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

Marcus Brown presents... The Parallel

Posted 27 July 2015 by John Willshire

OK, first things first... WATCH THIS...


That's Marcus. The talk he's doing in November at the All Facebook Marketing Conference... ...actually, it's clearly not 'a talk', that's a ridiculously low-status description for it... the performance, the experience, the changeover.

I'm on the verge of booking a ticket and a flight over.

What's even more exciting (for me, and maybe you, but really me) is that he's been using Artefact Cards to put the project together. And he's also putting together videos, writings, pictures etc into his creative process as he creates the final show, a starting selection which I've pulled over to here with his blessing...

"I spend quite some time drawing the cards: I get lost in the act of drawing, it’s an immersive experience that helps me work out what an idea is, where it might go and it helps me find better ideas. I’m sure you’re not supposed to spend so much time on each card but I do.

I really want to cards to look good because I want to look at them for ages. I want other people to want to look at them. It’s while trying to make the cards look as good as possible I start seeing the card become a part of something on a stage: I imagine myself doing the card and how people react to it. I also see other cards that I have yet to draw. It’s all a bit potty."





(yep, called it.)

Follow Marcus here on twitter, there on his blog, and maybe see you in Berlin :)


Posted in design, drawing, thinking, visual thinking

Planning Your Project Like A Documentary

Posted 9 March 2015 by John Willshire

Every so often, someone shares a project they're working on using Artefact Cards and it makes me think again about all the things that make them work.

Dave Birss did this yesterday, when he casually threw out a tweet saying "Today I'm planning a documentary on St Paul's with Artefact Cards", and included the following picture:

First off... look at those cards. Beautifully crafted, perfect encapsulations of just enough information.

They are major plotting points of Dave's documentary, no doubt, each one constrained by the space it has to exist.

I wish I could draw like that. More practice needed, as always.

The main point though is that it's inspired me in another way; to think about documentary making, what it is trying to do, and how it achieves that.

Here's my simple version. A documentary tries to take a wide selection of facts and viewpoints, capture the best in a compelling way, and find the order in which that all makes the most powerful, compelling case to the viewer. I think there's something in that process that can transfer well across to any type of project.

First of all, there's Capturing.

It's akin to running around in the meadow of idea butterflies, which is a thought that Faris & Rosie set off in my head when they referred to our Field Kit as the "perfect present for idea lepidopterists".

It's something we often tend to do in one compressed session, either on our own or with a team of others. The tendency is to quickly binge on some specifically gathered source materials, usually during the meeting we should have prepped for.

What I've found really useful is having packs of different collections of Artefact Cards that you add to over the space of 48 hours, or even longer if you have the time. Travelling through different times, spaces and events means that you naturally find different perspectives on things, and therefore vary the sorts of things you think of capturing. What's notable now might be unremarkable tomorrow, and vice versa.

Working in this way means that over the course of a couple of days, you can have a meaty subject deck that varies wildly from what you'd get in one binging session. Collect those butterflies as you go, rather than hope they all turn up in the same hour. Documentaries are often stories that reveal themselves over time, so build that into your process where you can.

Then, when you've got a good stockpile, it's time to work them up a little. It's all about the Crafting.

As we always say, it's good practice with the Artefact Cards to make 'em like you'll keep 'em. They're robust enough to stay around for a long time; not wipeable, or disposable, but keepable. If you've done that as you go, great. If not, try taking the pen back to existing cards, work on them a little, add a drawing, fill out the letters a little. Put some love and thought into them.

(BTW - If you want a little more practice, then follow our Sixty Second Sketches for quick daily drawing tips.)

Whatever your approach or style when it comes to working on the cards, in the moments when you're making 'an artefact', there's a little magic that happens. As you work with both hands on crafting something on a small card with a permanent marker, it really focusses your attention on what you're doing. It's the quickest way we know of of entering a state of flow, as the outside world swiftly disappears. As a result, you'll feel yourself thinking more deeply about the subject matter on the card.

If we're thinking in terms of the documentary, then each Artefact Card you make is like a little scene. The way in which you convey the most important part of an idea to the viewer is important. Each of those moments needs crafting if your project is to be a success.

