The history and development of metaFox's picture cards
In 2014, a group of young trainers were facilitating soft skills and personal development training for the European engineering student NGO, BEST. They were facing a challenging situation on how they can bring depth into their workshops. Oftentimes, participants simply shared things on a shallow level when asked a question like “What do you take away from today’s workshop day?” without reflecting much on what they had actually experienced and taken away. What our young trainers wanted to have in their workshops was deep reflections and help participants reach a new level of depth.
In order to achieve this, they use picture cards in their training. However, the cards they are using have been collected in bars and post shops. Many are relatively unconnected to the topic of the training and show disjointed text on the other side. While using these picture cards, they notice that the images don’t resonate that well with most of the participants. The images are stock photos from the 90s, blunt statements or scenic images. From this, it became clear that there is a problem with an insufficient solution.
As a substitute to the outdated picture cards, from then on they use Dixit cards. A game with dreamlike illustrations on the cards which are great prompts for storytelling.
Fast forward many years of training and facilitation and our trainers realize that also the available commercial picture cards are not that great. They see that many trainers use their own selected card sets just like they do. So they set out to create a solution which is not just okay but great. The series of picture card sets inspired from this journey is now called the “deep pictures”.
And you might have guessed it, the trainers in that story were Max and Tobi.
The “deep pictures”
The name came from the motive of the cards which is to inspire deep reflections and the format of the cards which are picture cards. At the heart of the deep pictures are 3 design principles to make each set uniquely great:
Clarity: Each card must portray an idea, an image, a question that is shown in a clean way. There is no clutter on the cards. Everything has its place.
Beauty: Each image must be an amazing shot. Only the best images are curated into our sets so that images relate to our sense of beauty. Of course opinions on beauty differ which is why many people are involved in selecting the right pictures for each set.
Purpose: The overarching concept of the set (e.g. team building, emotions or change management) must be represented in each card.
Cards from deep pictures "ORIGINAL"
The deep pictures with questions
As it’s already been mentioned a couple of times, the cards contain deep images but this feature isn’t the only thing that’s great about it.
The deep pictures include powerful questions on the other side of the card. These questions are evocative and thought-provoking that allows people to dive deep into their thoughts, experiences, feelings, and emotions. Here are some sample questions from different deep pictures set that I personally find powerful:
Where do you find peace?
Which trait have you picked up from the people around you?
What helped you to get to where you are right now?
Questions are taken from deep pictures “World of Emotions”, “Life Design” and “Building Resilience”’
Currently there are 10 different deep pictures card sets available:
Even though it’s already given that images are great visual aids to spark reflection and deep conversations, there will always be people who won’t have the same experience and feeling about this. Some people may see the images literally like “A gardener giving tomatoes to someone”, if this is the case then the session they’re in wouldn’t have an impact on them. This is why there are questions in the cards because it can serve as another prompt for people to do self-reflection.
Image taken from deep pictures “Leading Change”
The deep pictures without questions
Some deep pictures sets solely rely on the power of images. These sets have a blank space on the other side where clients can write their own thoughts, questions, or prompts. We developed these card sets to give freedom to our clients and enable them to tailor it according to their needs. Here are the list of the deep pictures without questions on the other side of the card:
As we’ve all experienced the pandemic back in 2020, we found that the effects of this event were positive to some and negative to others. All of us were forced to stay at home or wherever we were for a long time and to avoid contact with people. This event lead to an increase of mental health issues such as anxiety, disconnectedness, depression, and more.
As people development is close to our heart, we saw this as an opportunity and decided to create a version of our products online which professionals can use with their clients. This online tool is called the icebreaker.online. This application contains most of our products where people can use in different sessions such as coaching, therapy, team building, training or simply as icebreakers.
It is designed to be simple and easy to use for the reason that the goal is for everyone to easily navigate and have a meaningful experience and connection with others virtually. We, at metaFox, are all working from our own homes and from different countries and I can guarantee that this application creates a fun and meaningful experience. I suggest you try it in your next session!
Create meaningful experiences with deep pictures
Our cards can be used in multiple ways and can be used by different types of people such as coaches, trainers or facilitators.
When opening sessions. They allow facilitators to guide participants in connecting the session's purpose to their life, e.g. by asking “Which picture represents effective communication for you personally?” when opening a communication training. Additionally, they can serve as an effective icebreaker, creating a comfortable atmosphere for participants.
For deeper reflection exercise. One innovative use is through the therapeutic photography method, where participants (A) choose a card representing a challenge they face. They then pair up with a partner B who describes what they see in the other person’s chosen card without prior knowledge. This enables A to, they can reframe their perceptions and experiences.
In team building. Additionally, the deep pictures card sets can be instrumental in identifying strengths. Participants select cards representing the strengths they observe in each other and hand it over with a short story of their observation. This fosters a space for meaningful, motivating feedback. This approach not only enhances self-awareness but also strengthens interpersonal connections.
Weekly Check-Out: At metaFox we have weekly meetings where we update everyone on where we are and check in what people are doing, basically how meetings usually go. Before we get into the business part of the meeting, we usually have check ins. Since we’re all working from our homes we use the icebreaker.online app for our check ins. The facilitator creates a session, selects the set theme, and asks a question.
The usual question we have is “How was your weekend?” Then everyone selects a card that best represents their weekend. I personally find this method really great. Listening to my colleagues stories about their weekend is nice but what’s great is that the image they chose also shows the feeling they have. One can imagine the feeling of excitement, joy, disappointment, nostalgia and more in the chosen image.
Strategic Team Meeting: We also use our deep pictures cards in our sessions like retrospective and on-site team building, and building our 5 year vision. We use the same method where the facilitator asks a question and lays out the card. The questions are now different since we have a different purpose.
When our team met for the first time in the Philippines, it was the first time most of us got to experience the deep pictures in action. The question our co-founder, Max, asked “What do you expect from this retreat?”. The cards were laid out on the table and we got to choose which image best represents our thoughts, expectations and feelings. We then proceeded to share our expectations and feelings about the retreat. I am a person who prefers physical connection over online but using the deep pictures online and physically, I can say that both experiences were equally transformative.
The impact of the deep pictures
Over the years, we’ve had different people with different professions and backgrounds use our products and it always warms our hearts when they give us feedback after using our products. Let me share some of my favorite feedback that we received:
“I am so excited to share my experience using the deep pictures of metaFox coaching tools during my very first training delivery. These cards provided an unparalleled level of engagement and reflection, transforming the training into an unforgettable journey of self-discovery and connection. The thoughtful prompts gave a note of inspiration to the participants, fostered open discussions, and gave them the chance to reflect. metaFox cards are now an indispensable asset in my facilitation toolkit, ensuring impactful and transformative sessions. Kudos to your team for creating such a remarkable tool!” – Antigoni Mamaloukou
“I was very curious when I saw realistic photos used for reflection. Up until this point I had seen reflection done with some abstractions and various objects but never with such realistic cards. I have to say that I was surprised by how much emotion these postcards sparked within me. While I was getting familiarized with metaFox cards I could appreciate the attention to detail and the selection of the pictures that were presented. These cards turned out to be a great tool and I know that I will be using them for many many upcoming sessions of my own.” – Marija Maneva
Reading feedbacks like these is what motivates us to create more tools for people development. We aspire to make an impact on a lot of people and as stated in our vision, we strive for a world embracing emotional intelligence.
You can read more about our impact as a company here.