Middle East Technical University


A term report submitted in partial fulfilment
of the requirements of ID.484

Middle East Technical University

Ankara June 16. 1989
Prof.Dr.Bozkurt Güvenç
Department of Industrial Design
METU, Ankara

Dear Sir,

 Attached is one copy of my report, Design of Dreams When Awake, submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of your course, ID484.

Very Truly Yours


      The information used for producing this paper is mostly derived the experiences of some master performers, books, video tapes, manuscript sources, as well as unpublished material. I would like to express may deepest thanks to Mr.Isak Simsar (Dr.Morgan) - my master, to Mr.Hasan Yentur (Sankadra) for their verbal comments on my work and passing their experiences on the subject onto me. I also present my thanks to Prof.Dr.Metin And for his kindness for letting me watch his private video tapes.

Any errors in this work are of course not their responsibility.




 LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL ...................................................            ii

 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ........................................................      .      iii

 TABLE OF CONTENS ...............................................................      .      iv

 ABSTRACT ................................................................................  .      v

 I.   Illusion  :  The Art of Creating Dreams ..................................      .      1

 II.  How the Illusions are Achieved? .............................................      2

 III. Production of Magical Apparatus ........................................... 4

       A. Industrially Produced Magical Apparatus .........................      4

       B.  Hand Made-Custom Produced Magical Apparatus ...........      6

       C.  Mass Production Versus Custom Production .....................    7

 IV. The Necessity of Designer in the Art of Illusion ....................     9

       A.  Design of the Tricks and Apparatus ...................................     10

       B.  Design of Magical Costumes .............................................     11

       C.  Stage Design ......................................................................      12

 APPEDIX- LITTLE VOCABULARY .........................................     14

 BIBLIOGRAPHY .........................................................................     15



     This report aims to give a unified perspective to the reader about the art of illusion. The effort has been consumed on to integrate design and illusion in a suitable way. The cue points of illusion and its weak points needing a designer's touch are discussed. In this work, the reader also will find a brief discussion about the production of the magical apparatus. Finally the reader will find a unified approach to the designer and illusion relationship. The main parts of illusion, needing a designers touch; are discussed.

      Some points in the report have not reached to a solution on purpose. This is done so, in order to leave that parts to the reader to judge. The language has been kept as simple as possible by using very little special vocabulary. No part of this report is written in detail in order not to scatter the attention of the reader.

      For those who wish to obtain a more detailed information, the books in the bibliography are recommended as fine sources.



      The art of illusion is as old as mankind himself. It has begun as conjuring of the smart people to the less smart ones. At the beginning the illusion performers had been accepted as "magicians" having secret powers. By the development of technology, apparatus had been introduced to magic. By this new innovation the illusion tricks could be taken the following steps:

i)                  The little pocket tricks  :  which could be done at seated table such as; match stick tricks, tumblers, thimbles and dice tricks for new beginners.

ii)               The card tricks  :  Although there are special prepared decks for new beginners; it is inevitable to perform tricks with ordinary playing cards in a period of time. Of course it will need a considerable practice to achieve this.

iii)            Big, stage and cabaret tricks  :  These are big tricks which need to have special apparatus as well as personal talent. These tricks are usually prepared by using special optics, electricity and psychology. They are big tricks, yes, but not necessarily big equipments.


iv)             Mental tricks  :  They are the tricks which are seem to be either; hypnosis, spiritualism, telepathy or fakir act.

       By the way; if should we define illusion, we may say that: illusion is the art of creating fantastic effects by deceiving the five senses; which we can not do or see in our daily life. Illusion makes people to take a journey to the dreamland and make them to perceive the realities better, when they come back. Illusion aims to show that the hand is faster than the eye. Sometimes some apparatus is used sometimes only hand skill is enough. Please remark that still no such thing as magic power is concerned.

    Why?..... Simply, because no such thing exists. Therefore, who is an illusionist?  Is he a magician?  Absolutely no!  An illusionist is the actor who plays the role of a magician on the stage. He just acts like a magician, using some principles to create an impression on the audiences as if he had some supernatural powers.