Pretty soon, you should have a collection of ideas that you're really invested in, and seeing them all together will start to unlock more new ideas and connections between the different elements.

Which is where the third part comes in; Directing.

With all the cards laid out in front of you, you can start to build up the story as you want it to flow. Gathering little loops together of four of five cards, moving them around to see where they fit best, swiftly re-editing the project in front of you to find exactly the right order for the project that will let you quickly start making it happen.

Because of the effort you've put into the cards at the Crafting stage, you'll have created a significant amount of meaning around each card, especially if you've included drawings as part of the card. This means that it's not just what's on the card that's important, as it's a representation for all the associations you and others have around it.

The more the card is used, the more it gathers new meaning, which is why it's important you view it as something permanent and keepable. One of the biggest advantages of Artefact Cards is that you've created a robust, reusable set of cards that have all your ideas captured on them. You can re-edit the movie of your project as often as you wish, just unpack the box and dive straight back in.

There we have it, then, the documentary approach to working on projects with Artefact Cards; Capturing, Crafting, Directing.

Thank you Dave for sharing your project, and thanks to all of you who share how you're using the cards. It's an endless source of refreshing inspiration, and I thank you all for it. Remember to tweet us @Artefact_Cards so we can don't miss a thing.

Posted in design, discipline, drawing, thinking, visual thinking

Field Kit Origins

Posted 1 February 2015 by John Willshire

I was just sorting through some old photos, and found this, from the Do Lectures in April 2013.

It was the first time I'd tried a prototype Field Wallet, to capture notes of the talks on the way through. There's a whole collection of the quotes I captured here:


It was a compelling enough test to make me think there was really something in it; the perfect companion pack for the Artefact Cards to take with you wherever you wandered, and whoever you wandered with.

It took ages to get the final Field Kits right though. Working with the guys up at Lichfield Leather to find the right shade of yellow, the right leather, the right cut. It took eighteen months, but we got it right.

Thinking about it now, the Field Kit is indelibly linked to the Do Lectures experience for me, as an idea, as an object. Being out in a far-flung corner of Wales, surrounded by stunning countryside and stunning minds.

I wonder how many other things have been born out there?


Posted in drawing, making, thinking

Damn Good Advice

Posted 31 January 2015 by John Willshire

Here's a short tip from George Lois' excellent book, 'Damn Good Advice':

"An idea can be communicated better with a drawing (so if you can't draw, learn). For anyone whose passion is to spend their lifetime as a painter, or sculptor, architect, film director, graphic designer, fashion designer, product designer, set designer, interior decorator, inventor, or even an entrepreneur, if you can't express an idea in a drawing, it means you can't see. Even a passable sketch dramatically helps crystallize an idea. So, if you can't draw, make it a daily project and learn. It will not only make you a profoundly better communicator of your ideas, it will add more joy to the way you see."

You can see why it resonated so much with me, of course. Drawing is a fundamentally important skill that so few people are encouraged to continue with any degree of seriousness.

We've been running the daily "Sixty Second Sketches" since December, seeing what works, finding a rhythm. You sign up here, and get one email a day, Monday to Friday, with just a simple little drawing idea on an Artefact Card. You can copy it, riff on it, or just grab a card and draw your own thing. It's all about the practice, folks. Sign Up Here.



Posted in drawing, practice, thinking

Resolution Grid

Posted 31 December 2014 by John Willshire

I was minding my own business on twitter yesterday, as you do, when friend and long-time Artefact practitioner Ian Fitzpatrick posted up this, a picture of his New Year's Resolution Grid. We thought we'd have a wee quick chat about it, in time for the New Year...

Hey Ian, (for the last time in 2014 probably)… has it been a good year?

I don’t think that the returns are in yet. Without going down a rabbit hole of ‘arbitrary endpoints’, the last twelve months for me were marked by events and transitions that will likely not be realized until 2015 or 2016. That said, far more good than bad transpired in my life this year.

That’s great to hear. Earlier today, you posted up this, a brilliant and simple framework for New Year’s Resolutions using your Artefact Cards - what prompted you to get systematic about it?

