Working with Oblique Strategies

I once had a boyfriend who, heavily influenced by the Dice Man would make choices by throwing a dice. I think his choices were rather less dangerous than Luke Rhinehart’s and probably revolved around which pub to go to but nevertheless his life was dictated by chance.

Using Oblique Strategy cards brings an element of chance into what you have already chosen to do. It is a series of cards designed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in the 70’s and they are an incredible way of changing your perspective on a problem. Originally made for musicians they translate pretty well into any creative area.

I’m using an online version that throws up a card at random along with a seemingly accidental colour scheme that I appreciate. It’s great seeing colours I would never consider using together. I had the link lurking in my browser bar for a few days before I could get the hang of using it. Some of the strategies are insanely obscure – “Do we need holes?” and “Idiot glee (?)” don’t feel terribly helpful for me right this second but maybe they will one day.

I used them properly yesterday when designing memes for Slumber-Roo. I’ve loads of pictures of babies and baby carriers and a list of quotes to add to them to make them into something that gets shared around on Facebook. I was a bit stuck with this when I started, I couldn’t see how to fit everything I needed into a small image. Oblique Strategies said “Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance” – now that was helpful, I knew it in my subconscious but I hadn’t actually considered the bare bones of the project. Then “Don’t stress one thing more than another” came up. This was getting really good, normally when I start a job I have a clear idea of what it is going to look like at the end. At college, when I did pattern cutting I could see the finished garment in my head well before I’d actually made it or cut the pattern. I could revolve it, I could picture it on someone, I could almost feel the fabric in my mind. This job had me stumped for a while until I brought in the random element.


I’m not letting my life be dictated by them by any means, what I am using them for is as a way to get a different perspective on my work. Like looking at a drawing in a mirror so that mistakes stand out more clearly, the Oblique Strategy cards are helping me to get a fresh viewpoint.

Try them for yourself here or you can use one of the many free apps on your phone. Or, if you have a spare £30 knocking around you can buy a set of the real things here –