An introduction to ideation
Ideation, also known as “brainstorming” or “concept generation,” is the process of coming up with ideas for possible solutions to your design problem. Ideation is an example of divergent thinking within the broader design thinking process, where the goal is often to generate as many potential concepts as possible (which you will later refine and narrow down your ideas).
While ideation can technically occur at any point during the design thinking process, it is usually emphasized after analyzing research findings - at which point you will have a better sense of the actual problem you want to solve, and the types of requirements or ideal solution criteria (“design principles”) you will need to address. Ideation is also frequently used in response to feedback on early prototypes, when the design needs to be refined or redirected.But you shouldn’t feel obligated to wait for a formal ideation phase of the process before capturing your ideas - throughout the design thinking process you can be jotting down notes or sketches for potential solutions as you think of them, to avoid forgetting them.
What makes ideation successful?
Communicating your ideas through sketches
The Value of Sketching
Sketching can be a great way to communicate your ideas. The act of sketching out an idea can also help you think through the idea itself, potentially imagining new ways to improve your idea, or recognizing issues you may need to address.There’s a common misconception that to do design thinking you have to be an artist. That’s not the case! Anyone can be a design thinker, regardless of their sketching and drawing abilities.
Sketching can be as simple as drawing stick figures and basic shapes. It can be helpful to include a person (or people) in your idea sketches, to show how a product or service might be used, or the context in which it exists. This helps to reinforce the human-centered focus that we want to maintain throughout our design thinking process.
You may be surprised by the amount of information you can communicate with a few stick figures and basic facial expressions. If you need some inspiration, watch this video on sketching dynamic stick figures:
Ready, set, sketch!
Getting comfortable with sketching
It’s time to get comfortable with quick and simple sketching. Grab a few pieces of paper and a pen or pencil. Find an object in your environment and draw a person using it three times: in 1 minute, then in 30 seconds, and finally in 10 seconds.
1 minute timer: https://www.google.com/#safe=active&q=60+second+timer
30 second timer: https://www.google.com/#safe=active&q=30+second+timer
10 second timer: https://www.google.com/#safe=active&q=10+second+timer
Highlighting the most important part of the sketch
Take a look at your three drawings. What elements did you focus on when your time was most limited? You may have found yourself focusing on defining characteristics - such as where the person is in relation to the object, or maybe a key feature or shape of the object.
Focusing on defining characteristics can be a helpful way to quickly capture and communicate a new concept without getting hung up on unnecessary details. The more you practice, the easier it will get!
You can also highlight key features or ideas in your sketch using a different colored pencil or marker, to help other people understand what to focus on. As you’re sketching, think about the one big idea you want someone looking at your sketch to take away, and make sure that point is clearly communicated.
Which of the following is a good example of an ideation sketch?
- Basic sketch
- Sketch with a catchy title
- Sketch showing an interaction
- Sketch with a different color call-out
Four techniques for ideation
Start with the problem statement
Use the problem statement you’ve identified (“How might we…?”) to generate as many concepts as you can. Aim for quantity. It may help to select a target number of ideas you want to generate (e.g., 100 ideas in 30 minutes), and count them as you go.
Combine your design principles
Use the design principles you’ve identified (“The solution should…”) to help you generate new ideas to your problem statement. You can start by generating concepts that relate to each principle individually, and then challenge yourself to come up with concepts that address multiple principles at once (e.g., “How might we address X and Y at the same time?”). Ideally you will be able to generate concepts that address all of your principles simultaneously.
Look at moments of pain
There may be a process or activity associated with the problem you’re trying to solve - for example, going to a doctor’s office. Think about each step in the activity or process, and identify things that are painful during each step of the process (e.g., paying for the doctor’s visit). Select one or two of these “pain points” as the prompt for your ideation.
Consider multiple perspectives
Establish an ideation prompt (“How might we…”). Everyone involved in the ideation assumes the same user perspective (e.g., “First-time patients”). As the ideation slows, have everyone adopt a different user perspective (e.g., “Doctor”) and try generating further ideas with that type of user in mind.
Make a plan: Pick two brainstorming techniques that you’d like to try for the problem you’re focusing on - you’ll use these in the next module to generate new ideas.(Note: this is what they will do in module 4b)