       Achieving illusions is easy as far as if you know the principles of illusion and able to use them. Naturally, there are hundreds of them but the basic ones are quite few and easy to remember. They are more than enough to produce illusions and design either the apparatus or the entire trick itself. Here are the basic principles:



 i)  Misdirection  :  It's where you look or let's say making the audience look at the right way at the wrong time, the wrong way at the right time, or wherever you want them to look. The audience will look at. 

a)    Where you look

b)    Where you point

c)    Where something happens

d)    Where there is a sudden noise. (2)

 ii)               Forcing  :  Convincing a person to do something he would rather not do, or how to make the audiences choice really yours. 

iii)            Gimmicks  :  They are invisible assistants used by the illusionist. It is, so to speak, how to use secret devices in performing your tricks and confusing your audience. 

iv)             Fakes  :  They are concealed gadgets which are seen by the audiences but never understood. They are devices having a special duty but seem to be innocent of trickery for the audience.  

v)               Appearances  :  Appearing something out of thin air 

vi)             Vanishes  :  Learning how to make objects disappear, or the mystery of producing nothing from something. 

vii)          Transformations and Transpositions  :  Convincing the audience that you can change objects into something else; mysteriously rearranging the position of two or more objects.  


viii)       Penetrations  :  Surprising the audience by doing something which can't be done, or creating the illusion of a solid object passing through another solid object. 

ix)             Restorations  :  Destroying objects and putting them back together in their original shape. 

x)                Special Effects  :  Different  kinds of magic acts' items; such as: mind reading, escapology etc.



Industry; will manufacture goods in large quantities. In this point of view; there is no real illusion industry throughout the world. No magical item is ever produced by thousands, rarely by hundreds. Then it is more convenient to call them makers of magic instead of magic industries. In fact they call themselves either as "makers of magic" or "magic studios". Sometimes they have a small branch to sell their products, called as magic shops, if they sell retail-wise. And as magic dealers, if they sell wholesale trade-wise.

       They do produce goods for illusion, though not industrially but mass-production by labour. On the other hand they search for the most suitable piece on the market to use it to produce an item. Seldom if they can not supply from the market, they produce the piece by themselves or make it produced in a limited quantity. But; to produce an item in mass-production, it should be usable in more than one apparatus. 


The magic makers usually don't have even their own workshops for production. They use carpenters, black smiths, metal workers, painters and other craftsmen around and order the related parts of the apparatus to be produced . Finally they make the assembly themselves. In other words; the complete apparatus is never done in a single workshop. By this way, even the craftsmen producing item don't know the secret.

      There is also the other side of the medallion; many of the magic dealers are fine performers and storehouses of information concerning the art. But if they want to stay in business, they must sell what magicians will buy, not what they ought to buy.

      They apparatus in a magic dealers catalogue runs all the way from 25 cent ball clips to $ 1250 buzz-saw illusions. Within this range are the makings for some of the best tricks in magic, and also astonishing number of monstrosities that have no purpose  except to lighten the pockets of over zealous amateurs.  Who in his right senses would shell out fifteen or twenty dollars, say, for a set of eight three-inch wooden disks, two garishly daubed metal covers, and a suspicious-looking tall tin can, the purpose of which is to make the disks, an orange, and some rice move around among tinware? Or what about two odd-shaped boxes with gaudy trimmings, whose sole function is to make one of three wooden blocks disappear from one box and be found, for some reason, in the other? Maybe it will seem rather silly to the reader to learn this, but magicians often buy these kinds of new-junks; even if somebody show them the secret in advance. The reason of their buying varies from the lack of time for custom production to excellent decoration of the item. 

      Obviously the magic dealers or magic studies have no contribution to innovation of art of illusion. The items produced are usually old fashioned tricks or their variations, seldom there are new tricks sold on market. There is no effort on designing new things-if there is, it is


too little. Instead of designing new things   which has a risqué whether it sells or not; studios prefer old and tried out ones for production. 


