You may have heard of the evolution of music or the evolution of dance. Today I present to you the evolution of our Picture Hebrew Flashcards.
In the four years before the launch of Picture Hebrew, the flashcards went through multiple revisions and improvements. Even Jesse and I are surprised at how far we’ve come.
For example, compare the four editions of the card “to fight.” From the “rock-em sock-em” first edition to David and Goliath in our final product, the cards have changed significantly.
Here’s a look at the improvements we made.
In January 2014, we decided to make picture flashcards for the 500 most common words in the Hebrew Bible. Our story didn’t begin as a business idea. We made the first edition just for ourselves.
Our first child was due in four months, so our goal was simply to draw the cards as quickly as possible. I penciled in lopsided people in long skirts, and Jesse traced them with a marker. These first drawings are so bad, they’re good.
We clearly weren’t worried about anachronisms, as evidenced by the cabinetry and cookies…
(“to be ashamed”)
…or about anatomical correctness, as evidenced by… this guy.
See the amazing, ultra-strong strong man!
Behold, the circle beards,
the crooked man who walked a crooked mile,
and this wooden puppet.
Look, more circle beards!
Bald circle beards!
(“to cause to stand”)
And my personal favorite:
Jesse wouldn’t let me keep the rabbit illustration in future editions, despite all my pleas.
We began the next edition from scratch with the goal of selling to others. We altered our methods a bit. Jesse no longer traced with a marker, and I spent a lot longer on each image. Instead of a half index card, I now drew each picture on a page 4x the size of a printed flashcard.
The quality of the new edition improved a lot. We also started to use a Hebrew symbol to indicate the part of speech.
The direction of the scenes shifted to be in line with our method of having action flow right-to-left, which is how the Hebrew text reads.
Second edition included a few scenes from Scripture, like with David killing a lion.
But a lot of anachronisms remained, like this classroom.
We assigned this edition to our students for two years. After year one, we realized we needed to begin yet another edition from scratch in order to publish the flashcards. Throughout year two, we received tons of feedback from our students, as we had them compare their cards to the new edition we were working on.
(Seriously though. Just look at ‘em. Those amorous bunnies still can’t keep their eyes off each other. The little one on mama bunny’s back is my favorite.)
OK. On with the evolution. When we started the third redrawing, we decided to increase my canvas size to 16x the printed flashcard. We also raised $1,500 through a crowdfunding page to invest in professional scanning. The first drawings had been scanned on our home printer; the second cost $90 at Kinkos.
Also, with over 1,000 hours of practice, I had improved as an artist. The illustration quality improved drastically.
We got rid of all arrows in our drawings to make them more lifelike, and I added pen to emphasize the primary figure on the card. Perhaps the biggest change was our decision to always illustrate an iconic biblical usage of each verb.
Jesse spent as long researching as I did drawing these new images. He poured through hundreds of verses for each word in order to find the perfect scene. This edition alone took us 14 months and over 2,000 hours to complete.
Illustrating actual usages allowed us to include a verb phrase at the bottom of each card.
(“Joseph recounts a dream to his brothers”)
One other improvement was the character index I created before beginning the third edition. Every biblical character is recognizable from card to card. Here is Moses in “turn aside,” “stretch out,” and “burn.”
Finally, we arrive to the first published edition of the flashcards. There was one more crucial step in improving the flashcards, after we had our students use edition 0.3 for one year. We purchased a new iPad Pro, and imported all of the scanned files into the Adobe Sketch program. I got rid of the grey background and added more details to make each picture pop.
The iPad gave me the ability to erase and add details on the images. I was able to improve illustrations from the previous edition without starting from scratch. (“Rahab lowers the spies through the window”)
We improved several misunderstandings with feedback from our students. Some thought the lamb below was dead, so I turned it around to show it was alive. (“David rescues a lamb from a lion’s mouth”)
About 30 pictures had to be drawn from scratch. Some I made more lifelike. (“bread”)
For others, Jesse found a more iconic scene. (“Ravens bring bread to Elijah”)
And we found a way to remove the last few anachronisms. (“judgment”)
Perhaps the biggest improvement with edition 1 was working with a native Israeli, Shaked Danai, to record all 420 flashcard forms and 153 verb phrases. You can listen to an audio sample on our homepage.
We laugh at ourselves now as we look back at our earlier cards. Despite all the time we spent, we’re amazed that we ever thought we could have published and sold editions 0.2 or 0.3. Even now we don’t think the evolution of our cards is complete. We hope to create an app for this flashcard set. We’ve also considered illustrating more vocabulary. Finally, the iPad allows us to alter any image if needed, and we always want to listen to our users and keep improving.
Update August 2018: