Post 9: brainstorming – the process

by Erland Howden

As a structure for the brainstorming exercise discussed in post 8, we divided our concepts into the different fields of emergent practices – service design, generative design and data visualisation. This was helpful in stimulating further ideas, by pushing us to consider alternative ways of approaching the problem space we had sketched for our issue area – asylum seekers and refugees. However, it also showed that there were some blurry lines between these fields, with some of the ideas we talked about potentially fitting into more than one category.

Design responses and problem space brainstorm - Erland Howden

Problem space definition for asylum seekers and refugeesAnother tool we used to guide the discussion was to carry forward a system we created during our collaborative research phase. When sharing information, we created a system of hashtags related to each group member’s areas of focus, that would identify the key aspect of the issue to which a particular source pertained. For example, we used #resettlement, #attitudes and #mentalhealth. As we got into the problem space definition, we then brought these categories – along with the relative expertise that each person had built in their focus areas – into defining key aspects of our issues’ problem. We also brought to bear the findings and reflections from the recent issue mapping exercises that identified key polemics within our issue.

The key strength of the brainstorming exercise was that we were able to generate a wider latitude of concepts and interrogate them to immediately make them sharper and more relevant by discussing them with a small group, rather than ideating individually. At the same time, working with just a few people was likely more productive than trying to collect and document an ideation process with a large group of 10, 20 or more. On the other hand, despite a large body of research between our group members collectively, not a lot of the research we had each done focused on recent solutions, campaigns or tools and I think we faced a weakness in potentially replicating existing projects and not being able to apply learnings from a deep analysis of existing design responses.


Author: Erland Howden

Graphic designer, photographer & facilitator. 💚 enviro justice, community organising, travel, vego food & wildlife.

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