Seven steps to productive brainstorming

April 21, 2009

What is brainstorming? According to, it’s a problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group. So what we are talking about is coming up with as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time. Working as a group will allow for the free association within the group. I like to think of it as stacking. Something that one person says sparks an idea in someone else’s brain and the ideas build on one another. Here are some rules to guide your brilliant group of brainstormers:

  • Clearly define the problem.
  • Have a session facilitator that records ideas, keeps the session rolling and asks participants to expand on ideas.
  • Set a time limit.
  • Produce a large number of ideas
  • Allow no criticism: Welcome all ideas even if they seem silly or far out. No judgment.
  • When you are out of ideas, come up with three more.
  • When the time is up, discuss each idea. Don’t underscore obstacles, just possibilities.

Following these steps will produce a plethora or good ideas. These steps can also be used by an individual, but they would look more like this:

  • Clearly define the problem.
  • Set a time limit.
  • Write down all your ideas.
  • Produce a large number of ideas.
  • Don’t censor you own ideas: the wackier, the better
  • When you are out of ideas, come up with three more.
  • When your time is up, evaluate your ideas.

Sometimes we are just stuck for an idea. Brainlock happens to all of us. Here are a few suggestions that might help when you just can’t seem to find a solution to that design problem:

  • Consider a change of venue. A change in surroundings may be all you need.
  • Play a game on the web.
  • Use other people’s brains. Ask someone what their thoughts are.
  • Brainstorm like a copywriter: Grab a dictionary and randomly open it to a word. Then try to make a connection with that word to your project.
  • Doodle, take a shower, go for a walk: Sometimes it seems like some or our best ideas come when we aren’t thinking specifically about the project.
  • Look for influences: Now’s the time to go through your archive samples of designs that you’ve collected through the years, or try looking through a design magazine or source book.
  • Look for opposites: Imagine that you are designing a wagon, but it has no wheels. Using this as a beginning thought, you will arrive at a solution from a different angle, even though your final solution does actually have wheels.
  • Start with “what not to do.” Gather all the information you can find on the competition. Think, “What would the competition do?” Assume that that is the worst thing you can do. This can give you a starting point.

These are just a few examples that work for me. What works for you? Leave us your comments and let us know.

Anonymous's picture
January 07, 2016 03:21 am #

Sounds like a great idea....

Do you practice brainstorming at your agency?

Leave a Reply

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

What is the PsPrint Blog??

The PsPrint Blog is a resource for graphic designers, freelancers, small business owners and fans of print marketing. You'll find helpful techniques on printing everything there is to print, including business cards, postcards, brochures, stickers, invitations, greeting cards, door hangers, magnets and more. The PsPrint Blog shares creative ways to improve your design and layout skills, and useful tips for marketing your business in any medium. We also like to have a little fun, sharing design inspiration and spotlighting some our favorite customers' printed pieces in our "Hot Off the Press" series.