(30mins is usually enough for each session)

Brainstorming is the general collective term for the processes of creative thinking for associations.

It can have its place anywhere in the creative process but is most effective in the initial phases.

It is a process that is effective as an Individual or as a group

There are 4 Rules

  1. Have a well-defined and clearly stated problem
  2. Have someone assigned to write down all ideas as they occur
  3. Have the correct number of people in the group
  4. Have someone in charge to enforce the following guidelines
  • Suspend judgement (“Momentum”)
  • Every idea is accepted and recorded (“Quantity”)
  • Encourage people to build on other ideas (“Hitch-Hiking”)
  • Encourage wacky ideas (“Free wheeling”)

Variants of Brainstorming

Individual Association Methods

It is possible to brainstorm on an individual basis, this is a method often used by designers whilst working on sketch pads.

Variants of Brainstorming

6-3-5 Method

This is a very quick and effective method of generating a large amount of ideas. Six participants individually write down three ideas on a specific proposed problem, within a set time (approximately 5 minutes).

These ideas are then passed around five times and each participant adds another 3 ideas.

This generates 108 ideas (6 x 3 x 6).

The one rule, however, is that it must be remembered that this is an association method
where the association is relative to the particular list that is held at a given time.

Organisation of Ideas

These methods work best with a matrix chart to ensre all ideas are collected.

Idea 1            

Idea 2            

Idea 3            

Participant 1


Participant 3

Participant 4

Participant 5

Participant 6

Idea & Problem Bank

( 30mins is usually enough for each session )

Group activity This is a secondary level process.

There are 5 main steps then repeat until ideas become exhausted

  1. Think of a Problem
  2. Deposit problems into the Bank
  3. Withdraw problems and create solutions
  4. Deposit solutions into the Bank
  5. Pick a new problem
Brain writing Pool

( 30mins is usually enough for each session)

Developed by the Batelle Institute in Frankfurt, Germany

  1. The Problem, or Design Brief is explained to the group In silence each individual jots down their ideas on a sheet of paper ( in either written or sketch format ).
  2. When an individual has created 4 ideas or has a mental block, the paper is placed in the centre of the table.
  3. They then select a sheet from the centre of the table and try to add more ideas to it.

Each sheet is anonymous and the same sheet could be selected several times. This can be more effective than normal brainstorming.

The SCAMPER list

This system was elaborated to create a design checklist- below (John Arnold, the founder of Design division, Stanford University)


Who/What else instead?

Other ingredient, material, processes, power, place, approach, tone of voice?


Create a blend, an alloy, an assortment, an ensemble?

Combine units, appeals, ideas, purposes?

  • What else is like this?
  • What other idea does this suggest?
  • Does the past offer a parallel?
  • What could I copy?
  • Whom could I Emulate?
  • New twist?
  • Change:
  • meaning,
  • colour,
  • motion,
  • sound,
  • odour,
  • form,
  • shape,
  • change…?
  • What to add?
  • More time?
  • Greater frequency?
  • Stronger?
  • Higher?
  • Longer?
  • Thicker?
  • Extra Value?
  • Plus ingredient?
  • Duplicate?
  • Multiply?
  • Exaggerate?


  • What to subtract?
  • Smaller?
  • Condensed?
  • Miniature?
  • Lower?
  • Shorter?
  • lighter?
  • Omit?
  • Streamline?
  • Split up?
  • Understate?

Put to other uses?

New ways to use as is?

Other uses if Modified?



  • Interchange components?
  • Other pattern, layout, sequence?
  • Transpose cause and effect?
  • Change pace, schedule?
  • Transpose positive and negative?
  • Opposites?
  • Backwards?
  • Up side down?
  • Reverse roles, change shoes, turn tables, turn the other cheek?
Fish bone Diagram

The fishbone diagram is a method of clarifying a problem. The technique best works with problems which start with terms like What, Why and How.

Once the problem is identified and placed at the head of the fish, the bones of the issue are defined using different categories. These are the parts of the problem which will be dealt with individually. Categories are decided by brainstorming the general issues of the problem. Typically they may include:

M’s: Man, Machine, Method, Materials Maintenance and Mother Each (Environment)

P’s: Price, Promotion, People, Processes, Place/Plant, Policies, Procedures and Product

S’s: Surroundings, Suppliers, Systems, Skills, Service

This list is indicative and not exhaustive. The categories are used to stimulate brainstorming around the causes under each. At the end of the process the problem is more clearly defined.

Structured free association
  1. Write down a symbol (word, figure, object, condition) which has a link to the problem
  2. Note down new links associated with step no.1 without looking at the link with the initial problem
  3. Repeat step 2 until there are no more ideas
  4. Study the list and choose the ideas which have merit
  5. Use the associations from no.4. to create solutions to the problem.
Lotus Blossom Technique

The principal of this technique is by using the problem analysis as the central theme, ever widening circles or “petals” are created with related ideas, which themselves become central themes and so on.

  • Starting with a theme or problem,Record this statement or word in the centre of the page
  • Find eight ideas related to this and place them concentric to it.
  • These are labelled A-H.
  • Select each of these ideas A-H individually and create other concentric diagrams for which eight further ideas are created, relative only to each individual idea.
  • These new ideas are numbered 1-8
  • This process continues until exhausted