Understanding HCI

Brainstorming Ideas

What is Brainstorming?

  1. any group activity involving the pursuit of new ideas
  2. a technique used to generate numerous ideas using the composite talent and experience of a group in a facilitated meeting environment

Why Use it?

  1. increase the volume of possible ideas
  2. used for many things including
    1. names for products
    2. features for the next release of a product,
    3. possible solutions to difficult situations & issues
    4. goal generation for the team

Participants Needed

  1. A facilitator
  2. Several participants - normally 3 or more

Conditions required

Best done after some analysis of the design space has been seen by all participants

  1. a comfortable quiet room
  2. materials for writing on (whiteboards, or paper easels),
  3. at least an hour, preferably 2 of time
  4. tea, coffee
  5. clear purpose - new ideas for website upgrade, redesign brochure, solution to diverse end user profile of product
  6. rules
    1. everyone is equal
    2. all ideas are equal
    3. don’t judge, discard or edit ideas
    4. record everything
    5. minimize interruptions & stay focused on topic
    6. have inspiration about (e.g. mood boards)
    7. do when you are fresh
    8. make it fun/rewarding
    9. wild & wacky ideas are encouraged
    10. build on the ideas of others
    11. one conversation at a time
    12. be visual
    13. quantity not quality

Task List

  1. Identify purpose of meeting
  2. Explain purpose to other brainstormers
  3. Explain what you will do with the end results, by what date
  4. Set a time frame for the session - normally 1-2 hours
  5. Establish rules
    1. see above
    2. free for all?
    3. raise hands?
    4. interruptions?
  6. Facilitate the session
    1. write down all ideas - no matter how strange
    2. minimise interruptions
    3. encourage quieter people to contribute
    4. encourage development of ideas
    5. discourage criticism but encourage questions
  7. Let people know if you want people to email you if they have further ideas after the session
  8. Group ideas (affinity diagramming can help here) and assign one person the task of writing up and refining the list post session


Other techniques whoch can be used with brainstorming inlcude

  1. What is the opposite of what we want? - Then move on to what we do want
  2. Random theme generators - write down lists of adjectives (colours, shapes, sizes etc) on cards and select a random card from each list to provoke ideas (red, circular, small)
  3. Rotate - people can call out 'rotate' spontaneously, whereby everybody moves physically to a new position
  4. Roadblock removal - remove limits on size, space, cost, time etc
  5. Roadblock introduction - introduce an arbitrary constraint

Limitations Of method

  1. People may feel silly or stupid during this exercise, so it is the job of the facilitator to make the environment a 'safe' place
  2. If the group as a whole isn't comfortable being creative, it may be necessary to create small groups of 2 or 3, or have people work individually initially.


  1. Brainstorm ideas for a new controller for a games console

Further Reading