Artefact Cards Blog

Custom Artefact Field Kits

Posted 22 September 2015 by John Willshire

It may seem early to talk about Christmas. It's certainly too early to be eating mince pies. But it's not too early to be working out what you're sending your clients this Christmas.

These are our glorious all-leather, high quality Field Wallets, as made by Bernard and his family up at Lichfield Leather here in the UK. They really are beautiful, check them out here.

Last year, people asked "can we do custom ones for clients as Christmas presents?", and we said "no, sorry, it's too late". This year, we're letting you know early enough, to avoid disappointments.

When we say 'custom' we mean that you can replace the custom printed yellow leather panel you see below with whatever you like.

As well as the premium leather Field Wallet, you'll also get cards inside the wallet, a box of Artefact Cards to restock the Field Wallet with, and a custom black Sharpie, all inside a clean white presentation box.

Prices are as follows (excluding shipping & VAT)

50   - £18.99 per kit
100  - £16.99 per kit
200  - £15.99 per kit

(further discounts available for larger orders)

We need your expressions of interest by Monday 28th September in order to get them to you by 1st December.

Please email us here with all orders or to ask more questions.

Posted in Artefact, Artefact Cards, card sorting, cards, design, discipline, drawing, eames, making, practice, resolutions, teams, thinking, visual thinking

House of Cards, by Charles and Ray Eames

Posted 27 July 2014 by John Willshire

As we speak, I'm diving in to the internet to try and discover more about Charles and Ray Eames' House of Cards (thanks to Tina for the heads up).

An interlocking system of cards with either images (I think the smaller cards) or single colour panels (the larger versions),the six slots of each card let you slot together the two dimensional images into three dimensional shapes.

I love the idea of putting together ideas in a three dimensional structure like this. I'm going to get a set from somewhere, have a play and report back.


Of course, I'd love to have a play with the Computer House of Cards, done for IBM's Pavilion at the World's Fair in Japan in 1970, but at $650 for one of the original packs, I'm not sure I'll have a chance any time soon...


Posted in Artefact Cards, blank cards, design, eames, visual thinking

Abi's Amazing Activity Artefacts

Posted 23 July 2014 by John Willshire

Every so often, people do things with the Artefact Cards that make me go YES, GODDAMN IT, THAT'S AMAZING, WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT..???

I was chatting to Abi Green of The Conscious Project on email the other day, and she mentioned that just in time for the summer holidays, they'd been creating the most amazing thing to do with the kids... I'll let Abi explain...


Hi Abi - so, tell us what you've been up to preparing for the summer holidays?

I’ve got 3 boys age 10, 7 and 4 and I see the Summer holidays as a brilliant opportunity to do all the things I like doing with my kids - I mean the fun, silly stuff, outdoors time, and things they often get no chance to do at school. So I’ve been scratching out a set of Artefact Cards with a pick-and-mix of activities for them, for those moments when they say ‘I don’t know what to do, I’m bored!'

What got you started on this? And why use Artefact Cards?

Uh, in the moment, when one of my children tells me they’re bored, my mind goes blank! I wanted to catch my ideas as and when they came to me. The cards are the perfect tool, They feel nice, a great size for children, and we’ve used words and pictures on every card so they work for my youngest who is pre-school. I could go on… the whole point is that ideas don’t disappear so once written in permanent ink, the water bomb card can still go back in the pack after all the bombs have been thrown. I’m planning to present them in a treasure box which makes it easier for the children to shuffle and pick something they fancy, and emphasises that a great idea stays great… so you can do it again!

How difficult was it to make a whole pack?

We’ve been collecting ideas for a week or so now- our ideas and theirs- and recording them on some fantastic bright green Artefact Cards. We haven’t quite finished the pack yet but the lovely thing now is that they’re contributing more and more of their own ideas about what they’d like to do. I’ve got some fabulous ideas from Pinterest and various blogs as well.

So, imagine you're a parent reading this and want to give it a go - what are your top three tips for getting started.

(1) Keep a note of things your children like to do but never get enough time to see through (e.g. craft projects, junk modelling, recording their own songs...)

(2) Have a look in cupboards, shelves and drawers for toys or games that could be re-invented/refreshed or just taken outside (e.g. draw a chalk maze on the pavement, make an old sheet into a pirate ship sail, take paper aeroplanes to the park)

(3) Include some ideas based on what you’d like to see them doing! (e.g. Phone Grandma, FaceTime your cousins, make someone a card and send it)


Right, I'm off right now to do some, err, urgent important work stuff or something....

*goes and gets kids*...



Posted in Artefact Cards, blank cards, cards, games, imagination, kids, kids games

DOTS - How do you connect ideas?

Posted 17 July 2014 by John Willshire

I'm really excited to have been invited to talk at Dots, a conference being put on by Brilliant Noise as part of the Brighton Digital Festival in September:

"Dots is about connecting ideas. Innovation happens when things are brought together in fresh ways. Ideas from outside of your field can make a profound impact when brought into step with existing practice. Dots is about sharing and celebrating ideas that have been created by connecting things in new ways, as well as the people who connect them."


Usually, at things like this, I'm asked to talk about Smithery work, but the guys have asked me to talk specifically about Artefact Cards.

Antony and I caught up briefly over email quickly, about what might be most interesting and useful for folk.

Antony said: "A lot of people will be talking about specific innovation projects - looking at a great cognitive tool, like Artefact would work really well. I think interesting questions to ask might be - when to use tools? Which tools to use? When to switch? How people use the tool differently?"

