Artefact Cards Blog

Don't Toy With Ideas. Play With Them.

Posted 13 August 2013 by John Willshire

I've just taken delivery of the new batch of stickers for inclusion with the Deluxe Boxes.  Rather pleased with them; the idea of playing with ideas is becoming a more consistent territory for the cards, I feel, as it seems to apply across the board for whatever people are using them for.


It also goes back to what Tim, Fraser and I discussed at the beginning of the summer:


It really feels like we're conceptually getting to the interesting parts of the Artefact Card thing.  More news very soon...

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The Artefact Reading List

Posted 30 July 2013 by John Willshire

I did a wee presentation on Artefact Cards down at The Future Laboratory yesterday, and at the last minute on the train interspersed the presentation with a rudimentary Artefact Reading List (snapped and exported using the Artefact app, of course) if you want to investigate some of the key texts which inspired the working method of the cards, here's not such a bad place to start:

What Are Artefact Cards? from John V Willshire

Posted in Artefact, Artefact Cards, artefactcards, blank cards, brainstorms, cards, thinking, visual thinking, vizthinking, wireframing, workshops

Minimum Viable Presentation

Posted 29 July 2013 by Shopify API


We had the first Artefact meetup last week, which was great fun.  More on that over here.  But there will be more, that’s for sure.  Thanks to Helen & Mel at BBH for hosting, and the guys over at Carlsberg in Copenhagen for being the beer sponsors (and sending us some fine craft beer from the Jacobsen microbrewery).

At the end of the evening, Adam mentioned that he’d heard someone describe the app as “Minimum Viable Presentation”.  Which I think is brilliant.  I just wish I knew who it was who’d said it.

Anyway, get your MVP tool for iPhone over here, if you haven’t already –

And if you have it already, do be a dear and write us a review of it :)


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Artefact Meetup #1

Posted 27 July 2013 by John Willshire

As you'll probably know by now, Wednesday night saw the very first Artefact Meetup in London.  

Tom Abba and Duncan Speakman gave a brilliant talk about These Pages Fall Like Ash, which you can listen to as an audio track here:

It brought up a lot of interesting discussion points.  One key one for me was"how do you get people to make that first mark on something", be it the beautiful TPFLA book (which people had to write in) or an Artefact Card for the first time.  I also found it interesting that even with the narrative journey of TPFLA clearly laid out, people chose to ignore the order and make up their own. 

We're culturally becoming unused to sullying a page that can't be easily undone, and yet will happily recut and reorder a preset structure to fit our own whims.  Those sorts of things always say a lot to me about what's happening in the field of knowledge work.

Also, about halfway through the evening, I realised what my favourite thing about the meetup was; that the mix of people was so wonderfully diverse.  It was a group of people who, by and large, shouldn't have really found themselves in a room together.  But it really worked.  I shall be pretending from now on that it was all part of the plan...

We were also fortunate enough to be drinking some very fine beer as donated by the guys over at Carlsberg in Copenhagen; they sent a large selection of their finest beers that they make over there:

These beers don't make it across to the UK all that often; what was it that ad said?  "Beer so good the Danes hate to see it leave..."?  Well, that's understandable now.  Maybe the Artefact community can get them to launch it over here.

Thanks to everyone who came along, I hope you all enjoyed it half as much as I did.

I suppose I should really do another one now...

Posted in Artefact, Artefact Cards, artefactcards, brainstorms, cards, Meetup, visual thinking, wireframing, workshops

Introducing The Artefact iPhone App

Posted 22 July 2013 by Shopify API

Yes, it’s been a little quiet on the blog of late – but with good reason.

A crack team of Adam Hoyle of Do Tank, Darrell Whitelaw of Siberia and myself (of making tea and random ideas) having been finishing off… the Artefact App for iPhone:


One of the things I’d picked up a lot when talking to users, or using the cards myself, is that there wasn’t an easy way to get the cards off the table or down from the wall, and into a computer or phone and sent to someone as a digital file of some form.

That’s the problem we set out to tackle, and I’m so so pleased with the result -it’s free to download and have a play with, with the advanced features being the very modest price of £2.49.

It’s not just for using with Artefact Cards, clearly – it works brilliantly for any sort of  working practice where you’re surrounded by piles of sticky-notes and flipcharts that need capturing.  Snap ‘em, order ‘em, and export as a presentation, PDF, or just the pictures.

It’s already been featured in the likes of PSFK, which is very nice.  If you know anyone else who might want to feature it, just send ‘em my way.

Finally a wee postscript; working on it over the past few months with Adam (build) & Darrell (design & UI) who’re on opposite sides of the pond has been a brilliant, brilliant experience.   Basically because they’re both awesome people with a fondness for tea.  And very, very good at what they do.  Thank you, gents.

And you should see what we’re planning next for it…

Ta-ta then, happy playing.

What, you’re still here?



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Smithery doubles to make Artefact Cards shrink

Posted 16 July 2013 by Shopify API


So, for the summer Smithery has become two people… I’d like you all to say hello to Fraser Hamilton, who’s going into the final year of his Industrial Design degree at Loughborough in the Autumn.

He’s just finished up a placement with Mark Shayler at consultancy Tickety Boo, who tackle product design, packaging and services in a much more environmental fashion. And funnily enough, he’s from East Kilbride, only five miles from where I grew up in Hamilton. Smithery is defintely a Lanarkshire thing, it would seem.

We met at the Do Lectures, the long and interesting repercussions of all of which I’ll get round to writing up some day when I can / have time /get my head around everything.

