Artefact Cards Blog

Using Artefact Cards - Simon White

Posted 8 October 2012 by John Willshire

   

 

How did you think you'd use the cards? 

I had no preconceived idea of how I’d use them, although I had an inkling it would be similar to how I plot out ideas on Post-It® notes or Keynote slides. And it is, but it also isn’t.  

 

How did you actually use them? 

I take cards with me wherever I go, which I never did with either Keynote or Post-It® notes. Whereas before I would reach for Evernote on my iPhone, or a pad and pen, to capture a thought, I’ve adopted the cards as my preferred method. Another way I use them is during the process of plotting an idea – or a blog post, strategic narrative, story or presentation – I like how I can remix things quickly. The cards are really versatile, as my list of uses hopefully demonstrates. And it gets really interesting when adding other thoughts from earlier sessions and checking out whether a hypothesis works or not. It really reinvigorates things. I’ve noticed I tend to use the yellow side for major events in plots, or the key thoughts; the white side is for adding detail or posing questions and challenges. It does depend on what I’m using them for.  

 

Have they changed the way you do anything? 

I focus more. Committing the pen to the card makes the idea as indelible as the ink. When I’ve had to discard cards* it’s with a heavy heart. This has made me really consider thoughts before I commit. It’s not about slowing down the speed of thought, but ensuring the deeper meaning resonates enough to be captured. I’m more rigorous. 

*I’ve torn up three cards so far.

 

 

 

How do you describe them to others? 

As I use them in a variety of ways, it’s hard to be so resolutely definitive. So, I show them a set. 90% of the time people immediately feedback on how they’d use them. That’s quite a neat thing.  

 

Any final thoughts? 

While I am yet to try it, I’m looking forward to handing over some cards and a Sharpie to someone else and have them re-order my ideas and/or add their own ideas to the mix.  


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Posted in Artefact, Artefact Cards, blank cards, brainstorms, cards, Interview, Simon White, thinking, workshops

Using Artefact Cards - Phil Adams

Posted 8 October 2012 by John Willshire

 

How did you think you’d use the cards? 

Powerpoint has never been a platform for origination. It’s a downstream, executional tool. It’s about art direction. 

Before Artefact I used sheets of A3 paper to draft and hone my presentations. I would hand draw rectangles and create a rough storyboard layout, into which I’d write and sketch themes and thoughts without worrying too much about order. Later I would edit and impose order by scribbling out, numbering or drawing arrows to show which rectangle should come after which when it came to making things look pretty in Powerpoint. 

So Artefact cards, before I bought some, looked like the logical evolution of what I was already doing. I’d still be writing and sketching by hand before jumping onto my Mac to execute. But I would no longer have to scribble, number or arrow to change the order. So I was instinctively drawn to Artefact. But I was also a bit worried that there might be an Emperor’s New Clothes effect. They would be lovely and tactile and all that, but essentially just a fancy version of what I was already doing. 

Someone I knew from Twitter had had an idea and the gumption to make it happen. The financial and time costs were low. And so I felt almost obliged to support this maker. But I seriously doubted that I’d be making any kind of refill purchase.  

 

How did you actually use them? 

The cards are indeed a better version of my rough A3 storyboards. No surprise there. But I have also used them as a collaborative tool. Two planners working on the same challenge independently sketch out some themes and ideas on Artefact cards. Then they get together to compare Artefact notes. You identify clusters of similar ideas. You co-create a narrative by shuffling and stacking. 

 

When it comes to stacking the two colours suddenly become very useful. We use yellow for headline themes and white (stacked underneath each yellow) for supporting data or anecdotes or stories or images or possible video references. This chimes with my view of how good presentations work. You’re lucky if people remember two or three of your ideas an hour after you stop talking. So a good presentation doesn’t try to convey more than two or three (hopefully) big ideas. 