That's a good brief.

And one I'd like to think about for the next month and a have with the best information I can get on the topic, which in this case means asking you guys how you use Artefact Cards as a tool*.

Very simply, I'm looking for you (yes, you, at the back there... are you chewing..?) to answer four simple questions about Artefact Cards:


i) What do you use Artefact Cards for?

ii) When do you use Artefact Cards in your process?

iii) Why are Artefact Cards similar to other tools you've used?

iv) Why are Artefact Cards different to other tools you've used?


I've set it up a simple research form here - please do take five minutes to fill it out when you can, it'd be very much appreciated.

You can opt to make your feedback either private or public (e.g. I'll put some up here on the blog).

Thank you in advance



*Artefact Cards are, of course, a tool. I spent a while when I first started making them thinking they were a technique, and would write and talk about them as such. It was only when I started interviewing people about how they were using them that I realised they were less complex, more accesible.

I had started off seeing Artefact Cards through the lens of my own work, but I only understood them as a tool when I saw lots of peoples' work through the lens of the Artefact Cards.

And hopefully, by collecting and sharing all your stories again, that'll help you get more out of them, and make for an interesting talk at Dots.

Posted in Artefact Cards, artefactcards, brainstorms, cards, Interview, thinking, visual thinking

Me or SuperMe?

Posted 11 July 2014 by John Willshire

Here's a little game to play with Artefact Cards in teams - it's about finding out a little more about each other, and helping people reflect on where they are now, and where they want to be.

Here's the video describing the basic preparation (I use this to send to people in teams I'm working with as the set-up instructions):



Everyone then arrives in the workshop with their four cards ('me' on one side, and the 'superme' they want to become), and you can choose the way that you ask people to share.

Usually, I'll get people to share both their 'me' and 'superme', then other people around the team build on what that person is saying, how they see working with that person from their perspective in the team. It helps people get a real sense, very quickly, of how everyone around them wants to grow, and ambitions they may share.

As a simple exercise like that, it's really useful. There are then more complex builds that you can lay on top, which I'll go into in another post.

I first played it with the guys at Adaptive Lab a few months ago - here's the prep video I made for them, but in this case I actually made the Me & SuperMe based on myself, which as an example probably offers more realistic texture:




Final notes... the name of the game is influenced by various things the excellent Superme stuff that Somethin' Else do for Channel Four

...and the Jonathan Kent speech from Man of Steel, which was the first Superman film I saw as a dad, which is realy interesting.... suddenly all of your empathy switches to lie with Jor-el & Jonathan Kent, as opposed to Superman / Clark Kent - it's about helping someone else grow, as opposed to growing up yourself...




Posted in Artefact Cards, gamestorming, play, visual thinking, workshops

"I write because I don't think we're done"

Posted 9 July 2014 by John Willshire

This brilliant video was sent over by both Ben Ayers & Digby Lewis (it must've popped somewhere yesterday I guess) - it's Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black talking about his creative method, writing all the parts of the film out on individual note cards, then using them all the construct the final framework to write the draft from:

"Each note card should be as pure and singular an idea as possible, because I want to be able to move all the pieces around"



It's the Nabakov method, Burroughs' cut-ups, Bowie's songwriting... a way of working creatively that is both familiar and fresh and new every time I come across it... it's how Artefact works, of course, but I'd be lying if I said I knew that when I made that first set for a workshop.

All the pieces keep moving around, and we find new things. We make, because we don't think we're done.

Posted in Artefact Cards, artefactcards, brainstorms, Dustin Lance Black, visual thinking, workshops, writing

Writing By Hand = Better Learning, More Ideas

Posted 8 July 2014 by John Willshire

There's a fascinating article in the New York Times, about the power of writing by hand rather than by keyboard (via Dougald Hine - thanks Dougald)

The whole thing's worth reading, but two things to pull out... firstly, writing by hand specifically helps with teh writing process:

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.

“And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier.”

So as those fine folks over at Field Notes put it:


Secondly, it's not just about the learning aspect which 

In a study that followed children in grades two through five, Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington, demonstrated that printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns — and each results in a distinct end product.

When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.

And brain imaging in the oldest subjects suggested that the connection between writing and idea generation went even further. When these children were asked to come up with ideas for a composition, the ones with better handwriting exhibited greater neural activation in areas associated with working memory — and increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks.


I see this all the time in workshops using the Artefact Cards. Give people a sharpie and a pack of cards, and the ideas just keep on coming. With teams we've worked with over an extended duration, as the method becomes more familiar, the ideas come quicker too. It doesn't take long to end up with a table of crunchy, useful, mapped out ideas.

I do wonder how much productivity and opportunity we lose in organisations by endlessly bashing away on keyboards, writing emails and PowerPoint decks. It's not just children that need to write by hand, as the article points out:

"For adults, typing may be a fast and efficient alternative to longhand, but that very efficiency may diminish our ability to process new information."

As with all things, it's a question of balance. Fittingly, you could perhaps steal a leaf from Austin Kleon's excellent Steal Like An Artist in which he describes how he's set up an analogue desk (paper, pen, cards, scissors etc) where he creates ideas, and a digital desk (devices, laptops etc) where he edits and 'publishes' those ideas to push out into the world.

You can read the whole article here. Then grab a pen, and write down the first ideas that come to you...

Posted in Artefact Cards, brainstorms, cards, drawing, visual thinking, workshops

1 2 3 11 Next »