Artefact Cards Blog

Walkshop - Wandering & Wondering

Posted 25 November 2015 by John Willshire

Last year, Fraser and I ran a thing called a 'Walkshop' for the first time, with our friends at Adaptive Lab, which was hatched as a good way for a team to thrash out strategic direction together.

It was also one of the first places we tested out the Artefact Field Kit.


Something really wonderful happened on that day - the route that we took started to change the dynamics of how the group interacted.

People started to walk & talk as big groups as they marched through wide fields, or narrowed down into pairs down narrow tracks.

Without much prompting, it became a very organic and natural way for groups to find their own way through important and interesting conversations.

We thought we'd set up another couple of Walkshops this autumn to see how that played out if we were looking & planning for that to happen, using the landscape as the crucible for certain things to happen at certain times.

I ran a small, intimate one with Paul, Tracey and James the week before last; just to four of us, a slow amble, and sloe-picking.






We also decided to run a slightly bigger one, to observe what happens with groups that could form different sizes and forms.

Fraser planned out the timings, routes, light activities and the like. I booked the lunch & dinner stops, because that's my main strength. Mmm, lunch.

And so it was that last Friday, our band of merry experimenters arrived in Plumpton, East Sussex, to start the day; Curtis, Ben, Abi, Leonora and Simon, in addition to Fraser and myself.

Off we went on a rough route with a rough plan in mind.

Because we were all on iPhone, we created a collaborative reel on DSPO, a new(ish) app from the Hipstamatic people that allows you to shoot a reel together of images through a specific time period (we chose 6 hours), and then export as a collection, slideshow, or in this case a wee video flickbook...


A video posted by Artefact Cards (@artefactcards) on


Now, I've got form with the Hipstamatic creations.

I used the randomness of the original all to create the Plumpton Mornings project about four or five years ago. And whilst still a bit buggy and jarrying in places, I've loved using DSPO so far to do things together as groups. Needs an Android version, and then it'll be a perfect workshop tool.

And then, after some mucking about with getting the app set up on phones, it was off into the wilderness...






























As you'll see, the day followed a pattern which went something like this:

i) A gentle 'intro' walk (people find out more about each other, the plan, the tasks). Walk through mixed terrain, with new Artefact Field Kits in hand.

ii) Stop in a circle, in a lovely open glade. Face each other. After discussion, ask people to start committing their initial inklings of what they want to discuss.

iii) Wind our way through various tracks and fields, towards lunch together in a cosy country pub

iv) Over lunch discuss the things we were thinking of, and see how they connect.

v) Set off up a big hill after lunch, reflecting on the things we talked about

vi) Open out into large, broad fields with a big sky overhead, as groups naturally form to expand on subjects

vii) File into a long, gentle track which descends gradually, as people pair off and speak shoulder to shoulder.

viii) End with a nice glass of wine, and an exploration of what we've talked about and discovered that day, and what should be next...


There are many things which came to the surface during the day, indeed too many and myriad to list out here (I'll link out to other thoughts that people are writing up below, as they go up).


Here's Curtis' take, and a new thing he's starting next year too... get involved :)

But the big thing for us was the ability of the landscape to shape conversation gently, naturally, without having to instruct people to 'get into groups of four, now'.

As well as running more Walkshops next year (there's even a site for it now, which as Fraser says, means it is a thing now), I'm interested in how you take some of these ideas about environment changing groups, and recreate it inside buildings, or through cities. Starting as broadly as you can we thinking about not just what people will do, but where they will do it, should be a priority.



If you're interested in something like this in 2016, between now and the end of the year we are looking at how we can make this something we can run for teams & businesses

Add your name to the mailing list below, and we'll let you know when we're good to go...

Subscribe to the Walkshop Mailing List


Posted in design thinking, discipline, practice, thinking, walkshop

Video: Metaphorical Design Mechanics (why we all use cards to build ideas)

Posted 9 November 2015 by John Willshire

Those lovely folks at Adaptive Lab invited me to give a short talk last month at their inaugural Pi People event over in Old Street.

I talked about why there are so many different card decks around at the moment (culturally, creatively strategically etc), and what's going on when we use cards to create ideas that work on the web - here's the video they've made of the talk:


The second Pi People event is coming up very soon too, which you should totally get yourselves along to - more details here.

Posted in cards, design, design thinking, discipline, making, play, playing cards, practice, thinking, visual thinking

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

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