      Custom making of magical apparatus is for those who are in the know of secrets and capable of producing them. Nevertheless, custom-making needs some substitution elements such as film boxes instead of tubes, or cardboards instead of thin layers of wood, and many more countless items in this way.

      On the other hand, usually custom made opparatus are more suitable to the performer due to the production to fit to a definite as well. By custom making, the apparatus will be more personal, whereas the industrial ones are rather impersonal.

      Custom making of the magical apparatus, perhaps, is the most important step for an illusionist to enhance his creativity. He may change any part, any pattern or any detail as well as gimmicks. Nobody will ask about his apparatus or even notice the changes. Furthermore having a unique apparatus spiritually affects the artist in the positive manner. As no illusion artist wants his apparatus to be copied, he will again go on thinking about the ways of revising them. In other words he will make exercises on his creative power, which will increase his artistic sense. To create a new trick and design it, is only possible by custom production. So to speak, magician without custom by the others. This fact, obviously means that magician without custom production and without his own designs can never be "great".


      If one should compare custom production and mass production, the evaluation will be very subjective. There are many people who claim the superiority of one to the other. Probably to claim that, everybody should choose the proper one that suits himself; will be the most


objective solution. Here are two ideas without any comparison or comment:    

      i."To buy magical apparatus from dealers is a waste of money. You have to work on your own equipment, by this way you may find out some discoveries which are known by nobody. Thanks to these discoveries, it is possible for you to design your own tricks which nobody has. This will happen to you; the more you work on your apparatus, the sooner and more often it happens. This is the basic rule to enhence your design ingenuity".

      ii."Some of the apparatus can be made at home, or at private workshops, as a general rule, it is cheaper and more satisfactory to buy it at a conjuring repository. Low prices are the order of the day; and as the articles are made by experienced men, they must be superior to those manufactured by persons new to the business".  

      If still buying articles from the magic dealers seems convenient to you, then remember: In most cases, it is the secret which you have bought and not so much the article.  Then if you know the secret, it is advisable for you to produce your own apparatus. Sometimes it may not be possible to produce goods with the same quality, there is nothing to worry about. Naturally, you may not be able to produce everything, then you should go to a magic studio. That's why they are present. 


      Lets say you need two duplicate colossal jumbo playing cards. You have to pay approximately 5.50, GBP for each. If you enlarge a regular playing card by means of color photocopy, you will pay one tenths of its original cost. All you will spent, is your labour, nothing more. Sure, it will not be as high quality as printed ones, but since you won't play games with them, the quality is not so much important. Remember that colossal jumbo cards are just for show. In the light of this small evaluations you may decide what to do. 

      No matter whichever conclusion you arrive; magic studios had survived till today and will survive. On the other hand, illusionists will never give up the custom production of their own apparatus. 


      Most probably illusion is one of the most virgin fields for a designer. Up to the time no designer but the illusion artists themselves had designed everything. Now it is the time to terminate this era and open a new one with the designer's touch. Naturally the designer who is to work in the field of illusion, has to know all the information about magic, some of which are mentioned above. The designer can touch his magic wand to various spots in the art of illusion. The major ones of these spots are: 


      Usually the illusionists used to design their own tricks or just steal the secret from the other artists. In the last decade, there had been some exceptions to this rule. Such as Paul Daniels in Great Britain or David Copperfield in United States of America. What is common is both is that, they are just performers, they design nothing. Instead, there is a commitee for each artist who designs the tricks for them. Thanks to these commitees, they perform either brand new shows or modified versions of old ones. The result is obvious: both of them are


 taken as the best of their carrier in their countries. In a television show, the secret of his success had been asked to Paul Daniels. He replied very plain, he just performs and does not think about the tricks or the modification of them. By this way he could concentrate on performance deeper. 

