Artefacts of Work

One interesting notion in the last years was the question of how I can make the process of my work more engaging and transparent? An obvious direction is the idea of artefacts, i.e. books or zines that are a byproduct of the greater endeavor and can be used to present and narrate a project. In his article „Towards the Orthogonal Technology Lab, v0.1“ Matt Webb wrote a nice definition.

The idea is to follow early product innovation processes, but ship all the collateral around the product rather than the product itself.

Such artefacts can take on a lot of different forms. They can be reports, design drafts, actual artefacts from field research, etc., etc.

One quirky example is the work of Craig Mod who seems to use every opportunity to turn projects into a book. Be that via SMS during long walks through Japan or by laying out every commit ever made on a software project. Here he is talking about both.

One way of extending this idea is the act of crafting „Anchoring Artefacts“, as described in HDL‘s „Legible Practices“, (pg. 93).

Tangible artefacts—documents, objects and other material—subtly embody or express the values of an organisation. Especially when an organisation is growing rapidly or attempting to transform itself, high-res artefacts help embody organisational or operational change which is often more abstract and invisible.

On intriguing class of artefacts here might be the „one pager“. A concise presentation technique for communicating the interactions within systems (i.e. in game design).

A more familiar example might also be NASA mission patches—easily replicated in the form of stickers or posters as used by the UK‘s Government Digital Service.

Stickers like that become tokens that represent something more – a shared experience, a shared set of memories that only people who worked on that project will remember and understand. A sticker, like a web page, can be a conscious act of institutional memory.

Facebook‘sAnalog Research Lab“ operates on a similar level. Around 2010 two marketing manager set up a small print-shop on the company campus. A project, which inadvertently played an integral part in not only creating a common company culture, but also propagated it to offices world-wide.

“It’s more observations across the company,” says Boms, who calls himself a workplace philosopher. “The hope is that the artwork is more empathetic, curious and diverse, and it looks at what’s happening from a critical eye. It’s the pulse of what’s going on internally.”

Boms says the posters don’t aim to dictate what employees should think. Rather, they offer a prompt for people to think about.