Artefact Cards - Tools For Thought Review

Indy Neogy
Indy Neogy
2 min read

Artefact Cards are a physical tool for thought created by John Willshire in 2012. From the website's description page:

Artefact Cards help you capture, sort and play with your ideas.

The process is simple; Create, Connect, Reorder. Start by writing or drawing your ideas on individual cards, find new connections by moving them around, then pack them away to explore again and add to later. Artefact Cards have been created by and for design professionals who demand tools that offer a perfect, subtle balance of quality and usability.

I've been using them for a couple of years now and the things I like are:

  • The small size forces you to break thoughts down or condense them into manageable chunks.
  • The stiffness of the cards makes them easy to handle and pretty robust. You can shuffle and play with them. It's also a pleasant, tactile, process.
  • It's easy to lay them out on a table and get an overview - and easy to scoop them up, take them to a meeting in a coffee shop and show someone else. Good for all sorts of planning and outlining activities.
  • Having a set of thoughts on physical cards means you can play with order and connections much more easily than just about any digital setup I've used. This for me is the key use.

This excerpt from the book The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul that someone retweeted into my timeline sums up why this can be so useful:

I'd add that while few things are impossible in digital note programs (and they have obvious advantages for projects with a lot of elements) there are lot of ways of arranging cards on a desk that are still slower to do in current software, especially if you didn't know you wanted it that way in advance.

The cards come in a range of colours which allows to you mark out different projects or headers etc. However, the back side is white and I find having those two colours (light blue and white in my case) is enough for me. I should say they aren't cheap the way even nice notepaper is. They are incredibly convenient for random notes, but you can burn through a pack that way very quickly. They are better thought of as a tool for thought, a way to take a set of thoughts are experiment with the order and find different connections. I should also note that the producers are a small outfit and do not ship everywhere, so some readers may end up inventing their own alternatives anyway.

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Indy Neogy

Indy Neogy is the main author of Mind Atelier. He is a coach, consultant and thinker about better thinking using tools, spaces and principles for thought.