Max Temkin is one of the co-creators of the party game Cards Against Humanity and a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. Based in Chicago, Cards Against Humanity has quickly grown to become one of the most popular card games in the United States and around the world. His work goes beyond the popular card game; he has consulted for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, to say the least. We happened to run into Max during the summer at an exclusive convention in Chicago. Luckily, he agreed to participate in an interview with The Blackshirt. Here is what he had to say:
If you could describe your field of work in one sentence, what would it be?
I’ve been able to make a living doing a pretty weird mix of things. I’m a designer, I make games, and I work on Democratic campaigns and elections.
What got you interested in designing? When did you realize that you wanted to be a designer?
In 2008 I left college for a year to work on the Obama presidential campaign. That campaign taught me the power of great design and branding, the Obama “look” communicated his values and helped people take the campaign seriously. So I’ve been interested in that ever since.
Is there a specific type of design work that you prefer to do or are you more inclined to freelance work where you get to design a variety of things?
Right now I’m mostly focused on identitying design for political campaigns and designing games. But I’m kind of a generalist, I do a little bit of everything.
Mr. Temkin, your design work is recognized all around, but you are most known for co-creating one of the most popular party games in America today known as Cards Against Humanity. What inspired you and your friends to create the game?
Cards Against Humanity was just something we made for ourselves! It made us laugh, and we were really surprised when we put it online and it got a big reaction from people. The way we made Cards Against Humanity is the best way to make anything fun - we worked on it in a way that felt playful.
So Cards of Humanity is infamous for their publicity stunts, such as selling 30,000 boxes of bull poop for Black Friday, running a 30-second Super Bowl commercial of a potato marked with the word “advertisement,” and raising $100,000 to dig a hole in the middle of nowhere. Does Cards Against Humanity plan on using more unconventional types of marketing strategies in the future to increase its clout?
Yes. But we don’t think of it as increasing our clout, we just like to do funny things that make people laugh. Sometimes it’s good for the company, and sometimes it’s just silly.
Mr. Temkin, you are also very active in the political sphere as you have worked for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns. What made you want to design for those entities? Was it because they are aligned with your political views or do you not consider that as a factor when choosing clients for work?
It’s unfortunate right now that our country only has one viable political party. Democrats are the party of solutions and ideas - they have policies to deal with global warming, enact sensible gun control that will protect students, reduce people’s debt, help working families, and make sure that everyone can afford to see a doctor when they are sick. Meanwhile, when I look at Republicans, I don’t think they care about these problems or have any serious solutions at all. They claim that they “don’t believe in” global warming, they want anyone to be able to get their hands on assault weapons, they want to bury working families in debt, give huge tax cuts to the richest people in the world, and they’re intent on taking healthcare away from millions of people. They even want to roll back civil rights, like gay marriage and voter protections! So if another party had good answers, I might work for them. But right now I don’t see it.
Finally, what advice would you give to Waukesha South High School students who would like to get involved in designing or entrepreneurship?
My advice is to shy away from business programs, YouTube personalities, or anyone else who’s got some scheme to make you successful. There are no tricks or shortcuts in life. I think the best thing you can do is find something you love and become great at it. Don’t worry about grownups telling you you can’t make money from it. They’re probably wrong. Just find something that feels like play, master it, and you’re on a great track. I also think reading and writing a lot outside of school is pretty critical. Most of the successful people I’ve met are reading all the time.