Brainstorming Tips from the Front-end Design Conference
The Front-End design conference is a web design conference in St. Petersburg, Florida focusing on web content, presentation and behavior.
“Front-End Conf was created for anyone interested in front-end design to spend a day learning and hanging out with a bunch of like-minded peeps. The topics are intended to cover as much of the spectrum of front-end design that we can squeeze into a single day.”
This was the second year of the conference, and I had the opportunity to be there. I had a great time meeting people in the industry and attending all of the presentations. There was so much information to absorb into my head that if I didn’t type it all down, HTML would literally bleed from my eyes! But, lucky for you — I did take notes and will be sharing what I learned in a series of posts.
Up first, Brainstorming with Larissa Meek
Larissa started by explaining how strategic thinking is something we need to learn how to do. Larissa quoted Edward de Bono…
“Intelligence is something we are born with. Thinking is a skill that must be learned.”
- Edward de Bono
This quote really resonated throughout her presentation and lead us forward in the path of finding a brainstorming process. Finding a good process is key to practicing successful brainstorming. Larissa explains to us 3 key process steps.
3 Process Steps for Brainstorming:
- Explore all ideas without criticism.
- Refine, Clarify and Condense.
- Critique and choose the best ones.
It is easy to shoot down ideas that we consider to be silly or not relevant by our standards. We can all be quick to dismiss ideas that may be far out there because they come from our inner creativity that we tend to inhibit. Maybe it is because we tend to find the co-worker with the perfect hair to be a “poopy-face” and we don’t like him or his “styled” ideas because he makes our haircut look average and we cry about it on the inside daily… or maybe not.
Once we open ourselves up to many different ideas, it is time to refine, clarify and condense the best few. Now, we can critique the ideas that are the clearest and most precise, then choose the one to make our point.
Larissa reviewed a few Brainstorming methods, the ones that stood out to me were…
- 4 Square group activity
- Mind Mapping
4 Square group activity
Start with a piece of paper and divide it into 4 squares.
- Write a completely outlandish, off-the wall idea.
- Slightly refine and simplify the idea from box A.
- Slightly refine and simplify the idea from box B.
- Slightly refine and simplify the idea from box C.
Larissa took some volunteers to demonstrate this activity: Create a viral campaign or website concept for the SuperSoft Toilet Paper Brand based on an empty roll of toilet paper… The volunteers started off with a bat phone to call for the toilet paper to be replaced, then it was refined to an intercom for a new toilet paper roll, then it was refined again to a bell that called the butler to bring a new roll. It was a great demonstration and totally fun, I am not doing it justice you just had to be there.
Start with a central word and then write related words around it. One word may lead to another, next draw lines connecting the words revealing patterns.
This is something many of us are familiar with already, and is always a great method to getting out ideas.
A mind map is a diagram used to represent ideas linked to and arranged around a central concept or objective. This is similar to clustering, but with images.
Larissa breaks everything down at the end in a table with 2 parameters: Executions plus Creative Elements.
Larissa’s brainstorming guidelines
Start alone, and then share your ideas with a group.
- Exhaust all options
- Sketch or draw
- Avoid disruptions
- Keep a journal
- Set a time limit
- Keep groups small
- Stay on track
- Give everyone a chance
- Don’t criticize: Give everyone’s ideas a real chance.
Get your ideas clear and polished, and be ready to back them up with facts before presenting them to a group. Once your ideas are ready, present to a small group of key investors in your project, too many cooks in the kitchen can be an issue when staying on track.
I hope you enjoyed this first entry on the Front-end design conference 2010, stay tuned for more in this series. Please review Larissa Meek’s brainstorming presentation. And if you have brainstorming tips or thoughts to share, I’d love to hear from you.