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Designing Miracles by Darwin Ortiz (Book)

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The Most Important Book On Magic Theory Since Strong Magic!

In Designing Miracles, Darwin Ortiz continues the task he began in Strong Magic: to explore and raise the level of craft in magic. This time he presents a groundbreaking study of how laymen think and what it takes to amaze them.

Darwin has earned a reputation for creating some of the strongest card effects in modern magic. In Designing Miracles, he reveals for the first time the principles and techniques that he follows in doing so. These insights will help you choose stronger effects, create stronger effects, and strengthen those effects that you've already performing.

If you've ever been puzzled by an audience's reaction or lack of it, this book will dispel the mystery. It gives you a new set of tools for understanding how magic works, why it sometimes doesn't, and how to make it work better. Never again will you be at a loss as to why an effect isn't playing well. Never again will you be at a loss as to what to do about it.

If your goal is to provide your audiences with an unforgettable experience of impossibility, you'll find Designing Miracles filled with insights to help you do so. It will teach you how to use the audience's own thinking patterns against them. It will show you how to turn puzzles into miracles. It will do something that few magic books can: change with way you think about magic.

"Here we have an outstanding new book by one of the modern-day masters of card magic, Darwin Ortiz. Darwin lays out a new way oflooking at how the mind is fooled. You will look at magic effects differently, and your thinking about magic will be stimulated andchallenged. Without studying the principles set forth in this book, no magical education can be complete. Books like Designing Miracles, andStrong Magic that came before it, are more rare and important today than ever before."
- Whit Haydn

Darwin Ortiz is widely recognized as one of the world's leading sleight-of-hand performerswith playing cards. He is also the author of some of the most popular and important bookson magic ever published, including the best-selling book, STRONG MAGIC. He also servesas an international consultant to the casino industry on the prevention and detection ofcheating. His eleven DVDs and six books, including Darwin Ortiz on Card Cheating and GamblingScams, are widely used as reference and training tools in casinos throughout the world, and heis called to testify as an expert witness in casino cheating cases. As an entertainer and expertconsultant, Darwin has performed on every continent except Antarctica.

Pages 200 - Hardcover

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A sequel to Strong Magic, and essential magic theory about creating impossible effects Report this review
Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on April 17th, 2018

Why should you care about a book that deals with magic theory? Designing Miracles by Darwin Ortiz, along with its companion and predecessor Strong Magic, is the kind of book that has the real potential to improve all your magic significantly, by changing the way you think about how magic effects are constructed and designed. We're not talking about constructing physical props here, but the construction of a magic trick in terms of the methods, the presentation, and all the decisions that go into putting together a trick, both as seen by your audience and the actions you actually do as magicians.

Darwin Ortiz' earlier book Strong Magic (1994), subtitled "Creative Showmanship for the Close-Up Magician", has rightly been applauded for being an outstanding work on the subject of showmanship in magic, and is widely regarded as a modern classic on the subject. There's plenty of resources that do a good job of teaching you the mechanics of magic, but for a routine really to feel magical, it requires good presentation. With a special emphasis on card magic, which is his own field of expertise, Darwin Ortiz has done magicians everywhere a real service with this magnificent tome about showmanship, which is well-organized, comprehensive, insightful, and supported with many practical examples. I highly, highly recommend it, because it's part of a rare breed. There's a gazillion books that will teach you new tricks, but very few good books that will teach you how to perform them. It's the kind of book that helped my magic more than a dozen videos or books with tricks.

But there is another important element of magic that is overlooked even more besides showmanship and that is the design of a magical effect. It is Darwin's thesis that besides the method used to accomplish an effect and the presentation of the effect, attention needs to be given to how a magical effect is constructed. And so more than a decade since the original publication of Strong Magic, Darwin Ortiz has produced a follow-up title, called Designing Miracles (2007), subtitled "Creating the Illusion of Impossibility". With this book, Darwin has made another wonderful and important contribution to magic theory, full of practical application, and essential reading for any magician who wants to understand why some effects amaze and why others don't, and more importantly, how to design effects so that they do create astonishment. Designing Miracles is not a cheap book, but you can consider it a valuable investment in helping you raise the level of all your magic.


So who is Darwin Ortiz, and why should we listen to what he has to say on this subject? Most magicians will already be familiar with his name, and recognize him as a leading authority on subjects like card manipulation and gambling. He's made important contributions to the world of game protection, even serving as a consultant to major casinos.

But of particular interest to us are the important contributions he's made to the world of magic, not only as a professional magician, entertainer, and creator of card magic, but as a writer, having authored several books about gambling and magic. He's highly respected for his work, and his two books on magic theory - including the one that is the subject of this review - have both made a big splash in the magic world, and are considered landmark publications. Given his wide experience, and the fact that he is a very clear thinker and careful writer, Darwin is well placed to address us on this subject.


