I’m really proud of what we’ve done together. The plan wasn’t originally to do them on Artefact Cards, but once we started using them to draw out what the process entailed, it seemed a natural way to keep playing with the process.
So as well as the video, there are sets of the process cards that the Clinic guys can sit down with people and build a process to fit a piece of work or a style of working.
Thanks to Andy and all the guys at Clinic for being such a joy to work with too.
To celebrate the launch of the Winter 2013 Artefact Cards, I thought I’d share the story of their development on here, in detail that is perhaps as long as these Winter evenings…
i – The Structure of Winter
These are the hard yards, these cold January days.
People return from the seemingly never-ending celebrations of December to the what feels like the coldest, longest month imaginable.
Some heap additional misery upon themselves… giving up this, forgoing that, forcing themselves upon literal and metaphorical treadmills.
Yet January has its merits. It returns us to a sense of order, beginning things again, or starting them anew. It is an excellent planning month. “Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do – or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.” – Stanley Crawford
January is when a lot of that to-do list falls away. The festive break seems to wash away the ephemera; tasks which were so urgent in December, yet are forgotten afterwards.
People spend January rediscovering what it is they do.
Or discovering what it is they want to do. “The tendinous part of the mind, so to speak, is more developed in winter; the fleshy, in summer. I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and the blood.”– John Burroughs
It is a season for creating frameworks, building the scaffolding of the coming year.
So it follows that the this season’s Artefact Cards should be all about structure; helping you capture those delicate, fragile ideas, and bringing them in from the cold.
We are proud to present the Ice Blue Graph, the seasonal special for Winter 2013.
“Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius”– Pietro Aretino
It is in these Winter days that inspiration often strikes, and the structure around ideas and projects begins to form, like ice creeping across the bottom of a window pane. It is fitting, perhaps, that the possible the finest box of Artefact Cards we’ve created arrives in the season in which the project itself began to properly take form.
ii – A Cover Song of a Cover Song
I spent a lot of last winter wandering around with this in my pocket.
When you’re starting out doing something new, you look around to see who does it brilliantly. And Field Notes do seasons brilliantly. They do a lot of things brilliantly. I point you, for instance, to their story:
“Inspired by the vanishing sub genre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers, and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list, the Draplin Design Co., Portland, Ore – in conjunction with Coudal Partners, Chicago, Ill. – brings you “Field Notes” in hopes of offering “An honest memo book worth fillin’ up with GOOD INFORMATION.”
On trains and planes, in coffee shops and waiting rooms, I mapped out across the pages of that Northerly notebook the first few sketches of what the Artefact boxes would look like.
How they’d be packaged, how to do a trial pack, refills and so on. Components, material costs, seasonal ideas.
It began to bring structure to the idea of Artefact Cards – what it looked like as a product, rather than a project.
(There’s that word again, structure.)
That Northerly book became the original repository for all of the ideas that Artefact Cards would become.
I turn back through the pages every so often, and find some great ideas we haven’t done yet, and some rubbish ideas we have. And vice versa, thankfully.
I now use Artefact Cards offers to keep projects alive within. Bad ideas are thrown away, good ideas replace them, new shapes and strategies are found by reorganising and rearranging.
But I am still never, never found without a Field Notes book, for moments when I finds me some of that GOOD INFORMATION.
In tribute, I’m covering my favourite Field Notes song.
But like all cover songs, you’ve got to bring enough of your own thing to make it worth listening to.
Graph paper, the drums of the song. It screams structure at the subconscious, gently guiding you to find order, precision. Rather than a perfectly repeating square, I prefer a weightier margin every five lines… a bass drum for ideas, keeping them in line.
I wanted the bass blue to be punchier. The lead guitar of a black sharpie needs to sit on a bass line that balances it out.
And balance really is important. When you’re dealing with such a specifically sized object, you want it to be even. None of that weird Graph paper overhang you used to get at the edge of school books. If in doubt, cut out a chorus, shorten the guitar solo.
I hope that whether this is a song you’ve heard before, or a song you’re hearing for the first time, you find it says something to you.
iii – The Artisan Who’s An Artist
Whilst we’re talking about the structure that these cold winter months offer, let’s look at something else you’ll find in the Winter 2013 box.
