Mining for Ideas: Collaborative Collages as Spaces of Opportunity

A method founded in play and inspired by design history

Anna Jordan
Assistant Professor
Rochester Institute of Technology

I will present a method that I designed to help students and practicing designers come up with new and surprising ideas. The method, called “Mining for Ideas,” is grounded in collaboration and experimentation. It can be used in a classroom or design studio setting to effectively generate ideas about both form and concept. Designers begin with a collaborative collage game, involving an enormous selection of unconventional tools and materials, leading to spectacular sculptural creations. Each sculptural collage is altered by each designer, leading to truly collaborative pieces. Next, designers photograph the sculptures to create two-dimensional images that are mined for ideas, similar as to how a miner would chip away at earth to reveal valuable gems. Very quickly, designers generate many surprising ideas, each with corresponding examples of concrete design elements such as typography, grid, texture, color, and image. Then, the raw ideas are expanded into applied pieces of graphic design via a flexible morphology that is structured around these concrete design elements. The method is founded in play and inspired by design history precedent including my personal design practice, the Surrealists’ exquisite corpse drawing game, and Skolos-Wedell’s form-to-content method for designing posters. In this presentation, I will illustrate how the method works with several examples from my classroom, explain how the method could be applied to various design problems, and cite student interviews as evidence proving that the process is successful.

This design research is presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 10.3: Tenth Anniversary, St. John’s University (Hybrid) on Friday, June 7, 2024.

Thinking Through The Pencil: The Primacy Of Drawing In The Design Thinking Process

Pattie Belle Hastings
Chair of Interactive Media + Design
School of Communications
Quinnipiac University

The research and ideation phases of the Design Thinking process typically incorporate forms of drawing, which can include thumbnails, sketches, comprehensives, wire frames, mind maps, storyboards, paper prototypes, and collaborative methods. It is from this collection of visualized ideas that a design project moves forward toward implementation. The basic purposes of design drawing can be summarized as generating, visualizing, documenting, collaborating, and analyzing. I’ve broken this down into three main drawing and thinking practices:

  1. thinking of and through ideas

This includes visualizing and recording ideas to externalize and convey the process of thinking. The goal for this kind of drawing is for idea generation and exploration. The best approach is to start with deep research and then freeform brainstorming of ideas on paper in which quantity is pursued in order to reach quality.

  1. thinking to improve ideas

Once the flow of ideas begins to form on the page, the processes of analysis, comparison, iteration, elaboration, reflection, and development can begin. Sometimes generation and analysis occurs simultaneously and sometimes it is successive. Reflection on the drawings reveals relationships, strengths and weaknesses that allow for refinement, reduction, and reiteration.

  1. thinking about ideas with others

Design drawings are often created for the purpose of collaboration, communication, and conversation. They are used to explain ideas to others and to engage discussion around the project or problem. Through their ephemeral nature, design drawings convey an idea that is in process not completion, which invites reflection, responses, criticisms, and alternatives.

This framing of “design drawing,” grounded in ideation, iteration and development, will be the foundation used to gather case studies, best practices, in addition to visual libraries of examples and methods. Another broad and hopeful goal of this research is the creation of a drawing curriculum and handbook for introducing and integrating “design drawing” methods into interaction design programs.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.0: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) on Saturday, Sept 24, 2016.