1. Rare: Books on the subject that this title covers are very rare. That in itself makes Designing Miracles a landmark publication, and one that deserves to be widely known and read. Not only does Darwin Ortiz make an important and valuable contribution on this subject material, but he's one of the very few people doing so, and contributing to the discussion about magic design. Fortunately for us, he does such a fantastic job in doing so, that it's not a work that will need countless others to correct it.

2. Progressive: Darwin already made a wonderful contribution to magic theory with Strong Magic, and I found it hard to imagine that he'd be able to produce another book that was its equal, just as useful. Yet that's exactly what he's done with Designing Miracles. It's a great companion to its predecessor, and yet stands on its own as a contribution to a related but different subject.

3. Thorough: From the overview I've already given above, you'll have some idea of the main concepts that Darwin Ortiz explores and covers. This book covers a wide range of topics that can be applied to all kinds of magic, because it concerns the principles underlying strong magic. There's some incredibly useful content here, and this is a very important book. I can't think of any aspects of magic design that he has failed to give attention to, when it concerns the underlying theoretic framework of how a trick should be constructed. The book didn't feel repetitive, and really covers the subject material thoroughly and well.

4. Insightful: Darwin Ortiz is an extremely clear thinker, and his insights into the theory of magic are terrific. He's superb at analyzing the principles underlying strong magic, and evaluating what makes something work and what doesn't, and this book demonstrates that he has a real understanding of what makes good magic. He's not just good at making magic good, but understands why it works.

5. Clear: Darwin is also very good at explaining things, and his book is written in a very logical, clear and convincing manner. His flow of argument is very carefully and persuasively developed, and I constantly found myself thoroughly convinced of his position. He's a very analytical thinker, and does a superb job of explaining his thoughts in a very organized and systematic fashion, as is evidenced by his regular use of words like "first", "second", and "third", when explaining things carefully and cogently.

6. Interesting: A book about magic theory sounds like it might be academic, dry, and boring. I didn't expect myself to get drawn in as much as I did; to my surprise I found it compelling and fascinating, thinking about the principles and concepts Darwin explains, and applying these to the tricks I've performed and am working on. In addition to using examples from the world of magic, he also uses colourful examples from real life to illustrate his argument. He's a very clear thinker, and the examples he uses really demonstrate that he has a real gift in explaining things, and this has the added benefit of ensuring that his content is interesting to listen to.

7. Practical: Another real strength of this important work is that it is extremely practical. It would be a mistake to think that because this book is about the theory of magic that it is dry, abstract, boring, and to be avoided. To the contrary, Darwin Ortiz provides constant examples to support and illustrate the principles and ideas he is discussing. Many of his examples relate to card magic, and refer to effects that magicians will be familiar with. Many are also from his own books, including Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table (1988), CardShark (1995), and Scams and Fantasies with Cards (2002). As such, it's not just a book of pure theory, but is very much about theory made practical, or theory applied to real performance. And isn't that exactly what we magicians need?

8. Beneficial: Like Strong Magic, Designing Miracles is the kind of book that will change your thinking about magic. While it won't teach you a single trick, it will certainly help you make all the ones you do know better. As such, this is a book that has potential benefit more than any other book you'll read on magic, and I highly recommend it for that reason alone. And don't make the mistake of thinking that this is only a book for creators of magic. This book will help you have the skill you need to decide what tricks to perform, and when there are different ways of doing a trick, to decide which ones to use. It will also help you refine the tricks you're already doing to make them even better. It won't just tell you how to do things, but will you give you the skills you need to think for yourself and understand why some tricks works better than others, and then go out and be the very best magician you can possibly be.

9. Time-tested: It is evident that Darwin Ortiz works very hard to analyze his experiences and to systematically record his thoughts and insights, and that his books are the result of lengthy and careful reflection. Strong Magic took about 7 years to write, and Designing Miracles took about 9 years to write. He is considering a third book with a collection of essays discussing material that doesn't really fit in either existing book, but never rushes anything to publication, and as a result he still stands behind what he's written. In an interview six years after the original publication of Designing Miracles, Darwin stated that he has only become more convinced of the principles he describes in the book.


Many in the magic industry would regard Darwin Ortiz as being at the very forefront of thinkers on magic theory, and his Strong Magic is considered to be a seminal work, and one of the most significant contributions to magic theory in recent times. After such a fine work with Strong Magic, one might think that Darwin Ortiz was setting himself the impossible, because the brilliance of Strong Magic meant that it would be a very hard act to follow. Surely that modern classic could not be equalled, and a follow-up work would only be a let down. Fortunately for us, Darwin Ortiz is all about miracles and achieving the possible, and in Designing Miracles he's surpassed himself by writing another outstanding book on magic theory, one that stands besides Strong Magic as an independent work, and at the same time is a worthy equal, and will quickly be regarded as a classic alongside its predecessor.

