It’s been a strange old year, and we’re heading towards an equally strange old Christmas. Perhaps it’s little surprise, then, that design studios are looking for alternatives to the trad Christmas card, and Echo Brand Design is no exception.

Instead of the usual cardboard slab of festive cheer, Echo’s created a sort of normcore, design industry version of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards, which it’s calling Prompts & Provocations.

Billed as a “tangible brainstorming gift that can be enjoyed all year round by the creative community”, the set was partly created as a reaction to the general trickiness of 2020, looking to inspire people as we head into 2021. Things can only get better, right? Right?

Rather optimistically, Echo’s gone as far as stating that it looks to “fuel a post-Covid creative boom” with the 56 cards.

The cards’ cues are based on Echo’s creative philosophy ‘Magic, Madness & Meaning’, says the agency, with an additional set inspired by the festive period.

“‘Madness’ sees to it that ideas are fearless, surprising and unique; ‘Magic’ ensures that ideas are fascinating, emotive and desirable, and ‘Meaning’ gives the vital ingredient that makes ideas personable, human-centric and culturally relevant,” says Echo.

The team put together a long list of words and phrases, selecting the “most impactful” for the final designs. The prompts include “Will it make the world a better place?” and the more abstract single word ‘Elephant’, aiming to encourage users to think around the direct meaning, such as making associations with notions such as size, memory and strength.

The cards’ box uses a minimal, vaguely Art Deco-inspired black design with a graphic inspired by Echo’s own identity etched into it with silver foil. “We wanted to create something both useful and precious,” says Echo designer Eva Fernandez.

Alongside the physical Prompt & Provocation deck of cards, the cards can be interacted with online—if you’re lucky enough to get a private invite-only link, that is.

“A lack of inspiration can hinder the creative processes, given that design work is visually and emotionally stimulated by external elements and tangible interaction,” says Nick Dormon, managing director of Echo. “With no accurate idea of when life will return to normal, this brainstorming tool will be useful for the continuation of home working…”

He adds, “These sensorial experiences have been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in lockdown. But adapting is critical and imagination, when unleashed, knows no boundaries. Often we need the correct combination of trigger words to prompt bigger thinking.

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