      As seen in the examples there is a need for designers in this field of art for the sake of the innovation. Although the developments in technology affect the appereance of the apparatus, the decorations may change due to new artistic materials; the principles of illusion mentioned above all remain same. For example: In the old times, the magician used to make a spectator to choose a card and have the card signed by the spectator. The card is returned to the pack, without artists seeing it and the pack is shuffled. The pack then is put to its-empty, ungimmicked-box. A cone is made from a page of newspaper and the pack is put and wrapped inside it, with its box; closed. Then the artist stings a controlled skewer to the cone and punchs the pack of cards-which are in the cone and inside its closed box. Now happens the miracle, the chosen card is skewed on the skewer with its original signature on and the whole pack is still closed in its box. In the modern version of this trick; you put the closed box of cards in the head of a robot, instead of a paper cone no skewer is required. The robot drops the chosen card out of his stomach, showing that the magic is also computerised nowadays. 

      Apart from these fully changed appearances in tricks, you may still enjoy a modern version of cups and balls which is the most oldest magic trick to be known. The only reason of their survival through centuries, is a touch of design no matter educated or not. 


      Up to the second half of the last century the magicians used to wear a long and flowing robe and a conical hat, as if they are real wizards. Later then, Robert Houdin-the father of modern illusion-


introduced tailcoats to illusion. Perhaps the introduction of tailcoats to the illusion, was immediately accepted and admired by the magicians, so it had survived till today. 

      Since it has been nearly a century that tailcoats are being used in illusion, now it is not too early to think about something new. Probably each illusion artist has to have on original costume, which suits his own style: that means he needs an original design of costume belonging to himself and fit exactly. For instance to a sleight of hand artist (manipulator), a robe-like the wizard type will not fit, because this kind of costume will limit his movements plus there are very less loading opportunities in this type. 

On the other hand, an apparatus magician would like to dress in a more free style which gives him a mystified expression. A mentalist may also perform shows with ordinary street clothes, which will convince people more for it gives a more realistic impression on the audiences. 

      Whatever type of illusion artist he is, whatever type costume he wears; every magician feels the need of a designers touch to his costumes inevitably. For further information to those interested in properties of a magical costume, the writer suggests them to read the eighth to tenth pages of "Professor Haffmann's Modern Magic" under the title Magician's Dress". No quotation taken here, for it will exceed the aim of this paper. 


      Stage design for an illusionists is double  folded. First the design of the appearance of the stage to the audiences second the design of the acts on the stage which the performer will act on performance-which is in a sense regarded as choreography. It will be far more than designers responsibility. On the other hand, stage design needs a designer both in preparation of the decorations and the placement of


 the apparatus. On the stage. In fact this is the last of all steps that the designer is needed for usually the programmes will change twice or thrice a year (not valid for Turkey). In most cases the stage design is not needed in illusion if the artist has a small part in a cabaret programme. 

      As a summary of these ideas, an illusion artist needs a designer in stage design as an advisor. The artist then evaluates the critics of the designer to perform better performances.




Gimmick : Probably no single word in the vocabulary of magicians use it better known than "gimmick". In fact it is a slang for "hidden thing". But we may formulate it in this way: Any small device used secretly by a magician in performing a trick. 

Fake       : It is a device seen by the audience but having a special secret duty.

               : In short; a gimmick is a secret device never seen by the audience; a fake is a device seen by the audience, but not understood.

 Insert     : It is a secret compartment which is usually removable which is used to conceal an object in something else. Such as a silk in a glass of milk. 



 -         DAVENPORTS, 1989 Catalogue.  London, 1989

 -         FREDERICK, Guy.  101 Magic Tricks.  Piccolo, London, 1975

 -         HAY, Henry. The Amateur Magician's Handbook.  Signet Books.

                              N.Y. , N.Y. , USA, 1983

 -         ISINBARK Ertugrul.   Sihirbazlık ve İllüzyon Hünerleri. 1985

-         PROF.HOFFMANN.  Hoffmann's Modern Magic Dover Pub. Inc.                                                                         

                               N.Y. , N.Y. , USA. 1980

 -         SEVERN, Bill. Magic Comedy David Mc. Kay; N.Y. , USA, 1970

 -         TATLIDİKEN, Işik. Bütün İncelikleriyle Sihirbazlık Sanatı

                               Güneş Yay. İstanbul, 1981

 -         WHITE, B.Jr. So You Want to be a Magician  Addiso-Wesley,

                              USA, 1972






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