Where Strong Magic succeeded in educating us in the key elements of showmanship, Designing Miracles succeeds in educating us about the key elements of constructing magical effects. Darwin Ortiz has a remarkable ability to think clearly and analyze why certain effects are so strong, and further to draw out the principles behind this which we can apply to our own magic. He's also a very clear communicator, and ensures that his explanations are enhanced with constant examples that illustrate well the points he's making.

Unlike most magic books, Designing Miracles is not about teaching us new tricks, nor is it about the methods and mechanics of magic. It's not even about presentation or showmanship first of all. Rather, this important book is all about teaching us how to design and construct tricks in such a way that the effects become all the more powerful and foolproof, creating the genuine impression of the truly impossible. It gives us the clear thinking we need to take the tricks we've learned and improve small aspects of them to make them even better. Building on those who have gone before him, and drawing on his own insights and experience through years of magic, this is a book that stands on the shoulders of giants, and stands head and shoulders above most magic books. I can't recommend this highly enough! - BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame
6 of 7 magicians found this helpful.
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Very Interesting Report this review
Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on April 7th, 2010
If you want to make your magic strong and gain an eye for week effects that you will no longer use this is a valuable resource. while I do not agree 100% with his thinking on all things he has a way of making you take a different look at the magic you perform. This book will help you make your magic unexplainable to the spectator and this is a powerful thing when done properly. Buy this it is a must have for the library of serious magicians. If your looking to learn tricks this is not the book for you as it will only teach you how to make tricks better or make you want to discard and move to better magic.
4 of 6 magicians found this helpful.
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The good and not so good.... Report this review
Verified buyer Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on April 3rd, 2014
I have Darwin Ortiz's Strong Magic and it is very excellent. When I learned Mr. Ortiz had released another book on creating strong performances, I was a little reticent about this book but I have enjoyed (and learned) from his writings so I purchased this book.

As I read this book I was pleased (and disappointed) that there were nuances in performing effects still to be learned and applied in a performer's arsenal. The dissapointment I felt was why couldn't these nuances have been included in the earlier book.

Although I would be considered a "hobbist" by "professionals," I have seen many performances by different "professionals" and felt a few created magic while most perform a collage of tricks.

For individuals really serious about creating magic, this book has valuable details to make tricks appear as real magic to your audience.

I consider this book a very excellent follow up to Strong Magic and will help new performers shorten their Hamburg time.
2 of 2 magicians found this helpful.
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A Must Read Report this review
Verified buyer Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on October 8th, 2014
While this book wasn't as powerful as Strong Magic, it wasn't over the same topic and so there may not have been as much to provoke me into reading more on the page after that.

With that having been said, it is a terrific book that gives great insights into how to change your magic and is a very good sequel of Strong Magic.

Both Strong Magic and Designing Miracles are must read books if you want to make your performance as strong as possible, and so I suggest that you don't let them float by.

P.S. This also has a great audiobook to go along with it that is done by Darwin Ortiz.
1 of 1 magicians found this helpful.
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A must have book Report this review
Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on November 24th, 2013
I cannot imagine any thoughtful magician who would not benefit from the lessons taught in this book. Darwin presents his case for the importance of effect design in a manner that is concise, practical and interesting. Many superb examples are given to help the student understand the concepts in play. This book fascinates, educates, and most importantly, makes one think.
1 of 2 magicians found this helpful.
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Thought Provoking Report this review
Verified buyer Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on June 12th, 2020
Darwin provides you with a series of challenges that if addressed will greatly improve you magic effects. This book has changed how I approach performing and how I look for ways to improve my favourite effects. Well worth reading.
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Yep! Report this review
Verified buyer Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on February 26th, 2011
Amazing book. Darwin has really good thoughts on magic. Everyone should read this. It will definetely make you a more thoughtfull magician.
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Presentation could be simplified Report this review
Verified buyer Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on September 1st, 2016
This is a kind of back-handed criticism. The information in this book is very sound and I have no issue with the ideas themselves, just that they could have been laid out in a more exciting and graspable way. Virtually every illustration of the different points is a card trick, and that gets pretty old pretty quick for me. How much more exciting it would be if he could show examples from coins, ropes, kid's shows...

And some of this is already intuitive for those who actually do magic. "Vary the methods within a multi-phase routine...create distance (time, space, etc.) between the 'move' and the effect..." Yes, he breaks it down into brilliant detail, but it was more than I needed. I agree it is important to have deception in routines. But that has to be there along with entertainment, which is usually the missing factor for most shows I see performed. Granted, this book didn't promise to be about entertainment, so perhaps I have nothing to complain about.
5 of 12 magicians found this helpful.
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