Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mental Notes

Mental Notes

Fate: Standard In Every Pack

Mankind loves to put things in the hands of Fate. And why not? Fate is the ultimate nerd. It pretty much knows everything before it happens. And you can ask Fate for answers anytime, anywhere, provided you know how to ask it. I mean, you can't just say "Hey — Fate — how do I sell this old crappy vacuum?" You need to ask it in the right way.

I know what you're saying.... how the hell do you do that? Well, some people have had great luck with human sacrifice. Just take six or seven local virgins, climb to the top of your local ziggurat, and... What? You have a problem with that? Oh — I hear ya — ziggurat rental fees are through the roof these days. Hmmm. Well, a tried and true method of talking to Fate is through a deck of cards. You can always try that. Just shuffle up a deck real good, and take out a random card. That's Fate's pick.

Of course... the answers don't always make sense. I mean you can't ask Fate "How do I get Cheryl Montague to like me?" and then pick this:

The Four of Clubs

What the hell does that mean? Club her four times until she realizes how charming you are? I got news for you, girls hate being clubbed. Maybe if you had picked a diamond, that would work, but who can afford 10 diamonds on your allowance? What you need is a deck of cards that gives real answers. Answers that relate to humans. You need a deck of cards that knows how humans work.

Get Mental

Mental Notes

As it happens, I actually have a "How Humans Work" set of cards. A clever gentleman by the name of Stephen Anderson put together a deck like that, and asked me to do some drawings for it. See, each card focuses on one particular aspect of humans. Like, how we want something more if it's scarce. Or how when something costs more, we think it's better quality. Or even how time seems shorter when we're having fun. So, imagine this again. We have this new deck of cards, and we ask it... "How do I get Cheryl Montague to like me?" And I pick a card that says...


Okay... well... people like to complete a set, huh? Well, as it happens Cheryl collects these crappy kitten figurines. I just go down to Things Remembered and buy her that one of a tabby licking some table butter. Then I'll give it to her, and ask her to the junior dance, and we can slow dance. Slowly. SCORE.

What's that you say? You don't care about Cheryl Montague or dance-hugging, or a love life in any way? You care about your work? Well... let's see if I can come up with a situation that applies to you. Hmm. Okay, you know that fancy chocolate company that wants you to design their site? And you're looking for a concept? Well... let's ask Fate to pick a card...


So, people get more involved when they've got some sort of achievement to show for it. Hmm. Well, what if you had a section where people can show what chocolates they've tried? Like each chocolate is a medal they've earned. Or maybe the chocolates themselves just get ranked by how many people have tried them. Like a popularity meter. That's a pretty good hook, right?

Okay, so then, new situation. You're building an interface with this big, long, boring form in it. And you're pretty sure no one will finish it because people hate big, long, boring shit. So you're wondering how to get around it. So, you ask Fate, and Fate says:


Well... maybe you sprinkle a couple interesting fields through the form. Like a "Which is better? Zebras or Water Buffalo?" radio button. Or maybe you just leave a little bit of text in all the spots where you think people will give up, and say clever things like "You have the perseverence of a modern-day Napoleon" Or "You have to admit... this is better than standing in the line at the DMV." Or hell, maybe you just have a little picture that builds like a puzzle the more and more of the form they fill out. That sounds pretty fun, actually. Especially if it's a compelling picture. Or a treasure map.

Of course, I could sit here all day and come up with hypothetical situations, but truth be told, I'm not here to solve all your problems or answer your questions. I'm a busy guy. I've got important meetings, and important places to be. Things Remembered isn't open 24 hours after all. So here's what I suggest. I suggest you get one of these decks for yourself. They're called "Mental Notes". And you can get them here. And next time you're stuck on a problem, maybe you can pull them out and let Fate do some of the heavy lifting.

Now, should I take the bus to the mall, or walk?

Sensory Appeal

Good call, Fate. The bus stinks and is loud. I'd better walk.

Comments on this Article

There are currently 15 comments.

[ Add one of your own! ]


They look great, Kevin! Now all I need to do is buy a pack to help me decide if I need to buy a pack!


Let me use my own pack to help you decide.

Fate says... Jack of Hearts.



These look awesome, what a great idea! Your illustrations are wonderful. I'll definitely be scooping a deck when I have the money for it.


Awww, thank you, Ashley!


Mine happen to be sitting on my desk right next to me and they look fantastic! They'll be getting a lot of use around here.


Wow. That was an easy sell! Unless... you have a time machine... don't worry, your secret is safe with me. And anyone else who reads comments.


These are terrible. What a horrible, horrible idea. Okay, they're actually quite good but I'm just trying to keep you from becoming so smug you're unbearable.

Cliener von Cleanskin

The Mental Notes set looks interesting but I’m really intrigued by the “deck of cards” concept.


Another fascinating article, Kev! Can I call you Kev?

Nice drawings again. Jolly good! Well euhm... I found a mistake: "next time your stuck" should be "you are stuck", no? Sorry for being like this by the way.



Karl - Smugness can easily be removed with Windex!

Cliener - Yeah, the idea is a bit wonky though. How can you have four Kings in one deck? You'll have civil war for sure!

Murten - Ahhh! Good catch, Murten. And I can never fault anyone for correcting my spelling. Especially the dreaded your/you're. Or their/they're. Or its/it's. Or discotheque/discotech.


What a great illustrations this deck of cards holds! First time I flipped through the cards was for illustrations only.

How did Mojo become the face of a beer?


Thanks Lukasz!

Well, actually, I'm not sure how he got his own beer. I do think it probably has something to do with that executive he kidnapped for a couple months. Nice guy. Phil, I think his name was. I don't know much more than that. Other than he HATES being tied to a chair and kicked in the stomach.


The cards are so awesome, very classy just like your website, I love the blue color for the back of the cards. I will be getting one!


Thanks, Manu! And I will act as proxy for Stephen (since he did the design) and say "Glad you like the blue!"


Hey there, I love the mental notes! My only feedback (I need to let the author in on this) is that it seems odd that they are written specific to web design, when they apply to any type of brainstorming.

Also, the guy on the "Achievements" card looks like Andy Schulman.

[ Back to Top ]

Recent Articles

[ Visit Article Archives ]

Who Carols Mojo and the Leaves MUSTACHE! The Symbol For Jerk Interpreting Excelsior Dead Love The Big Sandwich Mojo The Bounty Hunter Sketchbook 22 Live! Six-Penny Anthems II