Brainstorming is a creative technique to generate ideas that will lead a collective or individual designer to solve a problem. Brainstorming helps connecting ideas and concepts together, and coming up with creative ideas and solutions. Afterwards, the designer has a clearer view of the answers he/she was looking for. This technique has been used for the last century and any designer or persona who needs new ideas for a project or to solute a problem can benefit from it. The brainstorming sessions are done in a relaxed and open atmosphere, as it is important the designer feels relaxed and free to express any idea (even the quirkiest) that comes to his/her mind. In order to focus completely on the task, it is important not to have any distraction. This can be a problem in group brainstorming sessions, as suddenly a team member speaks loudly distracting the other members. Therefore, which one is better? Individual or group brainstorming? None of them. Studies reveal that individual brainstorming is better when you need to solve a simple problem, generate a set of ideas and organize them, or focus on a broad problem; while a group session is more efficient solving complex problems, as you benefit from the wisdom of the other team members (Mindtools 2013).
I personally believe that brainstorming sessions are essential in any design project. They are usually used at the beginning, before the ideation and conceptualization stage. But you resort to brainstorming every time you see yourself blocked and you need help to generate new or better ideas. Within the brainstorming, there are two main techniques to write down the ideas on a paper, wall or wherever you want to realize the session: Post it notes and Mind-maps.
The first one consists on each member of the team writing his/her thoughts down on a post-it. Afterwards you can reorganize the ideas in sub-sections and discuss them further with the team. Any new thought that comes up in this discussion is also written down in the post-it. Mind-mapping, however, is slightly different. An example of brainstorming with mind-maps is the photo from above. Those are different mind-maps I have done throughout the last years. Each one has different aim: the ‘chair design’ session aims to look new concepts as inspiration and generate ideas to define a design specification; the second one, it focuses on the problem of marine rescue and search for an issue concerning that topic; and, the last one, organize and understand the connection between spaces and emotional design, as well as identify key concepts that will help me finding a design solution. So, you write down all your thoughts and you connect different concepts as long as you see a possible connection. I like using colors and drawings as they help to clear my view and have all my thoughts organized in my mind.
Nonetheless, brainstorming sessions are not only for designers. Even if it has always been a powerful tool for designers and artists, brainstorming can be used by other industries: engineers can use it to organize their thoughts and come up with complicated technical solutions. The business industry could be benefit by brainstorming to innovate their products, or redesign their marketing strategy.
- Mindtools (2013) Brainstorming: Generating many radical, creative ideas [online] available from <http://www.mindtools.com/brainstm.html#sthash.Pc00J8Qp.dpuf > [28th September]