Working Cartoon Set

"Begin with the end in mind", Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People


For each phase of our work, in XPM, we provide a working end-to-end solution from the earliest possible moment, then update and maintain that solution as work progresses. The simplest way to do this is with a working cartoon set. A working cartoon set merges the functions of a progress set with those of a cartoon set.

A working cartoon set, like other XPM practices, helps keep the team focused, aligned, and informed. But its benefits extend beyond the team -- to clients, consultants, and others. A working cartoon set provides all with a sense of direction, progress, and accomplishment.

Cartoon Set

Many architects create a cartoon version of the working drawings they intend to produce prior to beginning actual work. They use the cartoon set to identify the scope of work required and to organize the drawings. The cartoon set is traditionally static. It provides a model or a roadmap for the actual drawings, but is rarely used for anything else.

Progress Set

When creating contract documents, architects usually maintain a progress set that reflects the current status of every document. As new sheets are modified or created, they're added to the progress set.

Working Cartoon Set

A working cartoon set merges the functions of a progress set with a cartoon set. It is no longer static. As actual drawings are created, they replace the cartoon versions. Components are modified and refined, and over time they become the final set of deliverables. The working cartoon set is an embryonic version of the final set of contract documents.

There's much more to a working cartoon set though. A working cartoon set (WCS) covers much more territory than a traditional one. For example, you create a WCS for every phase of work that produces deliverables. Create a WCS for schematic phase deliverables, to show what you intend to include in the schematic package submittal. Create a WCS for every discipline that produces deliverables. So you (or your consultants) would create a WCS for structural, MEP, landscape, and other disciplines. And a WCS is not just for working drawings. It includes every document generated for the submittal package. You create a WCS for specifications, reports, and even cover letters, assuming they are to be part of the submittal. The WCS includes a cartoon or placeholder for every physical component to be submitted.

What's in the Working Cartoon Set?

Initially, the WCS is a set of placeholders, one for each component of the final submittal. It might even start out as a list of deliverables. Each placeholder reflects everything you know about the component at the time you created it. The more you know, the more detail you can add. For example, if you know sheet size, your cartoon set can be implemented at that sheet size. If you already have a sample door schedule, you can insert that, even if not appropriate for the current project. A WCS can include sticky-back notes, cartoons, clippings, copies of task cards, and anything else that lets you represent a component of the actual submittal. The WCS is a raw working document.

Over time, replace the placeholders with real drawings or components, as you create and refine them. The replacement drawings should represent, or be, real drawings. The WCS ultimately becomes a "working" progress set. It uses actual CAD layers, line weights, and anything else incorporated into the final submittal. Keep the WCS as up-to-date as possible. It should always reflect everything you know about the current set of deliverables.

When to Create the Working Cartoon Set

As a vital part of the XPM process, a working cartoon set should be created as early as possible for each phase of a project. In other words, create a schematic WCS at the beginning of schematics, and a DD WCS at the beginning of design development.

There are benefits to creating the WCS in conjunction with the current release plan. Having a working cartoon set makes creating the release plan much easier. Recall that an XPM release plan is a deck of task cards containing all the tasks required to complete the current phase. Use the WCS to help generate task cards. Looking at each component in the WCS as an end result, think of the tasks or steps required to generate it and create a task card for each.

How to Use the Working Cartoon Set

To be effective in distributing knowledge and inviting feedback, the working cartoon set must be available to all and kept up to date. It should be highly visible and available to team members, clients, business partners, consultants, managers and anyone else who might be interested. It should be discussed at meetings. We encourage concerned parties to comment. And it must be up-to-date. We want comments on current issues only, nothing out-of-date.

Related Questions

How often should we update the working cartoon set? Every time a change is made. The WCS reflects everything we know at the current point in time.

How can we create a working cartoon set when we don't even know for sure what we will be delivering? Include everything you do know. Start with a list of deliverables. Gradually convert that list to real drawing sheets, with placeholders to indicate what's missing. At first, the WCS is minimal. It may consist of sheet names, blank sheets, and a table of contents. As you start producing components, replace the notes with actual drawings. Over time, the WCS will more accurately reflect the actual deliverables. Eventually, it will become the deliverable. Creating a WCS will help clarify what you know and don't know. It will help you identify missing items.

Are cartoons required? In XPM, a working cartoon set is required, but cartoons are not. Cartoons are hand-drawn sketches of what will be shown on a drawing sheet. For a WCS, use anything that makes sense. For example, for the CD phase, start with the DD version of your floor plans and elevations. For specifications, start with an outline spec or single page for each spec section, then replace it with the actual sections. For details, paste a copy of the task card for each detail onto its appropriate location on a working drawing sheet, then replace the task cards with actual details as they are created.


A working cartoon set, like most XPM practices, helps keep team members aligned, focused, and informed. It also:

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