October 27, 2020

Ideation is a process of finding creative solutions to your interface issues.

It is a process of allocating time to come up with several design ideas.

It is a team activity. Every member of the team comes up with varied ideas, and each idea is analyzed and critiqued for inclusion in the final design.

The goal of the ideation process is to come with as many creative solutions as possible.

Imagine a song stuck in your head. You love this song, but you’d like to listen to and sing other songs rather than having this song in your head forever. 

It’s the same with interface design. 

You might have ideas for a design. You might even have a working version ready in your mind. 

But, attachment to a single idea may not be as productive as exploration and integration of concepts from several ideas.



  • Widen your potential ideas.
  • Refine them for your new design.
  • Focus on user pain points.
  • Incorporate useful solutions from several ideated models, even if the rest of the model is rejected.

A question might arise among you and your team members –



Here’s why: 

Imagine you are making coffee for the first time in your life. You do not know the best way to make coffee until you have tried and tested various other ways to make coffee.

The ways you can make coffee are a metaphor for the design ideas and the best way to make coffee might be an integration of some of these ways.

Coming up with various ideas also helps you tackle the LOCAL MAXIMUM TRAP.

An example to understand the Local Maximum Trap is high scores in a single-player game. Every new high score is an optimization of your old high score. But, when this high score is compared to global high scores (GLOBAL MAXIMUM) it’s far less than the average high score.

Eric Reis described this problem in a 2010 blog post:

“It goes like this: whenever you’re not sure what to do, try something small, at random, and see if that makes things a little bit better. If it does, keep doing more of that, and if it doesn’t, try something else random and start over. Imagine climbing a hill this way; it’d work with your eyes closed. Just keep seeking higher and higher terrain, and rotate a bit whenever you feel yourself going down. But what if you’re climbing a hill that is in front of a mountain? When you get to the top of the hill, there’s no small step you can take that will get you on the right path up the mountain. That’s the local maximum. All optimization techniques get stuck in this position.”


  • Ideation techniques are free from your current design constraints.
  • The ideation process must involve the entire team to get varied ideas and perspectives.
  • Ideation can offer solutions you may never have found otherwise.



The go-to way for ideation is brainstorming. However, the major problem with brainstorming is group thinking.

Wikipedia defines groupthink as: 

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

Imagine a brainstorming session where your manager takes the lead in idea suggestion. People are either conforming to your manager’s ideas and not presenting anything unique. That’s what groupthink is. 

There are 2 very basic ideation techniques that beginners can start with:

  • Design Studio
  • Possible Futures.



  • Review the experience map, problem statements, and user research from Step 1 of Design Thinking as a team.
  • Ask the team to individually sketch their product solution ideas. The members can get creative and draw, create storyboards, comic strips, or even write down their solutions.
  • Ask every member to come forward and present their idea. The remaining team will critique the design idea. This should be a supportive exercise focused on finding solutions rather than mistakes/drawbacks.
  • Once individual ideas are presented, and the teams have discussed the concepts from each design idea that they would like to further consider, create groups or pairs of people. These pairs will work on integrating good concepts from different ideas and create a better solution.
  • These newly synthesized ideas will again be presented by the group/pair it belongs to. Together as a group analyze these new designs, trim down the unnecessary parts, and agree on the one solution you’d proceed through for prototyping.


  • You aren’t looking for 1 ideal solution but for many creative ideas that will assist in making of the solution.
  • Allow your team members to ask questions while presentation. 
    • Why will the user need this feature?
    • What problem is this feature supposed to solve?
  • Not all questions need to be answered at this stage.
  • You cannot build a prototype before you understand user interaction. This stage is not about building successful prototypes. 



  • Each team member shows how a mesh up of two existing solutions or technologies would look like.
  • They take inspiration from products inside and outside the industry.
  • The ideas are presented individually and critiqued by other team members.
  • Useful concepts from ideas that are otherwise rejected are integrated with other ideas to design a better solution.

For example, a combination of wishlists and target audience data would enable you to contact people, who have your products on the wishlist, every time they are near your store.

It is important to note that there are various other ideation techniques to try out after you and your team are comfortable with the above activities. Once the team is confident about the basic ideation techniques they may even come up with customized techniques.

What works will depend on your product and the comfort level of your team members.

Ideation is a creative process. Thus, it’s best to not put the restrictions of reality on this creative process. 

A reality check on ideas can be achieved during Storyboarding and Scenario Creation.


Ideation fits into your user-centric design process right after you have discovered user pain points and designed personas.

  • Design multiple and better solutions for your persona’s pain points.
  • The focus in the ideation process is achieved due to personas. The goal of ideation is to come up with creative solutions to solve the persona pain points.
  • Reality check for creative solutions can be achieved through storyboarding.
  • Once storyboarding validates an idea, it can be tested through prototypes.

To read more articles on design thinking click here. To check out designs created by Art Attack click here.




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