Too often we now see card companies put out similarly designed releases, it can be frustrating especially when a company (Panini) releases 25 basketball sets in one year. Why not just cut the number of releases and make each set individual and unique. I guess it could be worse though, we could be collecting in the 1930s when designs were used over and over.
Creating a card set is time consuming, the more extensive the set the more time it takes. The early design process is pretty standard for any print medium; thumbnails, review, rough drafts, review, elements laid out, review, digital design, review, approved, completion, review, print, review, ship. Current card designers have some pretty advance tools to use for the process like Photoshop and Illustrator, e-mail, video chat, cloud drives, etc. Designers can be sitting in a home office 1,500 miles away from the card company office but remain in contact throughout the entire process.
Going back 80 years ago though the process was still as time consuming but they didn’t have the conveniences that we have today. You have to remember they were not card companies in the 1930s (and before), they were tobacco companies, candy companies, bakers or magazine companies. The cards were incentives, not the product.
I recently read a story about a confectionery company that included cards in their candy during the 1920s and 30s, they used to bring an illustrator or two in to their factory to create the cards. When you consider the time frame, the companies would only use local illustrators (decent artists or not) and put them in the factory to churn out these card designs by hand. Could you imagine sitting in the corner next to loud machinery and trying to create a 48-card set by yourself?
Apparently some illustrators felt it was easier to use an existing design, though I can understand a company’s logic because it saved them money. Most of these products were sold locally so there is a good chance that people from other parts of the country never even knew about the other sets. I guess it is even possible that the three cards were done by the same illustrator because there are so many similarities.