"Ooo, what's that...?" I asked James Wilson as he sat across from me, having taken out some Artefact Cards and an unfamiliar sleek, black pen.
As he presented the pen, and all of the benefits it had for working with Artefact Cards and other things, there was a nagging little voice in the back of my head... "is this, finally, the Sharpie replacement we've been looking for?"
WAIT... HOLD UP... Artefact Cards without Sharpies?
Well, yes, let's back up.
Ever since we started, the Sharpie has seemed the natural companion for Artefact Cards. It started with two small design shifts to make people come up with better ideas in a workshop - instead of curling post-its and rubbish pens, would people be more careful, considered, and thoughtful if we give them a more tangible receptacle for their idea to live on, and a more permanent implement with which to create it?
The answer was yes, and eight years later here we are.
The Artefact Cards themselves, the boxes they come in, the process for getting them to people... that's all changed, improved, iterated.
And yet the pen remained the same.
However, there's been various worries about Sharpies that have kept pestering me, and I had no real response for them.
Firstly, the very name is misleading.
Sharpies don't stay sharp.
Indeed, after about half an hour, the first blush of newness disappears, and you're left with a sub-optimal implement for your work. In a way, they're almost like the fast-fashion of the pen world - a disposable item that gets you a couple of good nights out before being consigned to the bin.
Secondly, if you make it to the point of them running out of ink (which, let's be honest, is hard with the ever-blunter nib), there's no way to refill them. So again, into the trash it goes.
As the Artefact Cards business has grown, we've become more aware of how we're responsible for the kinds of resource decisions our customers choose.
And given we've spent a lot of time redesigning a box for the cards that doesn't need any plastic, we realised that our efforts in this respect were being undone to some extent when we shipped the cards with plastic pens that lose their effectiveness quickly, and are discarded irresponsibly.
When James showed me the Staedtler Lumocolor, I don't think he maybe knew that he was showing was not just a superior writing solution for the Artefact Cards, but that it answered these other questions too.
Let's have a look at why we're switching to the Staedtler Lumocolor Fine Point then.
First of all, it is an excellent pen. The 0.6mm nib feels like wielding a samurai sword versus the blunt claymore of the Sharpie, and the ink has proved to be faster drying than the Sharpie on the Artefact Cards in the tests we've done.
What's best though is that the pen lasts, and lasts, and lasts. I've used one for three months during the summer with little perceptible change in the sharpness of the nib. It really is built to last.
"That's all very well" you might say, "but what happens when the pen runs out of ink?"
Here's the next clever thing about the Staedtler system - any of their pens in this range (this 0.6 Fine Pint all the way to the chisel tip) can be filled from an ink well system that they also make. Just simply pop the nib into the well, and it'll be ready to go again in a couple of hours.
The pen is also made from 30% recycled materials, can be recycled itself, has a dry-safe formulation that means the cap can be left off for hours without drying out, has ink that's xylene and toluene-free... the list goes on. It's a pen that someone's thought about the design of, and how it fits within the wider needs of the 21st century. It's not perfect, but it's a much, much better solution.
Which means that as of today, any pens we ship with the Artefact Cards will be the Staedtler Lumocolor Fine Point.
For now, we'll continue to send them with the pocket and desk packs, but they'll be taken out of the office pack for people. You can buy a pack of ten pens from us here, but we'd urge you to reuse them for as long as possible.