At a certain point, you’ve already quit smoking and the things you want or need to do take on a different posture. There are plenty of things I’d like to do — make more time for reading, run a 10k — and many I need to do — plan for the kids’ college, lose 20 pounds. Certainly, the challenges get knottier with age, and they tend not to be ‘solvable’, but rather they take on different forms over time.

I tend to like systems for working through these kinds of challenges, and decided to apply one to my resolutions for two reasons:

1. To ensure a thoughtful balance between those things that I want to do and those that I need to do.
2. To acknowledge that long-term goals tend to be outcomes of a series of shorter-term tasks. This is particularly helpful in prioritizing the output.

This was, as an aside, prompted by your own 'fidelity v. resolution’ grid system.

Ah yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about that. It’ll be the centrepiece for the Smithery 2015 projects I think. Expect a blog post or three on that first week back. Back to your grid though - do you already have a stack of things you’d slot into these nine categories? Is the framework helping you think of more?

I don’t know that it’s helping me think of more, but it certainly helps me think of goals as having multiple stages, such that I can view a life goal through the lens of now / next / later.

I actually complicated matters even more, and constructed four identical grids: finance, family, career and personal. What I love about this particular approach is finding that seemingly divergent end goals each begin with similar — or identical — near-term steps.

Where I think this ultimately takes me is the realization that, at 40 with a family and a firm to say grace over, my resolutions are less about the things I will or won’t do, and a bit more about the way I prioritize my time and resources. For example, looking across the notes I’ve made it’s clear to me that taking better care of my physical self is a first step on the path toward several long-term goals, many of which aren’t in any way fitness-related.

I was reading Sophie Lovell’s book on Dieter Rams over the holidays, and she talks about how Erwin Braun, one of the sons who took over the business in the fifties, was a great believer in the requirement of physical wellbeing - he applied the maxim “a sound mind in a healthy body” to every one and every thing in the business. Perhaps knowledge work should be best done on the move?
I’ve never spent much time contemplating knowledge work in motion, though I’ll admit that a brief flirtation with walking meetings failed out of the gate.

What I am more certain of is that my own capacity for clear thought and information processing is inextricably linked to both the exercise and sleep I get. For me, healthy body has a bit less to do with Fassbender abs than it does a clear, rational head — which is at the root of the work I (purport to) do.

But it’s also a really pragmatic concern: it’s rather absurd to build financial plans for retirement without resolving to be physically present for it. The older I get, the more that these concerns become interconnected systems — and so it only makes sense (to me) to develop a system in which to contemplate them.

I’m going to sit down and give your grid a go, I think, and see what happens. I’d encourage others reading this to do the same too. Any tips for us?

Sure. Start by considering your own grid. Not everyone thinks in utilitarian terms, nor in stages. If it doesn’t come easily, try to construct variations on the vertices. More critically, don’t try and fill in the grid completely — its entirely possible that you don’t have any ‘well-advised next steps’.

Alternately, invent (and share) an altogether better system.


Thanks to Ian for taking the time out to share his thoughts - if anyone fancies giving the method a go (or making up their own as Ian suggests), send us the pictures on twitter (@Artefact_Cards) and we'll post them up on here.

If one of your resolutions is to "draw more", then we've been testing out a daily drawing newsletter called Sixty Second Sketches through December - a simple little prompt and hint of something to draw. It's proved really popular, so we'll continue it through 2015. You can sign up to receive it here -

Happy New year, everyone, see you in 2015.

Posted in drawing, making, practice, resolutions, thinking

Sixty Second Sketches

Posted 9 December 2014 by John Willshire

Yesterday, we started a wee thing; Sixty Second Sketches.

Basically, it's about drawing more. We draw quite a lot anyway; often those wee drawings are exploratory, little probes reaching out to find meaning or form in ideas. It's a really good disclipline, to try and draw what you mean.

The more you do it, the more it becomes natural, and useful.

So in order to help other Artefact Cards users up into the practice, we thought we could create something as a minimal, daily prompt. We'll draw something, on one card, in a way that helps and prompts other people to draw. A dog-whistle for drawing quickly.

How does it work?

Easy - just add your email address in this box here, and we'll send you a drawing a day. What happens after that is up to you...


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Posted in discipline, drawing, making, practice