princeton architectural press 2011
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Contents defining problems
BrainstormingMind MappingLateral ThinkingVisual ResearchBrand MappingBrand BeaconsBrand BiblesMood BoardsDiagrammingInterviewing UsersCultural Probing
CubingGraftingOppositional ThinkingAction VerbsRhetorical FiguresCo-Creation
creating formEmbracing ConstraintsForced ConnectionsManipulative VerbsModelingReconstructionSprintingParing DownSemioticsKit of Parts
W hat picture comes to your mind when you hear the word brain-storm? Many of us conjure a dark cloud crackling with lightning and raining down ideas. The original metaphor, however, was military, not meteorological. The term brainstorming was developed by Mad-ison-Avenue ad man Alex F. Osborn, whose influential book Applied Imagina-tion (1953) launched a revolution in showing people (especially business people) how to think creatively. Brainstorming meant attacking a problem from many directions at once, bombarding it with rapid-fire ideas in order to come up with viable solutions. Osborn believed that even the most stubborn problem would eventually surrender if zapped by enough thought rayseven random or silly ones. He also believed that even the most rigid, habit-bound people could become imaginative if put in the right situation. Brainstorming became a ubiquitous thinking technique, deployed everywhere from kindergarten classrooms to corporate boardrooms. In a group setting, an ap-pointed moderator solicits ideas from everyone present and writes them down. All ideas are welcome, from the ordinary and obvious to the absurd and outland-ish. Setting a time limit quells skepticism and keeps the proceedings lively. At the end of the session, ideas can be ranked, sorted, and recorded for distribution. Solo brainstorming is more informal but follows the same principles: work quickly, keep an open mind, and review your results. When is brainstorming useful? This simple technique is effective for defining problems and coming up with initial concepts at the start of a project. Brainstorm-ing usually yields written lists, so its not about visualizing a concept so much as defining or identifying it. Brainstorming is a handy way to generate the simple seeds of larger, more complex ideas, or to solve narrow problems such as naming a product or creating a symbol or illustration of an idea.
Alex F. Osborn delineated the technique of brainstorming in Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of
Creative Thinking (New York: Scribners, 1957). First printing, 1953. The method has since entered the popular
The right idea is often the opposite of the obvious.
alex F. osborn
appoint a moderator. Using a whiteboard or big pads of paper, the moderator writes down any and all ideas. sometimes, the moderator puts ideas in basic categories along the way. although the moderator is the leader of the brainstorming process, he or she is not necessarily the boss of the team or the primary creative person. anyone with stamina and a steady hand can do the job.
state the topic. Being specific makes for a more productive session. For example, the topic new products for the kitchen is vague, while Problems people have in the kitchen encourages participants to think about what they do each day and what they might have trouble with. Breaking the topic down even further (cooking, cleaning, storage) can also stimulate discussion.
Write down everything, even the dumb stuff. everybody in the group should feel free to put out any idea, without censorship. Unexpected ideas often seem absurd at first glance. its important to record all the dull ideas, too, as these help clear the mind for new thinking. Combine simple or familar concepts to create more interesting ones.
establish a time limit. alternatively, aim for a quantity, such as one hundred new ways to think about hats. People tend to be more productive (and less suspicious of the process) if they know it wont go on forever.
if desired, rank ideas at the end of the session or assign next steps to members of the group. ask someone to record the results and share them as needed.
brainstorm with a group
challenge: illustrate consumerism (fast). A group of design students were asked to create illustrations for the Letters to the Editor page of The New York Times. The subject matter: how Americans across diverse income brackets, both rich and poor, are able to purchase a wide range of high-status consumer goods. The deadline: four hours from start to finish. A group brainstorming session got everyone thinking about clear, simple images that quickly convey ideas about shop-ping, wealth, and status. The moderator established three basic categories at the outset for sorting ideas as they came in. Although all the designers created their own illustrations, they worked from a common list of simple concepts. Their task was to synthesize this open-ended vocabulary into surprising combinations.
design cara lichtenstein, ally stoneham, yu chen zhang, christina ricks, julia kostreva, alex roulette associate art director the new york times: kim bost. faculty ellen lupton with joseph galbreath; graphic design ii, mica.
editorial illustration for the new york times: a case study
stuff people buy
Food and water
Health and beauty
markers of status
Bags of money
Pool charts blue/white
this list of basic ideas served as a reservoir from which each designer built an illustration of the topic. several solutions combine two or more items from the list (such as a shopping cart loaded with appliances, or a receipt listing major purchases and basic needs).
images of shopping
A matrix diagram joins two different value scales, such as rational/emotion-al and elite/popular. A design team positions various products or ideas in relation to the matrix, allowing them to visualize relationships. Matrix diagrams commonly are used in the process of design for branding, a broad field that in-volves product development, packaging, signage, logo design, interior design, service design, and more. Designers help companies or institutions update ex-isting brands as well as launch entirely new ones. Whether performing a modest makeover on a familar candy bar or building a new product entirely from scratch, designers and their clients look at where the given brand sits in relation to similar products or companies. Brand mapping can be done with various levels of detail and formality. Design-ers use matrix diagrams to position brands in relation to categories such as name recognition, cost/value, prestige, market segment, and so on. The process of making a brand map can draw out peoples feelings about a specific product (say, a Ford Explorer) or about a broader category (SUVs). Matrix diagrams can be used to visualize other kinds of content as well. Psychoanalysts and cultural anthropologists have used them to map the human psyche and social behavior, while New York Magazines Approval Matrix is a weekly column about popular culture.