Over the past few years, products promoting self-care and wellness have flooded the market. Traditional spiritual practices, like burning palo santo and reading the night sky, have also become trendy. And though forcing these indigenous, historically demonized rituals into the mainstream is potentially problematic, the silver lining is that more people are, in theory, equipped to handle life’s inevitable ebbs and flows. Tarot cards and astrology are also experiencing their own renaissance.
Akiva Leffert, a software engineer, hopes to appeal to this wellness space with his recently released project, a deck of tarot cards with a surprising twist: All of the images used to represent the tarot pictures come from Ikea assembly manuals.
While tarot decks can differ stylistically, they all tend to follow the same general set of rules: There are usually 22 major arcana (trump) cards, and 56 minor arcana (suit) cards, totaling a deck of 78.
“I thought of the meaning of each card and tried to look for images that made me feel that. Or sometimes there were images that were really good and I just had to use them,” Leffert explains. “I downloaded, like, 40 Ikea pamphlets to look for images.”
Leffert’s idea for this nontraditional tarot deck emerged a few weeks ago, when he went to Ikea for a friend’s birthday (yes, really). As part of the festivities, he decided to be a fortune teller for the night, and it occurred to him that the diagrams in Ikea’s famous flatpack instructions would be a perfect fit for a simple, quirky deck.
“It was very easy to attach these symbols to Ikea,” Leffert says. “For example, I instantly saw a card that was perfect for ‘The Tower’ [in a manual]: There was a person tumbling backward.”
Instead of familiar minor arcana symbols like wands, swords, and coins, the budding game designer superimposed sofas, lamps, and Allen keys on each card. On the “World” tarot card, where one might expect a globe, Leffert has added a black-and-white line drawing of an Ikea warehouse instead.
In order to make a 78-card deck several times over, Leffert wrote code to expedite the design process. The software engineer’s program allowed him “to make quick layout changes,” he says, adding, “I just took the main card image and laid them out.”
Since debuting a few weeks ago, Leffert’s Etsy shop has already received 300 orders and counting. He’s currently working with a company to get a first run of the decks printed in the hopes that they may one day be sold at—you guessed it—Ikea. These tarot cards are coated with Ikea’s classic blue and yellow brand colors and cost $25 a deck. “Ikea has this very distinctive visual style, it’s kind of comfortable . . . and people just like immediately recognize it, they already know how to think about it,” Leffert says.
How does the Swedish furniture giant connect, conceptually, to the idea of tarot cards, which promise to give readers insight into the future?
“Everyone has feelings about Ikea—they go there during times of transition, moving, breakups,” Leffert says. “People relate to it and people feel comfortable being in that space when they’re going through certain events.”