Learning cards and game

Why the VLCards

We note two things:

  1. Images (moving and still) are an increasingly important language, yet most people lack the grammar to consciously decrypt and construct it.
  2. A vast number of people have access to creative tools for photo/video editing and platforms for publishing like YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. Which suggests that nowadays everybody is a possible creator.

The Visual Language Cards  (VLCards to shorten it a bit) are helping you to master the grammar – the narrative tricks – of visual communication. In addition to numerous books and web-sites on visual design we developed the VLCards to transform the visual grammar into an active playful learning experience. The cards were developed as part of a research project on play and games in education (Master of education in Arts, HKU.  2016).
The VLCards are both a playful  learning tool and a perfect design tool. Using the cards tends to stimulate and guide one’s creativity without fear of getting stuck in conceptual obstacle-thinking. For experienced designers the VLCards function as a handy design toolbox while designing and when talking with clients.

The deck consists of four categories; composition forms; laws of gestalt; visual principles; and visual characteristics. For the game a fifth category with player-roles was added. On our blog we go in depth on the different categories and cards.
Read more about the cards-descriptions (not yet published . .but coming)

The VLC cards

Become the best ranked artist by making your magnum opus. You create your work with the help of four random cards in an amazingly short time-frame. You’ll be operating as a super-famous-serious expert with the goal of creating the exhibition’s masterpiece.  Validate (compliment)  or debunk (steal)  cards of others and vice versa, have the other groups authenticate or argue your cards, in order to get the best ranking.

Each team is given a mission card that contains the Expert Role you are operating from and four cards that contain descriptions of visual elements. Use as many of the cards as you possibly can in your creation and use any technique (draw, photography, paint, collage…).

Watch out! One of the six expert-cards has a contrasting objective: The Disastrous Amateurs’ mission is to make sure that no one will guess their Cards right. They will win the game if they end up last in ranking.

Amateurs beware! Your role is a special one: you must make sure that none of the other experts recognises you (because that will give you points and thus exposure). Therefore all the arguments you give are invalid and your goal is that the judging group will not agree with you.

The game consists of:

4 Gallery boards; 4 Gallery  standards; 4 sets of 10 tokens;1 hour-glass; and the VLCards (06 Mission Cards (who); 08 Gestalt Cards; 09 Image Principle Cards; 10 Composition Cards; 12 Characteristics Cards).

How to play

Number of players: 3 – 8.
In order to play you need at least 3 teams. Ideally the game is played by 3 or 4 teams, each team being 2 players. You can also play with 3 or 4 single players.

Round1, the Commission

Make teams (one or two persons).

Cards are shuffled.
Each team gets 5 cards randomly; 1 Composition card; 1 Principle card; 1 Characteristic Card; 1 Gestalt Card  and 1 mission card. The mission card is secret.

Each team has 20 minutes to create an artwork by trying to implement as many of the cards as possible. And as clear as possible. Don’t worry if one (or some) turn out to be impossible; later, you may place them upside down on the gallery board.

Before the 20 minutes are over, bring (or print) your group’s artwork and put it on the Exhibition Board. Then place your implemented cards straight open the board. The cards you didn’t use are placed upside down (open). The mission card is turned on the backside (closed), so the others can NOT see who you are.

The team that finishes first with creating and printing is the first to play on round 2.

Round2, the gallery

this is the round in which creating is over and appreciating and convincing others starts


Use the tokens and the hourglass. Each team gets the turn to act as the reviewing team.

As the reviewing team you have one minute for validating or debunking cards of another team by giving a clear argument per card. All other players immediately acts as the jury: thumbs up if the argument is valid, thumbs down if you think it’s false. If the majority  agrees with the argument you may leave your token and earn points. Try to argument on as many cards as possible within your minute.


  • A Validated – straight up or upside down – card gets your token: the top left value of the card is for the creating team, the top-right value is for the argumenting team.
  • A debunked card is turned on the backside (closed)  and can’t be played anymore:  the reviewing team places their token and receives the value on the top right.

! Not Reasoning: If a group is not giving an argument and instead just says “ This is XX or this is not XX” without saying WHY, and the judging group agrees, then the group that owns the work may object with “No reasoning!” and the card stays with them.

! Not agreeing: When half or more of the other players consider your argument to be valid you receive the points on the card..

! Cards with a token on them are locked and can’t be played anymore.

Mind you: The disastrous Amateurs. This team has to play as if they were professionals, but actually, everything they say is just not right. They use fallacies for explaining the cards.



After your second minute passed, you may place one or multiple tokens on the mission squares of the board, to guess which experts created  the artwork (You might want to save some tokens for Round 3).



The extra cards are shuffled and every team randomly gets the same number of cards.

Now each team has another minute to try to place the new cards on any of the art-works (including your own)  with help of a valid argument.  If you find a connection between an image and a card, place it straight up on that board with a token. If you can’t find any connection you can still place the cards (upside down) on the boards; put your token and explain why the image does not contain that element. Good or bad reasoning will be judged by the jury (same as step 1)..

Round3, the Finnisage

this is the last round in which players guess the roles and mission of other teams


When all teams have finished their second minute of argumenting they can put their remaining tokens on one of the Roles on the boards (of other teams) to guess who the authors of that work were.

If you guess right both you and the authors receive the points..


Each team turns the mission card face up, to show which expert role they played.



Now points can be counted following the values of the cards to see who is the winner.

The card’s value on the TOP-LEFT side  in the “Exhibition Row” is for the creating team.

The value on the TOP-RIGHT side in both the  “Exhibition Row” & the “Finisage Row”  go to the team who placed a token on the card.

The Mission cards have a value of 4. Each correctly placed token equals 4 points. You may place multiple tokens at a mission square on the game board.

Students during our playtests remarked:

“Fun! it was an enthusiastic competitive way to work”,

“I found it a better way to learn by playing than just learning from a book or presentation”.

“it was fun to force ourselves making quick works based on certain rules”