Using Artefact Cards: Ian Fitzpatrick

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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