If a presentation is a river that you need to cross, you should aim to cross it using as few, and as big idea stepping stones as possible. The leap between stones should be as wide as possible and achieved by good supporting stories and the presenter’s personality. People are buying into who is doing the saying as much as what is being said. Too many too small stepping stones puts too much emphasis on the what at the expense of the who. 

Artefact cards make it easy to plan this kind of presentation. Yellow cards for stepping stones. White cards for the stories you tell to make the jump from stone to stone. I have also used the cards for theatrical effect. In a recent chemistry meeting with a potential client we were asked to demonstrate our understanding of the key challenges faced by their brand in their industry. There was no way that we could cover all of the challenges in the time allotted for the meeting. 

So we hand wrote the headline for each challenge on a separate card. And in the meeting we held the deck out and asked the clients to “pick a card”. Then another. Then another. We got through maybe 4 out of 7 themes, but the client could see what the other three were and knew that we had thought about them to the same degree given that it was they, not we, that determined the order in which we discussed each challenge. We’ve been invited to pitch as a result of that chemistry meeting so I can say with complete confidence that, at the very least, Artefact cards were not a failure ;-).  

 

Have they changed the way you do anything? 

I used to throw away my handwritten A3 storyboards once I’d art directed the presentation on Powerpoint. Whereas I have kept a high proportion of the Artefact cards. There are quite a few headline (yellow) themes and quite a few (white) stories that I will use again. They are safely stored in the Moo boxes (which travel with me). It’s hard to dispose of the cards. And I think that has an effect on your quality control. 

The cards are a scarce resource, unlike A3 photocopier paper, and so you think twice before putting Sharpie to cardboard. A lot of my best planning happens when I’m staring out of the window on a train. You let your mind freewheel and make unexpected associations. The (yellow) Artefact cards can act as a catalyst to this freewheeling thought process. The mental equivalent of giving a roundabout the occasional push to keep it spinning. 

 

How do you describe them to others? 

Blank Artefact cards are a powerful cardboard prototyping tool for presentations. Re-used Artefact cards are a portable, personal, offline (always on) thought catalyst.  

 

Any final thoughts..? 

I suspect that you will have lots of your own ideas, and lots of suggestions from other people, for how to evolve the Artefact offer. New features, new colours, whatever. I’d counsel against too much development. The binary approach to colour is perfect. Their simplicity is their strength. Their quality and permanence (versus Post-Its or A3 paper) is their strength. And their scarcity (until you buy a refill) is their strength. And, despite my initial concern, I shall be buying a refill.

 

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Posted in Artefact, Artefact Cards, blank cards, Blonde, brainstorms, cards, Edinburgh, Interview, Phil Adams, thinking, workshops

Using Artefact Cards - Ian Fitzpatrick

Posted 8 October 2012 by John Willshire

 

How did you think you'd used the cards? 

Frankly, I didn't have a strong sense of how I might use them. I liked the idea that I might use them to re-order or re-structure collections of ideas — rethinking links in a chain — but I thought of them as more of a refillable resource for collecting ideas than the more-permanent lenses for ideas that they have become (at least for me).  

 

How did you actually use them? 

It's my experience that the best ideas we generate our informed by the intersection of three things: the things we believe in, our observations on the world around us, and the challenges at-hand. With that in mind, I've settled on a system that uses both a semi-permanent deck of cards (cataloguing beliefs and observations) and a more ephemeral set of cards for defining opportunities and notes around a specific challenge. To keep things a little easier, I've taken to marking up my permanent cards on the yellow-side, and my opportunities on the white side. It's a structure that allows both for quick organization, and a gentle reminder that the ideas we generate are subject to the beliefs we already hold to be true.  

 

Have they changed the way you do anything? 

They've added a layer of rigor to the way I go about framing up a challenge. In most cases, the process of designing an experience bears little relationship to the increase in multi-generational households, the quantified self or an increase in consumer applications for voice-control — but in some cases they're extraordinarily-relevant to a specific task or element of a system that we design. In almost every case, an observation catalogued on a card informs some critical part of our approach. 

