Ideation

User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition

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What is Ideation?

Ideation is a creative process where designers generate ideas in sessions (e.g., brainstorming, worst possible idea). It is the third stage in the Design Thinking process. Participants gather with open minds to produce as many ideas as they can to address a problem statement in a facilitated, judgment-free environment.

See how Ideation helps build solutions.

Ideation Sessions are About Finding New Angles

Gaining the perspective to find design solutions is challenging. Ideation sessions require dedicated environments for standing back to seek every angle after addressing the right problem. Ideation is the third Design Thinking step – after “Empathize” (gaining user insights from research/observation) and “Define” (finding links/patterns within those insights to create a meaningful and workable problem statement or point of view).

Before starting to look for ideas, your team needs a clearly defined problem to tackle – a focused problem statement or point of view (POV) to inspire and guide everyone. “How might we…?” questions—e.g., “How might we design an app finding cheap hotels in safe neighborhoods?”—help in reframing issues and prompting effective collaboration towards potential solutions. Bringing people together to conjure ideas and bypass established frontiers requires a skilled facilitator and a creative environment, including a prepared space, featuring posters of personas, relevant information, etc. It also requires rules – e.g., a 2-hour time limit, quantity-over-quality focus, ban on distractions such as phones, and “There are no bad ideas” mindset. By being bold and curious, participants can challenge commonly held beliefs and explore possibilities past these obstacles. Team members should take each others’ ideas and build on them, find ways to link concepts, recognize patterns and flip seemingly impossible notions over to reveal new insights.

It's not about coming up with the right idea, its about generating the broadest range of possibilities.

- d.school, An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDE

Using Ideation to Build Castles in the Sky, then the Bridges

There are hundreds of ideation techniques to help you in your ideation sessions. You want an ideation technique that combines your conscious and unconscious mind—fusing the rational with the creative. It must match the sorts of ideas your team must generate and reflect their nature, needs and experience with ideation. Some crucial ones are:

Brainstorming – building good ideas from each other’s wild ideas.

Braindumping – like brainstorming, but done individually.

Brainwriting – like brainstorming, but everyone writes down and passes ideas for others to add to before discussing these.

Brainwalking – like brainwriting, but members walk about the room, adding to others’ ideas.

Worst Possible Idea – an inverted brainstorming approach, emboldening more reserved individuals to produce bad ideas and yielding valuable threads.

Challenging Assumptions – overturning established beliefs about problems – revealing fresh perspectives.

Mindmapping – a graphical technique involving connecting ideas to problems’ major and minor qualities.

Sketching/Sketchstorming – Using rough sketches/diagrams to express ideas/potential solutions and explore the design space.

Storyboarding – developing a visual problem/design/solution-related story to illustrate a situation’s dynamics.

SCAMPER – questioning problems through action verbs (“Substitute”, “Combine”, “Adapt”, “Modify”, “Put to another use”, “Eliminate”, “Reverse”) to produce solutions.

Bodystorming – role-playing in scenarios/customer-journey steps to find solutions.

Analogies – drawing comparisons to communicate ideas better.

Provocation – an extreme lateral-thinking technique to challenge established beliefs and explore paths beyond.

Movement – a “what if?” approach to overcoming obstacles in ideation and finding themes/trends/attributes towards reliable solutions.

Cheatstorm – using previously ideated material as stimuli.

Crowdstorming – target audiences generate and validate ideas through feedback (e.g., social media) to provide valuable solution insights.

Creative Pause – taking time to pull back from obstacles.

Other methods for ideation include co-creation workshops (combining user empathy research, ideation and prototyping), gamestorming (gamification-oriented ideation methods) and prototyping. The beauty of ideation is its unbounded freedom, although structured environments are critical. If you get stuck, you have fallbacks: e.g., “breaking the law” (listing constraints to see if you can overcome them), “stealing” ideas (emulating applicable concepts from other industries), inverting the problem and laddering (moving problems between the abstract and the concrete).


Learn More about Ideation

IDF has a course on Design Thinking, featuring lots of hands-on tools for ideation: https://www.interaction-design.org/courses/design-...

