The Bright Idea Deck – Tarot Review

Three Trump cards from the Bright Idea Deck - Passage, Shadow, and Demolition.

I’m always on the lookout for new and innovative approaches to Tarot, so when I started hearing about The Bright Idea Deck I was intrigued. The more I heard the more I liked, and eventually I got it into my hot little hands.

Interestingly, this deck makes absolutely no claim to be a Tarot deck. That’s deliberate. It is a Tarot deck, but it’s marketed as a creativity and brainstorming tool in the Self Help/Business section.

That’s kind of fitting. Like any other Tarot deck, it can be used for divination, but it’s specifically designed to jump-start creativity and foster insight, especially in corporate settings. Suggestions in the book include using them for novel plotting and character development, marketing campaigns, party and event planning, and career navigation.

I was skeptical at first, but after working with them a bit I have to admit I kind of love them. They just have to be used within their intended design.

The Deck

The “bright idea” of this deck was realized by reconsidering and then redesigning everything about a traditional Tarot deck.

I’ve got to give major props for out-of-the-box thinking. What Mark McElroy came up with is recognizably Tarot, yet utterly unique and in line with his vision.

Some of that out-of-the-box thinking?

  1. The backs of the cards are standard reversible, but the borders on the face side of the cards are color-coded. Majors are purple, and the Minors are bordered in their associated color. I didn’t realize just how helpful that would be until I started looking for specific cards, or culling out the Majors for dedicated uses. The color-coding just jumps out. This isn’t the first deck in history to use this technique, but it’s not all that common either. After using it with this deck I kind of wish it was.

    Three cards from the Bright Idea Deck are showcased here, the two "helper" cards and the reversible back image. The rest of the deck is fanned out below, and the accompanying book's spine can be seen above.

    The deck comes with 78 face cards and two “helper” cards with black borders (the back image is in the center). The one on the left shows basic suit associations and the one on the right shows the way the pip cards are streamlined.

  2. Almost all occult anything has been stripped out. There are symbols scattered throughout the art, especially astrological ones, but honestly having them in the art is kind of gilding the lily. The keyword and the art together make reading these cards dead easy even without symbolic help.

    Blue 1 (the Ace of Cups) from the Bright Idea Deck.

    Let’s take this card, Blue 1 (equivalent to Ace of Cups). The astrological signs for Scorpio and Cancer are behind his head, but we don’t need them to interpret this card. The keyword is Motivation, and that’s what this card asks. What is your motivation? Rewards or praise? Avoiding punishment? Or simply swimming around your comfort zone and not making waves?

  3. The Majors have been significantly overhauled. If you know what you’re looking at they still retain their traditional roots, but every single one of them has been renamed and approached from a less esoteric (and less off-putting for newbies) angle.

    Three Trump cards from the Bright Idea Deck - Passage, Shadow, and Demolition.

    Here we see the three cards that most often disturb people new to Tarot: Passage (Death), Shadow (The Devil), and Demolition (The Tower). I personally adore Shadow – what a cool (yet creepy) interpretation of this card!

  4. The pips have been overhauled, too, and streamlined as steps in a process. I’ve seen other decks approach the pips as stages in a story, but it’s rare to see a deck make everything as consistent between suits as this one does.

    Yellow 9 and Yellow 10 from the Bright Idea Deck.

    Here we have Yellow 9 and Yellow 10. In Yellow 9 we see that the product is finished and is ready to go. We’ve accomplished our goal. Yellow 10 shows us what happens when we refuse to let it go and move on – we obsess over minutiae while neglecting research and development for the next project.

  5. The Court cards, y’all. We need to talk about those! Ranks and hierarchies were completely ditched. They’re called Approach cards here, and each shows an approach that can be taken to a situation. This might be my very favorite aspect of the whole deck, especially for newcomers to Tarot. It makes the Court much easier to understand! Again, it’s not a unique-to-this-deck approach, but it’s utilized here to amazing effect.

    The four Approach cards of the Red suit.