This becomes particularly-relevant when we align those observations with tightly-held beliefs about systems. When we espouse the idea that 'social content should provide more value to the network than the brand', it doesn't have specific currency. That same idea coupled with observations around the rise in popularity of farm-to-table consumption has enormous implications for the way content might be shaped or delivered to a specific audience. Most notions in combination deliver noise, but a few deliver great signal. For us, the cards get us to signal more quickly.  

 

How do you describe them to others? 

I think we're living through a period during which the capacity to build one's own tools (and adapt the tools of others) is the most-significant advantage that the knowledge worker can learn. I'm constantly urging my team to evolve both a personal set of beliefs and a set of tools that they can bring to bear against a task. I describe Artefact cards as a malleable tool for connecting fleeting ideas to personal (or institutional) values.  

 

Any final thoughts..? 

Drawing and diagramming with the cards remains the greatest challenge for me with the Artefact (as, I suspect, it is for many). This is particularly true for me because I find that my ideas are more subject to re-interpretation (by me) when sketched, than when written down in precise fashion. I suppose there's a certain advantage to that flexibility, but I haven't developed the comfort level with that idea that would allow me to benefit from it.   

 

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Posted in Almighty, Artefact, Artefact Cards, blank cards, brainstorms, cards, Ian Fitzpatrick, Interview, thinking, workshops

Using Artefact Cards - Dena Walker

Posted 8 October 2012 by John Willshire

   

 

How did you think you'd use the cards? 

Primarily for helping me to plan the content flow of presentations and lectures. I have always done something similar with the standard address cards you can get from the stationery store, or sometimes I would tear up the A5 pads from work's meeting rooms (sorry Boss!), but they were a bit cumbersome and would invariably get dog-eared from being bulldog clipped together and chucked in my handbag, which drove me a bit potty.  

How did you actually use them? 

I do use them for presentation and lecture planning, but I've also used them for more collaborative projects, especially in work. I have really found them to be as tactile as they were described. People instinctively want to pick them up and move them around, which means that everyone gets stuck in to play around with the development of a thought, idea, presentation etc. Using them really seems to get people more invested in a project from the get-go, which is great. 

 

 

I'm also currently learning Chinese and they're great to use as cue cards to test myself on key words and phrases. Keeping them in the little box means I can carry them around with me really easily without them getting tattered and practice more often. 

 

 

Somewhat indulgently, I use them to write my shopping lists on. The size of them and their bright colour means they slot into my purse really easily and I don't forget to look at them.

   

 

Have they changed the way you do anything? 

I'm not sure how much they've changed the way I do things, but they've definitely improved the things I do. I find that my presentation thinking is more focussed before I commit a thought to a card, (they're too pretty to mess up!) and I'm fitting in a lot more Chinese practice than I probably would have done without them, much to my teacher's delight. I also return home forgetting to buy loo roll a lot less often nowadays, which is a bit of a boon.  

 

How do you describe them to others? 

A little box of cards that are greater than the sum of their parts.    

 

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Posted in Artefact, Artefact Cards, brainstorms, cards, Dena Walker, Interview, Irish International, thinking, workshops

Using Artefact Cards - James Caig

Posted 8 October 2012 by John Willshire

   

How did you think you'd used the cards? 

I imagined them as a more substantive alternative to post-its. I loved the idea of a more hard-wearing format that might help forge more hard-wearing ideas. Group workshops would be the first target. Too many brainstorms suffer from post-it abundance. The ideas captured are thin and superficial. 

They hang off over-loaded flipchart paper and make post-workshop interpretation both cumbersome and subjective. Hopefully Artefact would encourage participants to articulate their ideas in a more rounded, actionable way. I did have one reservation, though. Idea generation can be inhibiting. 

Sometimes post-its can encourage that workshop throat-clearing that gets you to the good stuff. What if the cards induced unnecessary pressure? Writing presentations would be next. I use post-its to detail the component parts of a story anyway, and like to build or order the story as new elements are generated. 