It seemed only right to include something that would help guide the conscious and subconscious process of working with precision when you use the cards.
There are some interesting tensions around the idea of precision in the modern age. Whilst so many more of the things we do are measurable, a lot of the ways of working we set down for ourselves are, when you look at them, ‘by rule of thumb’…
La Pouce, by César Baldaccini RULE OF THUMB: “A useful principle having wide application but not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable in every situation. The phrase itself has been in circulation since the 1600s. In 1692, it appeared in print in Sir William Hope’s training manual for aspiring swordsmen, The Compleat Fencing-master: “What he doth, he doth by rule of Thumb, and not by Art.”
Here’s the thing; if ‘rule of thumb’ is to mean ‘not strictly accurate’, as in the fencing example, it implies that precision and accuracy lies in the domain of the artist. Where perhaps today numbers and measurement are seen as strictly the domain of the scientist and empiricist, it’s perhaps not so cut and dried.
There has always been, and will always be room in an artist’s hand for a ruler.
So we set out to find you one.
After much searching amongst the bric-a-brac and back alleys of the internet, we found just the thing.
It’s a Rolson rigid spring tempered stainless steel 150mm (6in) ruler.
– metric and imperial scales.
– ink black figures and graduations
– subdivided down to 0.5mm and 1/64 inch
– conversion table on the reverse side (inches to mm)
– a very handy wee hanging hole
Not one of those rubbish ‘shatterproof’ school ones that’d last half a term if you were lucky.
This is a workman’s ruler, a joiner’s ruler. But here’s the strange thing; it’s quite small, especially in the context of putting up buildings and extensions and making tables.
Which leads me to concur, simply, that this ruler is a tool for those who want to make things well.
UPDATE – I felt a bit guilty about posting just the below. So I’ve uploaded the presentation on Slideshare and done a wee voiceover. Hoorah for the interwebs.
…yes, fair enough, you might click on a post expecting something interesting, but you’re going to be disappointed, because all it actually is so far is some photoshop I’ve bodged together as an intro slide for the IPA – Level One talk I’m doing tomorrow…
Sorry. It’s all I have at the moment.
If you want to read stuff on what you thought the subject area implied, then you should wait until I write the bastard, and manage to record a wee narration and upload it here, or maybe read Mark Pollard’s post on Why Strategists Should Make Stuff again (a faster, better option, probably).
As I ambled towards Brighton Station this morning, cursing the chill that’s descended across the land in the last few days, I stopped briefly to snap this view from above the station…
Not very exciting, is it? So why did I bother?
Well, because on the same hill at the same time a week earlier, this was the view…
Stunning in comparison. It reminds me of a painted backdrop from the classic Hollywood films.
Why’s it different?
Well, it’s a week earlier, and the sun has crept above the East Brighton Golf course on that far hill, and it’s lighting up the scattered clouds like a flare. The combination of sun & clouds makes the picture.
Some things you can plan for; the sun rises in a pretty established pattern, you know roughly where it’s going to be.
But things like clouds you can’t plan for. And what’s more, if they just arrive on their own, without a sunrise, it’s of no use at all.
Planning for the things you know about is important… but within that, you’ve to be flexible, spontaneous, and take advantage of the things that crop up unexpectedly.
I thought by now I’d have a list as long as my arm of helpful hints and tips for adjusting to a first year of parenthood.
A repository of the finest child-rearing tips to be assembled since Dr Spock gave up writing books to concentrate on logic, tight-fitting blue polo necks and space travel.
Yet all I have instead is the nagging sense that we’re still making it up as we go along.
But then again, so is James. And it doesn’t faze him one jot. Every new and different thing that’s encountered is prodded, poked, often thrown, usually chewed. There are no dos and don’ts. There is only ‘try’.
Try and put the round peg through the square hole. Try and pick up mum’s trainer whilst standing up at the same time. Try and eat a whole plum all at once. Try to catch cats. Try to get dad to catch the cats that are too fast for you.
Try and hit the iPhone screen to see if you can make the colours and lights move around. Try and hit the television screen and make it work like an iPad. Try and reach through Skype to touch Gran and Pop.
When you’re one year old, anything is possible. Which is mainly because you don’t know the meaning of the word impossible. It looks like the most joyful, unconstrained existence I can imagine.
