Brainstorming Ideas and Tips

by Brittany Horton on August 16, 2011

While Louellen Coker and I attended the Big(D)esign 2011 conference in Dallas, we learned a few new techniques for brainstorming and getting yourself thinking of solutions. For your reading pleasure, I have outlined a few.

Spider Web Brainstorming

Spider Web Brainstorming ExampleOf course you have the old school basic spider web mapping that you can use to brainstorm. This is one of the oldest tools in the box that allows to to get all possible ideas out on paper, leaving nothing out. You start with your main idea or question in the middle, circle it, write anything and everything down, and don’t hold yourself back. Anything that comes to your mind is worth writing down, and mapping out after that if you continue to think on that route. Continue to write your thoughts and circle each idea, and map out from the options. There is an example below of a spider web brainstorming I did on “Web.” Try to time yourself, or go until you run out of space on the paper. I was once told in college that when working on brainstorming, once you get to food or sex, you probably have gotten to the end of your brainstorming.


Notepad Brainstorming

Take out a notepad; you know, one of those hidden in the back of your desk Post-it notepads that you use to use all the time. You can use the same theory you started with the spider web brainstorming; write down your question or initial idea and start writing, put one idea on each notepad and then go to the next. Layout all of your notepads after about 1 or 2 minutes of notepad brainstorming, and spend 1 minute categorizing your ideas. NotePad Brainstorming

Collaborative Sketching

When your brainstorming does not involve just words, maybe your further into the process, maybe you just think better visually, you can turn to sketching. Sketch out ideas, just go pen to pad and draw it out. Again, anything goes, so don’t hold yourself back. Even if you think it would never work, or there is no solution for it, try it out. Maybe you will be able to combine multiple solutions to make it work. With this option, when you are sketching, it might help to get a team or partner and make it collaborative sketching. Don’t do it together per se, both of you, or the team, can work together to start sketching, and each work individually. After 1 or 2 minutes, show each other the sketches all laid out, and critique the work on a wall, or laid out on a desk. A few tips on critiquing:

  • be positive in your critiquing, try to avoid using the words like or don’t like and actually explain what aspects you do and don’t like;
  • try to say 3-4 things positive and negative on all sketches; and
  • don’t try to automatically defend your own work, just let the critiques continue.

Again, giving yourself a time limit will help you to think quickly and sketch down everything you can think of.

Online Brainstorming Tools

Over the years we have found a website that will help with the brainstorming process: MindMeister, An online mind-mapping tool. This tool is an online version of the spider web brainstorming that can be used for your basic brainstorming all the way to fully connected and laid out versions of mind-mapping. You can use it for brainstorming, to-do lists, organization, planning, and even help to create a variety of lists.

Make sure to check out your favorite inspirational websites while you are brainstorming to continue and give you more ideas. Some of our favorite inspirations are listed here: Seven Sites to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing.

Don’t forget to check out some of our older posts that will help you brainstorm and save time while you are thinking: Time Saving Tools (Part 1), Three Mind Mapping Applications We’re Looking at This Week.

What brainstorming techniques work for you?

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