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About Pip Decks

Charles Burdett - Designer & Founder of Pip Decks

Charles Burdett

I’m a fraud. At least it feels that way most of the time. Running workshops was my bread and butter as a UX designer. They’re the most powerful thing I could do to help my teams throughout my career. 

My workshops always seemed to go down well, yet I could never shake my Imposter Syndrome. It felt like I was always winging it. So I gathered as many workshop techniques as possible to compensate, something I could always fall back on.

After working agency side, and a stint at the BBC, I went freelancing to help fledgling product teams. I had one goal — build up their confidence in their facilitation skills and design processes so they felt empowered to take the reins after I had left. Ultimately, the goal was to make myself redundant from the team.

One of my earliest gigs was contracting at a bank. After running a few workshops with their design team, I kept getting asked the same question:

“How do you know what kind of workshop to run and when?”

I realised that I couldn’t give a straightforward answer. The truth was, I’d have a feeling of what might work from my bank of tactics (no pun intended) and try it out. But from my team’s point of view, it looked like I knew what I was doing.

I wanted to answer their question, even if I couldn’t be around to help them. So I put all of my tactics into a deck of cards with a simple set of questions that helped people find the right one. Something that would make them feel confident in having a set of ideas to successfully run a workshop. Moreover, something that was always to hand no matter what kind of situation they might find themselves in.

My designer senses were tingling... I had found a problem and I was creating a product! I decided to call it “Workshop Tactics” (now our most popular deck, Workshop Tactics®) and enlisted my good friend David Hill to do the illustrations. I had them printed in a rough quality which served as a prototype, and gave them to my team and some other folk who had shown interest.

My team absolutely loved their Workshop Tactics beta decks and used them every day.

The feedback I collected from them helped me develop the product further. The crazy thing was, none of the workshops were new or groundbreaking. They are tried and tested techniques that have been in circulation amongst top businesses like Google, IBM, Toyota and IDEO for years.

I was determined to create the highest possible quality product. So that it not only felt easy to use but exuded confidence in anyone who picked it up. When I started looking at how to get the deck manufactured, everything about my creation was costly. The high-quality card stock, the reflective finish on the artwork, and the matte card finish… but so what? This was a special product, so no expense was spared.

Soon, other design teams were asking me if they could buy a copy. So I took the plunge and listed Workshop Tactics for pre-sale. I told them how much I’d have to charge, but they weren’t concerned about the cost. They immediately recognised the quality and the confidence Workshop Tactics would bring them.

It didn’t take long before I had hundreds of pre-orders. I couldn’t believe it! This little side-project designed to help my team was now turning into something serious! A business was born.

The first time my manufacturer delivered the pre-production sample, I have to be honest — I wasn’t too happy. Even though the quality of the product was good, there were inconsistencies everywhere. The box lid wasn’t snug, there were misalignments in the artwork, and the card stock they told me was premium, didn’t feel premium.

I told them how I wanted the deck to meet my high expectations, even though it would surely increase costs. They were shocked. Most brands look for ways to cut costs by choosing cheaper stock or thinner card. But I’m not most brands. I never set out to create a card deck of workshop ideas; I set out to make my team confident running workshops, and I wanted a product that would make them feel confident!

Today, Workshop Tactics is used by teams all across the world. And even though I still feel like an imposter sometimes, I’m proud to know from the success stories our customers send us, that I’m helping them feel more confident running workshops. Even companies like Google have bought them, where some of the workshops originate from!

People might think there’s no reason to buy a physical card deck. Because it’s just the same as reading the content online or in a PDF right? But I interviewed over 100 customers and metaphorically shook their shoulders and asked, “why did you buy the Workshop Tactics deck!?”

Our customers told us that they just love being able to hold this curated knowledge in their hands. That it’s there forever – it’s not hidden away on a website that one day might disappear. They can share it with their team more easily or spread it out on the floor and plan things out.

But ultimately, it made them feel confident knowing they always had something in their back pocket — literally.

Then we accidentally became a publishing business. I realised quite quickly that this format could apply to so many different areas of expertise. But it was naive of me to think I could write an entire library of different topics! So I turned the focus of Pip Decks to help other great practitioners and experts download their brains into our premium card deck format. Now they too can help you feel more confident by having the answers at your fingertips - and a solid structure to always work from - from workshops, to storytelling, to design and beyond.

The most recent addition to the Pip Decks library is Storyteller Tactics by Steve Rawling, which raised a whopping £73,085 on Kickstarter! With many more decks in development for launch in 2022, I can’t wait to share them with you.

Check out all our card decks here.

Update: and now, my wife Becky has left her career at the BBC to join me on the Pip Decks journey! This means we can spend more time together with our little boy, Hughie, too.