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Marked Cards

2020 Ambassador Holiday Mailer

2020, as an especially crummy, isolating year, called for some special attention to what would be the latest installment in Maker’s Mark’s annual holiday gift to its brand ambassadors. Something analog and familiar that invited group participation felt natural after a year spent by so many digitally, alien, and alone.  

What started out as a simple themed deck of cards quickly grew into a complex, illustrated celebration of the brand. Cocktail recipes, portraits of the founding family and interesting facts about Maker’s are woven into the designs for a deck that opens itself up a little more each time you play with it, even if it’s only solitaire.


Copywriter: Kent Beal

Awards: Best in Show at the 2021 AIGA Louisville 100 Show


The designs of the king, queen, and jack cards were based on the likenesses of the Samuels family—brand founders Bill Samuels Sr. and Margie Samuels, and their grandson and current CEO Rob Samuels, respectively, with Bill Jr. as the joker.

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The design of the tuck box is a fantastical take on the copper stills found at Maker's Mark distillery. As the first element of the deck created, it also dictated the strict 2 line weights used throughout the deck to help unify each design. 

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It wouldn't be enough to stamp on some logos for a themed deck and call it a day. As a special gift going to Maker's superfans, we wanted the entire piece to be imbued with the DNA of the brand, full of stories and easter eggs for the ambassadors to dig into and discover. This began with 4 added 'rule' cards created to tie each of the classic suit symbols to one of the brand's 4Ws—the four components that make Maker's Maker's: wheat, water, wood, and wax.

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The 4W motif was carried through special designs on the 4 cards, each featuring a scene from the distillery that embodied its suit's respective element: the stillhouse mashtubs for wheat, Bourbon Lake for water, the rickhouse for wood, and the dipping line for wax.

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While the backs of the cards originally matched the still design on the tuck box, by the end we opted for a pastoral distillery scene that prominently featured the stillhouse as well as the wheat and water that makes the whisky.

As a final touch, the ace card of each suit features a recipe for a classic whisky cocktail that ambassadors might enjoy as they play.


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