Animated Collectible Cards


A PA Day event was organized for the spring of 2015 that explained tricks and stunts that participants could perform to fool their friends. During this program, several pages of optical illusions were distributed. These images had been found online and are available on a YouTube page that describes the principle that makes the effect possible. During a subsequent meeting with other branch librarians, a discussion ensued about ways to entice children to return throughout the summer because the libraries no longer offer prizes as an incentive. Following this meeting, I realized that the optical illusions could be reformatted for mass distribution as collectible playing cards. This was ideally suited to the summer reading club theme of PLAY. A different card would be available each week to provide motivation to keep visiting the library.


Every summer, public libraries across the country provide reading programs to keep children stimulated and engaged. Despite these efforts, some participants who enroll will stop returning as the weeks progress. This gradual decline in attendance affects small and large libraries alike. If children don't go to the library, they don't have access to the books they need to keep reading. Today's youth are exposed to an unprecedented amount of media that can occupy their time and attention. Librarians must now compete with options that can stream directly into the home and must develop innovative initiatives to remind children of this vital community centre. Librarians cannot assume that parents will bring or continue to bring their child to the library. But children who are regular library users are more likely to continue as adults.


Unlike static sport cards, the collectible cards offered by the Tillsonburg Public Library contain an optical illusion. When a grid is placed on top of the card and moved back and forth the image appears to animate. A design was created then duplicated several times but changed slightly each time. Portions of each image are erased corresponding to the grid. When the grid is placed on top, it reveals only one section. Moved again, it reveals the next. In this way, only one section is seen at a time. Moved left and right, the grid causes the image to appear to animate.


Eight images were chosen from the original set that would have broad appeal. They were combined into a Photoshop document and scaled to match the dimensions of a typical playing card. For the illusion to work, the grid must match the cards exactly and the original grid design was similarly resized. To provide promotional content on the reverse side, the logos for the TD Summer Reading Club and Oxford County Library were added. By matching the position on both sides of the page, when the cards were cut they would be centred and proportional. There was little cost involved. Transparencies and card stock were used from the library's existing supplies. The responsibility for printing and cutting was shared between the Tillsonburg branch and Head Office.


When a child first registered for the summer reading program, they were given a bag of TD Summer Reading Club supplies. These included the notebook, fortune teller and web access code. At this time, they were also given a grid and their first card. The effect was demonstrated and they were told that each week they returned to report a new card would be available. They were also provided with a small envelope to hold their cards. An effort was made to select cards that were appropriate for each week. For example, one card features an image of Superman flying through the clouds and this was made available during superhero week.

Animated Card Examples

Red Reveal

Following the success of my animated collectible card project, I wanted to create a similar incentive for the next summer's reading club.

I enjoy the mystery and surprise of secret decoder messages. An image is hidden and only becomes visible when special glasses are worn. This has particular appeal for children. So often they are told what to know and think. It gives them the sense of having special knowledge that is denied to anyone that doesn't have the glasses. They may even have to tell and adult what it says and this confers a sense of authority.

The technique is often called red reveal because it takes advantage of the way our eyes perceive the color red. It does not require exclusively the color red but can employ other hues in that spectrum such as orange and pink.

Fortunately, I began my research early. It required five months of experimentation to find a combination of colors that worked with the library's printer. I abandoned the idea a couple of times and kept coming back to it. I wanted to be able to do all the printing within the library to save money. I created eight patterns that could be printed over text to hide a message.

The specific implementation of the technique involved a riddle handout and poster. Eight riddles were selected. The question was placed on the left side of the paper and the solution on the right. This involved a two-step process. The question and answer were printed first in a light blue color, then the paper reinserted and the concealing red pattern was printed on top. When the children first registered, they were given a rectangle of red gel that had been cut to fit over the question or answer, not both. Then they received a different riddle each week they returned to report during the summer.

A weekly challenge poster was also created and posted in the branch. A larger piece of red gel was available for children to hold up to their face to read the message.

Red Reveal Examples