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The Essential Guide to Brainstorming

Brainstorming simply refers to logical thinking for breaking down the finest solutions for a problem. And so, it is integral to the design thinking process. This phase of design thinking binds the entire design team and even outsiders to narrow down all sorts of ideas to solve design problems. Brainstorming is intrinsically a group task, where all minds come together to approach statement design problems with variant angles and link these complexities to generate more promising solutions. Though there are some rules to play by, brainstorming stimulates out-of-the-box ideas through lateral thinking. It offers a chance to break conventional barriers to evolve effective solutions and work in a flexible environment. Eventually, this critical step saves designers time and protects them against the “err” moments in the remaining design journey.

Brainstorming hits the designers during the ideation phase of the design thinking process. Designers implement brainstorming techniques to examine and solve defined design problems at this stage of the design building. Be it on a whiteboard, sheets, post-its, or even a tissue, brainstorming is an inevitable step to be attempted in a design process. The application of viable brainstorming techniques helps crack the “how” and “why” questions for the problems of the target audience personas designers build in the previous steps. Thus, design teams share ideas and perspectives during brainstorming and earn stakeholders to achieve lofty design goals. Stay tuned until the end to how wholesome brainstorming functions to stimulate compelling design solutions!

Brainstorming is core for design thinking and peaks during its ideation phase. It allows designers to collect a storm of ideas through every possible way to evolve the best possible design solutions.

Prerequisites of using Brainstorming

Brainstorming allows for a relaxed thinking environment wherein ideas can flow from anywhere. The popular step expands the solutions for the design teams. Alex Osborn, who coined the term, explained the fine elements of creative problem-solving in his book “Applied Imagination.” He defined brainstorming as a step to encircle a design problem and generate plenty of solutions for it. Osborn considered brainstorming not as a mere collection of ideas on your own but involving teammates and colleagues as well. He envisaged it as a beneficial method to cover solutions in every possible way.

But wait before you rush! For a productive brainstorming session, firstly, design teams should have clear or defined design problems to crack during brainstorming. Designers usually hold brainstorming sessions in a room with their team members and a large whiteboard or projector. Also, the brainstorming session can become enriched with a mix of people from diverse backgrounds who broaden the pool of ideas. Finally, as we know, brainstorming limits constraints for a free and flowy discussion of ideas, these rules by Osborn act as necessary checks for design teams to observe.

Defer Judgement

It allows the design team to create a “feel free” environment for everyone to shout out even the craziest ideas.

Reach for quantity

Focusing on quantity while brainstorming enhances the creative output of designers and the entire group. Furthermore, it increases the chances of coming up with innovative design solutions.

Deferring judgment and reaching out for quantity adds value to the creative output of the design thinking process. It completes the powerful process of brainstorming to quickly generate multiple ideas and energize the design team for being participative to contribute effective design solutions.

Steps to successful brainstorming

A successful and productive brainstorming session can take place under the watch of a facilitator. The facilitator keeps an eye on the time and leads the group by setting up a safe space for participants.

Define goals

Unless designers set definitive goals, they may linger in a perplexed state. So, the first step of brainstorming is to emphasize key problems that designers gather through user data. Here, they have to filter out their best approach to pursue the problems and generate a uniform point of view while processing this data and its associated problems. Then, a curiosity spur is all they need to hunt down the best possible solutions! A set approach that they define during this ideation phase allows them to select the best possible solutions for prototyping and harness the collective creativity of the design team.

Create the right atmosphere

The surroundings have to speak out loud for the design teams to think and think! The brainstorming sessions can work the best in enclosed and energetic spaces with a large whiteboard where everyone can lay their eyes.


A collaborative mindset may be slightly tricky to adapt, especially when the brainstorming sessions start with a one-man show. The initiator thus has the responsibility to set the right climate for the design team to get comfortable and ramp up the energy for discussion.

Keep track of time

A brainstorming session can lose its heat if the facilitator fails to keep an eye on the time tracker. Placing a time tracker in front of everyone’s sight and allotting fixed time, say 15 minutes, to discuss each topic can help develop discipline and spike up the instant instincts of the design teams.

Hold the momentum

Use improv techniques and keep up the motivated spin during the brainstorming session. Sometimes the discussion may get sidelined from the main topic and slip under “go with the flow” energy. Here, the facilitator is responsible for humbly keeping everyone on the same page.

Stay Visual

To collect the best possible solutions during the brainstorming session, encourage the participants to either scribble their ideas or speak them out loud. Select any medium but do not let any idea go unnoticed. Prepare for the storm of ideas, gather ideas from each one in the room, and jot down all of them on the whiteboard.

Review and select

Once the brainstorming session gets over, review and narrow down all the ideas in a phased manner. At the end of the discussion, you may find smart, silly, and even the most stupid ideas you’ve ever heard on the whiteboard. But, before you slash them out, review them through a fun group task. Allot these ideas in specific categories, then filter the best out of them. You never know; even the most absurd ideas may become the game-changer for the remaining design process!

Apply ideas to prototyping

Prototyping is the peak of the design thinking process. When you leave the brainstorming session with all ideas in your hand, test them to evaluate what fits best with the solution your design needs. During this phase, you should aim to gather loads of solutions to test and build the design.

Brainstorming is merely a specific but significant step of the design thinking process. Indeed designers may not hit the bull’s eye and derive the perfect solution instantly during the brainstorming session. However, this worthwhile design step allows them to widen their conceptual understanding of the design problems. Furthermore, they involve all the stakeholders in the design process and gain a collective and collaborative perspective of design solutions. At its best, brainstorming fuels the minds of design teams and gives birth to fantastic ideas that later become design solutions for user problems.

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