Read some practical tips on effective Ideation: https://uxplanet.org/whats-the-deal-with-ideation-e02324e95c8

Nielsen Norman Group’s Aurora Harley examines Ideation challenges, benefits and more: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ideation-in-practice/

See Google’s take on approaching Ideation: https://uxdesign.cc/how-google-approaches-the-process-of-ideation-f2fc00091f32



Literature on Ideation

Here’s the entire UX literature on Ideation by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Ideation

Take a deep dive into Ideation with our course Design Thinking: The Beginner's Guide.

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and General Electric, have rapidly adopted the design thinking approach, and design thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including Stanford d.school, Harvard, and MIT. What is design thinking, and why is it so popular and effective?

The overall goal of this design thinking course is to help you design better products, services, processes, strategies, spaces, architecture, and experiences. Design thinking helps you and your team develop practical and innovative solutions for your problems. It is a human-focused, prototype-driven, innovative design process. Through this course, you will develop a solid understanding of the fundamental phases and methods in design thinking, and you will learn how to implement your newfound knowledge in your professional work life. We will give you lots of examples; we will go into case studies, videos, and other useful material, all of which will help you dive further into design thinking.

Design thinking methods and strategies belong at every level of the design process. However, design thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. What’s special about design thinking is that designers and designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn, and apply these human-centered techniques in solving problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, and in our lives.

That means that design thinking is not only for designers but also for creative employees, freelancers, and business leaders. It’s for anyone who seeks to infuse an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective and broadly accessible, one that can be integrated into every level of an organization, product, or service so as to drive new alternatives for businesses and society.

All literature

5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process

5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking is a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely useful in tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by understanding the human needs involved, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, by creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and by adopting a ha...

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What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular?

What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular?

Design Thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. So, why call it Design Thinking? What’s special about Design Thinking is that designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply these human-centered tec...

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What is Ideation – and How to Prepare for Ideation Sessions

What is Ideation – and How to Prepare for Ideation Sessions

Ideation is the process where you generate ideas and solutions through sessions such as Sketching, Prototyping, Brainstorming, Brainwriting, Worst Possible Idea, and a wealth of other ideation techniques. Ideation is also the third stage in the Design Thinking process. Although many people might have experienced a “brainstorming” session before,...

  • 477 shares
  • 9 months ago
Design Thinking: Get Started with Prototyping

Design Thinking: Get Started with Prototyping

Prototyping is an integral part of Design Thinking and User Experience design in general because it allows us to test our ideas quickly and improve on them in an equally timely fashion. The Institute of Design at Stanford (d.school) encourages a “bias towards action”, where building and testing is valued over thinking and meeting. However, why i...

  • 186 shares
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Ideation for Design  - Preparing for the Design Race

Ideation for Design - Preparing for the Design Race

Ideation is easy to define. It’s the process by which you generate, develop and then communicate new ideas. Ideas can take many forms such as verbal, visual, concrete or abstract. The principle is simple to create a process by which you can innovate, develop and actualize new products. Ideation is critical to both UX designers and learning exper...

  • 299 shares
  • 2 months ago
Three Ideation Methods to Enhance Your Innovative Thinking

Three Ideation Methods to Enhance Your Innovative Thinking

“In a world where business is more interested in ‘best practice’ rather than different practice, is it any wonder that products and services, companies and organisations are all beginning to look the same?” the three authors rhetorically ask in ?What If!'s classic book on creativity and innovation, Sticky Wisdom. How to Start a Creative Revoluti...

  • 338 shares
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Create Some Space – for Ideation Sessions and Design Thinking

Create Some Space – for Ideation Sessions and Design Thinking

The spaces we occupy deeply influence our experiences, our feelings, and our behaviours. Our state of health, psychology, productivity, mood, and creativity spaces influence us on many levels and also influence our interactions with each other. The spaces in which we journey through Design Thinking and Ideation sessions must be set up in such a ...

  • 217 shares
  • 1 week ago
Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Analogies

Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Analogies

Hospital emergency rooms have been inspired by F1 pit stop crews. Henry Ford's assembly line was inspired by observing systems within slaughterhouses and grain warehouses. Executives, artists, writers and all kinds of other creative professionals have relied on creating analogies as a powerful tool for empathising with audiences and communicatin...

  • 396 shares
  • 1 year ago