    The Red Approach cards.

The cards themselves are a bit stiff out of the box, but they’re perfectly shuffleable. They feel sturdy and aren’t too slippery to work with.

The horizontal tuck box everything comes in is flimsy, though, and honestly kind of useless once the plastic’s peeled off. There’s a bigger-than-the-deck well the shrink-wrapped cards are dropped into, an empty white cardboard insert that takes up space (although not enough space to keep the cards from banging around), and the book just sits on top of everything. It’s one of the least appealing packaging jobs I’ve ever seen for this kind of set. I’d suggest acquiring a sturdier box or bag for the cards at the same time you purchase the deck because you’ll need it immediately.

The full-size softback book is fantastic, though, which makes up for the shoddy packaging. It offers ways to use Tarot I’d never considered.

Speaking of which…

Using the Deck

The deck itself is innovative. The book continues the theme. It’s hard to find truly fresh takes on Tarot these days, but this provides a whole new toolkit to play with.

The first section lays out the deck and offers some usage suggestions/exercises. I’m used to seeing some unique spreads in these kinds of books, but the Bright Idea Deck goes beyond that to offer truly unique approaches.

One of my favorites is called “What Would the Trumps Do?”. The book compares the Trump cards to 22 wise advisors, each with their own powerful perspectives and tried-and-true strategies to bring to a problem. Regardless of the issue, the book says, it can be brought to the Trumps for insight and advice.

Three cards from the Bright Idea Deck.

Three Majors from The Bright Idea Deck. Here we see this deck’s interpretation of the Magician, the Star, and Justice.

Pull out all the Major Arcana cards, put them in order, turn on a recorder, and then ask “What would Freedom (the Fool) do?” while thinking about your situation. Spend no more than 30 seconds on it and spit out the first idea or approach the card suggests. Then move on, asking “What would Capability (the Magician) do?” and consider that card. If you draw a blank keep moving. Progress this way through all of the Majors. Twenty minutes later, when you’ve finished the exercise, you’ve got 22 new approaches to your situation. Not all of them will be doable or advisable, but there should be a few that at least hint at a new direction. I certainly get some interesting insight using this technique!

After that section, each card gets 2 scant pages of explanation (with no pictures, so keep the deck close as you go through it). There are a collection of keywords, then 5 open-ended questions to encourage the reader to make their own connections with the cards, and then a brief story-type thing about each card to explain the meanings of specific artistic elements. The author states at the beginning, though, that you should feel free to ignore what doesn’t work for you. That fosters intuition from the get-go. Journaling is highly recommended with this deck!

Personally, I don’t find these to be cards for deep spiritual exploration (although I do occasionally use them for #CardaDay pulls). I also don’t like them for Tarot-based spellwork or altar meditations. If you prioritize those uses I’d suggest looking elsewhere. However, the Bright Idea Deck shines for more mundane introspection and really does encourage brainstorming. I also find the emphasis on process to be incredibly helpful – this is the deck I turn to for project kick-starts. The removal of traditional Tarot imagery makes them palatable for those who shy away from excessive “woo-woo stuff”, but it can also limit more esoteric interpretations.

Many of the qualities that make these cards fresh and unique also make them especially suited for Tarot beginners. If this deck appeals then, by all means, pick it up! You’ll have to order it because it’s out of print, but there are lots available online. However, please do realize that this is not a standard deck. If you plan to start here and eventually move on to other decks, know that the transition might be more jarring than if you’d started with something a little more traditional. That’s by no means stated to dissuade you, but it is something to keep in mind.

On a totally personal note, there are a few blonde guys in suits, like in the Capability card, that remind me entirely too much of Melon Mussolini. I find that to be hella distracting when I read. Now that this review is done I plan to go through the deck with a Sharpie and change the blondes into brunettes. It’s my deck. I can do that.

Available here for about $15.

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6 thoughts on “The Bright Idea Deck – Tarot Review

  1. Intriguing. I may need to pick this one up at some point.

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