Smithery doubles to make Artefact Cards shrink


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 -




13 responses to “Smithery doubles to make Artefact Cards shrink”

  1. I’ve always liked the Moo MiniCard holder.

    Swipes across the top, each card pulls away from the rest easily, and shuts with a satisfying click.

    Look forward to seeing what happens next!

    1. Hey there Ant – yes, I love that Moo click too… Such a satisfying feeling. My gut feeling tells me to stay away from plastics, but Tim knows some clever folk who do smart things with recycled plastics, so it may well be worth thinking about. Will definitely dog out my old moo mini card holder though.

  2. I think having a magnetic coating on the backside of the cards would be great so you can put up the cards on metallic sheets or other metal surfaces, just like a post it note.

    1. Hey there Calle – now, that’s something we’ve actually tried, and found a much cleaner and better solution to, we think – read all about that development process here –

  3. Warren avatar

    Well this is probably heresy but I have been using a roll-up pencil case to hold about 50 cards plus Sharpie’s and pens and I prefer it to the boxes. Not sure that’s less expensive but hopefully it sparks further ideas.

    1. The funny thing is Warren, I don’t think it is heresy – many people, myself included, have been carrying around 50 cards in something else more fit for purpose – the larger existing box is just that bit too bulky to be a carrying case. If you could possible take a couple of photos and send them over, that’d be ace… Oh, wait a minute, had an idea… Maybe we should do a Flickr group, and Artefact Cards equivalent of ‘what’s in my bag’?

  4. Like Warren, I stick them held together with a rubber band in a clear pencil case with sharpies, a couple of packs of post its and my current favourite facilitation tool; stattys notes.

    1. Hi Jonathan – see the previous reply to Warren, will set up a quick something on Flickr to start collecting photos of how people carry & use Artefact Cards – seems that there are lots of examples out there of how people have been finding their own best practice, so if Fraser and I can see all that stuff, it’d mean the design will be based in actual use… Which probably isn’t a bad thing, I reckon 🙂

  5. Some cards you use once for a specific presentation or project.
    Some cards you use again and again as thought starters or aides memoirs.
    Something like this for the latter –
    Appreciate that this runs counter to your idea of reducing packaging. I’ll keep using bulldog clips in the meantime…

    1. Ooo, silicone… That’s interesting. I don’t think it runs counter to ‘less packaging’, because it becomes the one permanent piece of packaging that you have, and every time you get refills, that can be really minimal.

  6. Being a super-fan – ha! – I use the box as a desktop holder. It’s perfect for keeping them in view – and as a way of sparking conversations with people when I’m contracting in an office.

    I also use small bulldog clips for ‘sets’ of cards. But they get damaged easily, especially when used too often. I’ve actually had to re-do a few sets over time.

    I’d like to see something I can use to carry a few around in. A branded card carrier. Sold separately. That way, I could have cards sent to me in a similar way you do with the ‘Just Cards’ sets. Smaller, lighter and – with some refinement – a possible solution to the problem you’re describing.

    However, I’d also like to have a desktop holder, for those conversations.

    I foresee a combination of separate products here. Maybe?

    Another thought… remember the days when you could take a glass bottle back to the shop and they gave you 10p? What about a reusable postage device? I pay a premium the first time, but I can post it back empty (small cost) and have it refilled at a lower cost plus (lower) postage back to me? Just an idea. Might not work; could be more costly than current. Throwing it out there, John 🙂

    Finally, do you see the days when I can pop into a carefully selected store – like Magma – and collect my refills. You post once in bulk, and the postage cost is shared across a number of people. Or if not a shop, then a person. Example: Could I be a roving salesperson in London, as it were? A lot of trust here, but distribution is the hard bit, right? Again, throwing it out there as a thought, not necessarily a solution.

    I could go on, so should probably write you an email. Or meet for a coffee.

    1. A real super-fan response too 😀

      Agree on bulldog clip approach – a good temporary solution, but not the best for collecting long term stuff.

      You’re very in tune with Phil in the comment above, I think. One robust, beautiful thing, that cards can be carried in. I have something in development as a first idea, but not the last. So all ideas about what else that might be most welcome.

      We should totally have coffee soon anyway, just because it’s been a while. Then we can plot which stores to stock fills in 🙂