Architectural Flash Cards - Design Bureau

eames fallingwater farnsworth


Architectural Flash Cards

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

By J. Michael Welton

Last spring, Michie Cao’s 13-day Kickstarter campaign got off to a slow start. "During the first half I couldn't even raise $1,000," she says. "And I was very nervous."

A former UCLA architecture student, Cao currently attends graduate school at the School of Visual Arts in New York. And she has combined what she’s learned at both schools to make architecture easier to understand for the rest of us—with posters and a smaller set of prints dubbed “Archigrams.” “Like Pokémon cards for architecture geeks,” in the words of Cao, each depicts a well-known building—the Eames House, Mies’s Farnsworth House, Wright’s Fallingwater, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, and more—and comes with an explanatory notecard written in plain English rather than professional jargon.

“They’re all the buildings I studied in architecture school at UCLA,” Cao says. “I realized how architecture as a field can sometimes be inaccessible. Even though there’s a lot of interest in its history, the information can be dense, or maybe it just isn’t presented in a fun and easily digestible way.”

But now that she is studying interaction design and how to bridge the digital and physical worlds, she has applied that knowledge to making architecture more easily comprehendible. “It’s like with flash cards,” she says. “They’re small, bite-sized pieces of information.” Printed on 130-pound Strathmore cover stock, the cards are 5” x 7” and come 10 to the pack. The posters will be printed on an offset press at 18” x 24”.

To raise $3,000 for printing and packaging costs, Cao launched her Kickstarter campaign. A week into it, things looked less than promising—but when word got out, hundreds of backers liked it enough to commit more than $11,000, almost four times her goal. “Even now I’m shocked,” she says. “I can’t fathom the idea.”

In the meantime, Cao has bumped up the press run of the posters from 100 to 150. And if the response to her campaign is any indication, chances are that we’ll see a second run—and hopefully a lot more.

For more information, visit

J. Michael Welton writes about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. He also edits and publishes a digital design magazine at, where portions of this column first appeared.

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