And alongside some other client projects (including the SEKRITPROJEKT for Carlsberg which has been amazing fun over the last few weeks, roping in James Wallis, Mark Earls, Tim Milne & Sophie Henderson along the way), Fraser’s going to be looking at designing a new box for the Artefact Cards

….WHHOOOAAAA, screams the Artefact faithful… but we love the box. The box rocks. Or rox, or something. Don’t CHANGE it….

cards with test logo

I know, I love the boxes too.

But there are reasons

Firstly, it’s about where these existing boxes are from. They’re white label MOO packaging of course, as they have been from the start. I couldn’t find a British maker of boxes who’d make a box that small, so the next best thing I could do was use a great (and MOO are great) British supplier of boxes.

But they have to import the boxes themselves, and I’d rather that Artefact Cards were 100% made in Britain. In the long term, I’d like them to be 100% made in the region or country they’re sold in too, but we’ll tackle that one later.

Secondly, they are substantial boxes, and my gut feeling is that it’s a bit too much packaging around the cards themselves. And because they’re weighty and heavy filled with cards, the shipping boxes that we then use to send out the cards ned to be more sunstantial too. There’s too much material there that, whilst beautiful, doesn’t need to be there. I’d like to reduce that where we can.

Thirdly, I believe the lovely MOO boxes actually prevent some people from using the cards. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who don’t want to use the cards they’ve bought because they feel so perfect and clean in that box. I’m not really into selling people a pristine item to sit on a shelf. I want them to be something people use to make better ideas faster.

Lastly, I want the cards to cost less. Largely because I’ve seen what happens when you put them in the hands of young people, and young people can’t really afford them at the moment.

It started at last year’s Young Rewired State hub in Brighton, I helped out for a few days and donated enough Artefact Cards for all the kids to get a box, and was blown away with how naturally they took to them and how creative they got with them.

Then, Artefact SuperFan Simon‘s wife is a Maths teacher, and has been using them in her lessons at a secondary school, and there’s a forthcoming blog post on that. And I also sent some up to my Mum, who took them into the primary school she used to teach in, and the teachers saw loads of opportunities to help kids learn and create in a playful way.

So if I want more students and school kids to be able to afford them, there’s two ways to do that:

1. I make and sell more. The last production run we did down in Axminster was for 250,000 Artefact Cards. But it turns out that in the econonomies of scale of material culture, quarter of a million Artefact Cards isn’t cool. What’s cool is a billion Artefact Cards (to paraphrase The Social Network). When we do many, many more, unit cost comes way down.

2. I reduce the cost of making them, which by making better packaging, we can do, I think.

So that’s the plan.

Fraser’s spending some time over the next couple of weeks getting into some ideas and seeing what’s what, and we started this week with a good conversation with Tim which we’ve recorded or posterity here…


Then I’ve listed out an Artefact Chronology – the most useful thing about developing in the open, perhaps, is that you’ve got an entire history of a project ready to share whenever you need to:

The first mention…
Early use…
Concept testing…
Alpha to beta…
Early manual…
Gratuitous detail…
Launch day…
Branching out…
Factory visit…

…and of course there are are the user interviews I’ve done with folk too…

Phil Adams
Tina Bernstein
Annabel Bird
James Caig
Paul Chaplin
Warren Church
Ian Fitzpatrick
Louise Flett
Olivier Legris
Antony Mayfield
Kev Metta
Joe Roberson
Martin Roberts
Ian Sanders
Thomas Skavhellen
Michael Wallis
Dena Walker
Simon White
Michael T Williams

So there’s lots for Fraser to go on here too.

As a final request to all the Artefact users though, if you know of anything else Fraser and myself should look at, either Artefact Cards-specific or wider inspiration from other lean packaging, then please do drop a note in the comments section below.

Fraser will be writing some posts to update everyone of progress as he goes, of course.

UPDATE – we’ve opened up a new Flickr group to capture just how you use, store and carry your Artefact Cards at the moment – upload as many or as few pictures as you like, but the more the merrier really, as they will be brilliant visual insights into what we’re designing for –




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Make Things Like Tony Stark

Posted 16 July 2013 by Shopify API

A talk I gave last week at the inaugural Innovation Social event, held at the Google Campus on Bonhill Street in London.

Some things worth noting…

i) it was the first time I’d done a presentation by only writing it on Artefact Cards, then using a beta version of the App I’m making with Adam Hoyle of Do Tank Studios, & Darrell Whitelaw of America.

Artefact App

So the presentation only needed to touch a computer when uploading it to Slideshare (and those guys have been great in helping us build in a function for the future where you can share straight to Slideshare, which is massively exciting…

Basically I’m not very far away from having a system that lets me write, present and share ideas without ever opening Keynote or PowerPoint.  Which is nice.

ii) the presentation needs a voiceover.  It’s a little more oblique than usual, perhaps.  I’ll get on to that.

iii) the development that it’s talking about is that of the Stattys that have recently launched on the Artefact site.  They’re amazing Electrostatic sheets of paper that stick to any wall, and that the Artefact Cards then stick to.  You can basically build yourself a whiteboard style wall anywhere you like, use your Artefact Cards with them, then take down the whole thing in five minutes as if you were never there.

They keep selling out, but there’s some just back in, so if you tried to buy them before and failed, get on over there.

iv) Google Campus on Bonhill Street is in the exact building where I started in media.  There used to be a research agency called BJM there.  It’s a bit like coming home.


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