So if James has some advice for everyone, it’s ‘try’… because you’ll never know if you don’t.
And if I have advice for expectant parents, it’s this…
I was in a fascinating workshop on games today with Mark, the Hide & Seek guys, Tassos (who it was lovely to meet for the first time), Johnnie (likewise) and the Brainjuicer peeps (indeed, again).
And as happens occasionally, there was a brief lingual slip by Alex when he said “game ecology’ rather than “game economy”…
…but it prompted a really interesting thought:
What’s the difference between a game economy and a game ecology?
(CAVEAT: of course, before anyone gets all extra-clever on me, I know I’m not the guy to be writing this… I’m only just versed enough in games to be dangerous… but it’s interesting, worth capturing, sharing, and seeing if smarter, gamesier brains than mine can take it up and run with it)
Here’s my starter for ten.
Let’s say a game economy is where the actions and rewards within the game have been sufficiently worked through so that the points and prizes you collect feel fair for the effort put in.
It balances out to keep you interested and keep you playing.
So, with that in mind, perhaps a game ecology is a lot more organic and complex in the way it changes…
…everything is interconnected, but not in clear, expected ways, so that an action has a lot of different, harder to determine consequences, because it causes a shift in the ecosystem.
So whereas both an economy and an ecology change because of the actors in a market, an ecology also changes because of small things which make bigger things happen… the butterfly effect, I suppose that is. Which if they’re big enough, and disastrous enough, get termed ‘acts of god’.
Anyway, I’m going to think more about this. And would appreciate some help. I feel it’s important, and interesting, though exactly why yet I’m not sure.
The one thing that’s already apparent is that if you think proper game economies are hard to get right, imagine how tricky a game ecology might be…
Well, Max (PHD’s resident photography whizz) and I were talking yesterday about the implications of apps for the more professional, heavy duty software like Photoshop.
This is a screengrab of Photoshop Elements, which I’m trialling at the moment; since switching to a Mac, I don’t have a copy of Photoshop anymore, as I was using an ancient version (PS7) on my old Windows laptop. I do have CS3 at work though.
It costs £80, it’s very much the stripped back version of Photoshop, designed for the home amateur. To be fair, I’m not found that much I’m missing from the full version, but there’s the odd thing here and there that bugs me when it’s missing.
I’m not sure I think it’s worth £80 though, and that’s probably because my internal perception for the value of ‘mucking about with images’ is being pulled down by various things.
Firstly, of course, there’s the phone apps.
QuadCamera, Hipstamatic, CameraBag, TiltShiftGen… they all do a small element of what Photoshop can do, and in comparison they are just one-trick ponies.
There’s a Photoshop app too, which I’ve got, but only use it infrequently for the cropping tool.
But having the suite available wherever and whenever has meant that I never do what I used to with snappy phone photography, which is go back to a computer and touch up the best ones in Photoshop.
I have the instant ability to either take more interesting photos, or adjust ones I’ve taken already, right there in my hand.
Then there was Sumo Paint, which Michael drew my attention to yesterday… it’s basically a cloud-based version of Photoshop (and feels very like Photoshop too).
As long as your connected to the web, you can use it. If you’re offline a lot, you can buy the download for about £14. That seems a lot better value than Photoshop Elements…
(Suneil pointed out the irony of something that challenges Photoshop so directly running on Adobe’s other big ‘ting, Flash…)
It’s all made me think that the ‘photo manipulation’ market if fragmenting in much the same way that the print market is.
Imagine Photoshop is the original newspaper; it sells you everything in one big package, you can’t strip out just the parts you want, because originally it couldn’t be served to you that way… and it was just the model they continued with when the interweb came along.
Then something like Sumo Paint is the news website… it gives you most of the content you used to have in a paper you paid for, but for free. The catch? You’ve got to be online to use it. But that actually suits a lot of people, so they stop buying the newspaper…
Finally, the apps are… well, the apps. They take one specific element of the paper, do it REALLY WELL, and sell it to people for a small fee.
I guess Adobe are heading down The Times paywall approach with photoshop; big fee, small audience.
Personally, I’d like to see them playing more in the app end of things… let their imagination run wild, and use their excellent tech to make many small, cheap, wondrous things.
But maybe that’s not how big companies work.
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