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I’m a big fan of Artefact Cards. I use them in my workshops and many of my clients have started using them too. They’re fantastic thinking tools to help you explore ideas, map information and think about things in new ways. So I’m delighted to say that Artefact cards are our first partner. They’ll be bringing you some techniques over the next few weeks but let’s start with an introduction -DB

It’s been five years since Artefact Cards were first hatched as an idea. Five years of changing the way designers, lawyers, songwriters, academics, artists, risk assessors, teachers and everyone in between adopted the cards as their own personal rocket fuel for sending their ideas up into the blue. Five years of watching, asking, learning.

When Dave asked us to contribute to Open For Ideas, it seemed only fitting that for the start of an incredibly exciting journey into the ideas territory, we shared what we’ve learned…

we’ve seen things… seen things you people wouldn’t believe…

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…ahem, no, not quite that dramatic…

But what we have seen from watching countless numbers of people use Artefact Cards, either for the first time of for the nth time, is how readily a simple shift in material form can to radically change the way ideas are created, explored and developed.

So what have we learned? And how can it help you?

Over the next few weeks and months, we’ll be describing some of the exercises, games and observations from the workshops we run and the user research we do. Firstly, though, a little tasting menu: these are the Artefact Cards Rules of Thumb

You’re not writing a note, you are making an artefact.

There is a reason we prefer using a Sharpie with the cards. It’s permanent and when something is permanent it means you are committing to it. Commit to your ideas but at the same time don’t be scared to mistakes. There’s something powerful about ideas created with intent and care.

Draw. Don’t say ‘I can’t draw’. It’s just that you don’t draw.

There is no language barrier when something is doodles

“I can’t draw” is a lie we tell ourselves when we think we have become too old to draw. You would never hear a toddler say it. Draw what you are thinking about, rather than thinking about what you’re drawing. It will help you describe the problem better and there is no language barrier when something is doodles.

Mistakes are just your hand taking you somewhere new.

Ideas are ten a penny, but it can be hard to know which ones are the truly valuable ones when they are still in your head. Get them out of our head and onto the cards. Some might count for nothing in the end, others will be priceless. But they are born together, part of one process.

If it’s not right right now, it’ll be right later on.

Don’t rush to judge

Don’t rush to judge; you have made an artefact so likely it isn’t going anywhere. People tend to pack away Artefact Cards into their boxes again, label them, and store. When you dip into that project or that client again, out comes the box, and the ideas on the cards find new, relevant context. Things often get more valuable over time, so don’t be afraid to shelve that idea for later.

Use them as playing cards. Shuffle, deal, order, rank.

Really interesting things happen when we create synergies between different ideas. What are the links? If you cant see them, shuffle the deck and go again. The more cards you introduce, the more synergies you create and in turn the more synergies the more possibilities. Creativity is connecting two things to make a third, so make it as easy as possible for yourself to do that.

It’s not a card. It’s a single brick. Build a house.

Everything in the world is made from elements. Ideas are no different. They are the accumulation of many elements and these elements love company. Don’t leave any thought unwritten, undrawn or unexplained, but don’t force them all onto single cards either. Dry stone walls are constructed by laying all the stones out on the ground and exploring different patterns and structures. Ideas are the same.

Don’t leave any thought unwritten, undrawn or unexplainedClick To Tweet

Make shapes of your ideas, or maps or scaffolding or…

Humans are amazing at seeing patterns and structures

Your ideas are more than individual things and can be so much more when used together. Humans are amazing at seeing patterns and structures, which allows us to find meaning in between the cards, not just on them. Maps common themes and see ideas cluster, pile up similar genres and create a deck, build out from your ideas.

Draw a dot. Put the pen on the dot, count to 3, and draw.

Just start. It’ll get a whole lot easier after that first dot. Promise. Once a canvas has its first splash of paint on it, it is far closer to being a masterpiece. We often think of that first card as the one that primes the pump of the creativity engine. It may not be the source of all the power, but it’s the spark that brings it all to life.
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I'm a big fan of Artefact Cards. I use them in my workshops and many of my clients have started using them too. They're fantastic thinking tools to help you explore ideas, map information and think about things in new ways. So I'm delighted to say that Artefact cards...
Artefacts Cards
Artefact Cards are a brilliant tool for anyone who works with ideas. People are more inclined to craft better ideas on Artefact Cards, because the cards feel that they should have something great on them. Once you have ideas on the cards, you can keep moving, shuffling, stacking, dealing and matching them. You can continually create new context and combinations for your different ideas and elements. Once you're ready to go, you can pack the ideas away in the unique Artefact Cards box, and unpack the project again wherever you happen to be.