gives cards direct names like Architect, Guide, and Hacker.  Your regular waking consciousness can easily riff about what these mean.

Each card falls into one of 3 Force categories:  Physical, Intellectual, and Spiritual.

The Physical force have backgrounds depicting earth elements.  I love the User Guide description: “…what you feel inside a storm or from a mountaintop,  during birth or death, or in a handshake or a hug.” You can look to Operating System, Sensor, and Coordinates for Physical forces.

Spiritual is not speaking to organized religion but uses space and sky to address “universal impulses of love, ethical behavior, compassion, and your purpose in life.”  Cards like Code and Upgrade are classified as Spiritual.

Intellectual showcases things built with human brain power, social organizations, structures, and writing.  It may also showcase Physical or Spiritual background elements as it bridges the two. Governance and Time fall into this category.

This is the only element of the deck system that I personally find the division between them a bit too fluid to guess through intuition alone.  Depending on the nature of the question, consulting the User Guide for clarification may or may not be required for clarity.

Overall, I find it all quite refreshing and a solid offering for those not looking for fantasy.  The translation is from modern metaphor to your modern life. Easy.

The visuals are layered and playful.  On first glance the squiggly line cartoon figure overlay jarred with the lush digital backgrounds.  The childlike figures and details in Map, Query, and Augmented Reality made me smile.

I was a little unsure if I was the only one about to laugh in a quiet scene in a play.  I looked around wondering No? Y’all didn’t think that was funny?

I quirked a bigger smile at Bug and Exit.  Once I saw Patch, I knew the truth. I mean, come on.  Throwing up an umbrella to keep the glacier from melting?  Using paper towels on flooded skyscrapers? That’s a certain kind of funny.

Then there is a section of cards that remind me of a primitive style, like a cave painting: The Hacker, Framework, and Pixel.

If you are familiar with tarot, Archetype cards like The Guide and The Traveler give pretty clear nods to the Fool and The Hermit, (with a hint of the Hierophant) raised up on a dais showing the way.

And then there are other moods:  Logic coming straight out of the Matrix, cosmic Noise, and of course, The Messenger, a stunning full color version of the image that also appears on the card backs.

Overall, I find this deck a crisp change of speed in a gilded, over-sized card space.  It has a place in my collection as a no nonsense, straight talking deck I’m not afraid to actually use.  Frames can be a solid place of insight to help navigate the ups and downs day to day life.

The best place to learn more is https://insight-frames.com for info, videos, & to get your copy.

Melanie Schleeter McCalmont is on Instagram at @frames148995
Twitter @frames4insight
David Hallanger’s work can be found HERE