But I often end up with a story with too many sub-plots. I had hopes that Artefact would help me maintain control. Finally I was also looking forward to using a format that would encourage me to draw. It can capture the essence of a thought more three-dimensionally. Something about the combination of Sharpie and the finish of the cards looked like they might force that side of me into action again.   

 

How did you actually use them? 

When they arrived I actually felt strangely intimated by them. They were smaller than I expected, and it took a while to luxuriate in the white space rather than flee it. I'd also under-estimated people's comfort with familiar tools - like post-its - and how self-conscious they can be when asked to try something different. But I found the permanence of Artefact ultimately motivating. 

At first I found myself using Artefact to capture an image or a thought in place of merely writing it in my notebook. I liked how the idea then hung around, sinking in slowly, rather than becoming lost in a record of meeting notes and action points. Briefing others became easier as a result - that brainwave you had during your run was more solid, more tangible than it would otherwise have been. Eventually I was introducing Artefact, unannounced, into group settings. In one situation found myself drawing ideas we'd been discussing for a while as a group, and it was the first time we all felt on the same page.

 

 

Another time two of us made sense in an hour of a project that had had us all tail-chasing for weeks. Discussing the idea as a pair helped us map the territory we were venturing into, and the cards singled out the landmarks. The debate was crucial – we jointly agreed when a card was genuinely called for. After that, moving them around, grouping, re-ordering - it was all easy and clean. It's here that Artefact's design wins out. The playing card finish makes them easy to slide around the table, sort, play with. Scoop them up in the final order, put them in your pocket and you're done.  

 

Have they changed the way you do anything? 

Changing the way you express ideas has an effect on the way you think of them, I think. The permanence of marking the cards means each one needs to count. You’re forced to think, concentrate and decide. The idea or the story becomes more concisely expressed. I also find myself capturing client ideas less in the abstract, and more as they would be experienced by consumers. It can be satisfying to linger on cleverly reconciled concepts or problems, but representing ideas as they would take shape in the real world is way more useful. You get to the ‘so what’ a lot more quickly. 

I’ve found the group dynamic changing too. Recently a bunch of us were trying to crack a fairly theoretical question from a client. I noticed everyone was making individual notes. It’s either that or one person dominates the flipchart. As I started using the cards to capture the dominant themes attention began to focus on them. People started ordering them to find the story. We’d pooled the effort and got to a more definitive place than I think we would have done otherwise. I took the cards with me. Two hours later my colleague if he could borrow them to help write the deck.

 

I’ve tried blogging with them too. Writing for me is still an iterative experience – what I want to say emerges as I’m writing. But the cards undoubtedly helped provide a useful structure.    

 

How do you describe them to others? 

Actually I found this one of the most surprising elements. Artefact requires quite a bit of exposition - or perhaps justification. People can get it conceptually, but that's not a guarantee of them being persuaded. People's cynicism sometimes led them to see Artefact as expensive post-its. Ultimately I discovered that using them in front of people was more persuasive - and a more tangible demonstration of how useful they are - than going through an explanation that risked either being too convoluted or under-selling the product. The most authentic story is your own. I eventually worked out it was better to describe how I’d used them myself than try to replicate the accompanying booklet.    

 

Any final thoughts..? 

I tend to carry them around with me all the time now. I reach for them more and more frequently. Instinctively I know when an idea or moment is best served by the notebook, the phone or the Artefact cards. I’m most excited by the collaborative opportunities, though. Very few ideas spring complete from one person’s – or even one agency’s – mind. Getting ideas out of your head and into the real world to aid debate and collective expression is critical to being useful to clients. And Artefact is definitely a way to do that.    

 

Read more from James Caig over at See What Happens 

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Posted in Artefact, Artefact Cards, blank cards, brainstorms, cards, Interview, James Caig, MEC, thinking, visual thinking, vizthinking, wireframing, workshops

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