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Your constantly-updated definition of Ideation and collection of topical content and literature

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

It's challenging to gain the perspective to find design solutions. To have productive ideation sessions, you'll need a dedicated environment for standing back to seek and see every angle. First, though, your team must define the right problem to address. Ideation, or "Ideate", is the third step in the Design Thinking process – 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. To bring people together to conjure ideas and bypass established frontiers, you need a skilled facilitator and a creative environment, including a prepared space, featuring posters of personas, relevant information, etc. Your team 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 other's 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, it's 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 – You build good ideas from each other’s wild ideas.

Braindumping – This is like brainstorming, but done individually.

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

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

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

Challenging Assumptions – You overturn established beliefs about problems, revealing fresh perspectives.

Mindmapping – You use this graphical technique to connect ideas to problems’ major and minor qualities.

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

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

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

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

Analogies – You draw comparisons to communicate ideas better.

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

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

Cheatstorm – You use previously ideated material as stimuli.

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

Creative Pause – You take 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

We have 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

The 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 User Experience: The Beginner’s Guide .

If you’ve heard the term user experience design and been overwhelmed by all the jargon, then you’re not alone. In fact, most practicing UX designers struggle to explain what they do!

“[User experience] is used by people to say, ‘I’m a user experience designer, I design websites,’ or ‘I design apps.’ […] and they think the experience is that simple device, the website, or the app, or who knows what. No! It’s everything — it’s the way you experience the world, it’s the way you experience your life, it’s the way you experience the service. Or, yeah, an app or a computer system. But it’s a system that’s everything.”

— Don Norman, pioneer and inventor of the term “user experience,” in an interview with NNGroup

As indicated by Don Norman, User Experience is an umbrella term that covers several areas. When you work with user experience, it’s crucial to understand what those areas are so that you know how best to apply the tools available to you.

In this course, you will gain an introduction to the breadth of UX design and understand why it matters. You’ll also learn the roles and responsibilities of a UX designer, how to confidently talk about UX and practical methods that you can apply to your work immediately.

You will learn to identify the overlaps and differences between different fields and adapt your existing skills to UX design. Once you understand the lay of the land, you’ll be able to chart your journey into a career in UX design. You’ll hear from practicing UX designers from within the IxDF community — people who come from diverse backgrounds, have taught themselves design, learned on the job, and are enjoying successful careers.

If you are new to the Interaction Design Foundation, this course is a great place to start because it brings together materials from many of our other courses. This provides you with both an excellent introduction to user experience and a preview of the courses we have to offer to help you develop your future career. After each lesson, we will introduce you to the courses you can take if a specific topic has caught your attention. That way, you’ll find it easy to continue your learning journey.

In the first lesson, you’ll learn what user experience design is and what a UX designer does. You’ll also learn about the importance of portfolios and what hiring managers look for in them.

In the second lesson, you’ll learn how to think like a UX designer. This lesson also introduces you to the very first exercise for you to dip your toes into the cool waters of user experience. 

In the third and the fourth lessons, you’ll learn about the most common UX design tools and methods. You’ll also practice each of the methods through tailor-made exercises that walk you through the different stages of the design process.

In the final lesson, you’ll step outside the classroom and into the real world. You’ll understand the role of a UX designer within an organization and what it takes to overcome common challenges at the workplace. You’ll also learn how to leverage your existing skills to successfully transition to and thrive in a new career in UX.   

You’ll be taught by some of the world’s leading experts. The experts we’ve handpicked for you are:

  • Alan Dix, Director of the Computational Foundry at Swansea University, author of Statistics for HCI: Making Sense of Quantitative Data

  • Ann Blandford, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at University College London

  • Frank Spillers, Service Designer, Founder and CEO of Experience Dynamics

  • Laura Klein, Product Management Expert, Principal at Users Know, Author of Build Better Products and UX for Lean Startups

  • Michal Malewicz, Designer and Creative Director / CEO of Hype4 Mobile

  • Mike Rohde, Experience and Interface Designer, Author of The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking

  • Szymon Adamiak, Software Engineer and Co-founder of Hype4 Mobile

  • William Hudson, User Experience Strategist and Founder of Syntagm

Throughout the course, we’ll supply you with lots of templates and step-by-step guides so you can start applying what you learn in your everyday practice.

You’ll find a series of exercises that will help you get hands-on experience with the methods you learn. Whether you’re a newcomer to design considering a career switch, an experienced practitioner looking to brush up on the basics, or work closely with designers and are curious to know what your colleagues are up to, you will benefit from the learning materials and practical exercises in this course.

You can also learn with your fellow course-takers and use the discussion forums to get feedback and inspire other people who are learning alongside you. You and your fellow course-takers have a huge knowledge and experience base between you, so we think you should take advantage of it whenever possible.

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you’ve completed the course. You can highlight it on your resume, LinkedIn profile or website.

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