Assignment #4: Brainstorming



For this assignment, start by converting two of your problem statements into "how might we" questions. Get a group of people together (at least 4 others) in person. It is your challenge to facilitate and participate in two brainstorming sessions: one for each "how might we" question. Spend at least 20 minutes on each question. Follow the guidelines in the lecture notes. Keep the session playful. Perhaps start with improv games. You should come up with one new game or tool. Sort the ideas into categories. You can use the silent sort method to save time. Do a multi-voting to see which ideas are most popular with the participants. Document the process that you used in both text and photos. Document the IPM. Post the 10 "best" concepts as sketches on the blog and in your design notebook. 5 ideas from each "how might we" prompt.


For this assignment I was able to get four other people to agree to be a part of a brainstorming session to come up with new ideas to innovate my topic area: scarves. However, the session itself did not go as well as I had hoped as far as quantity of ideas went (more on that later).

To get started, I decided to get the group started by playing a game to get them in a more creative mood. And for a lazy Sunday night, this was imperative because everyone seemed to be tired and read to get to bed. For the two guys in the group, I had to compromise and let the Broncos/Chiefs game be on in the background. Not ideal, but like I said, it was basically a condition of their involvement.


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The game we played is a game I came up with last weekend and decided to perfect for this assignment. It is based on the game Scattergories, but I argue it's more easily played than the full game (which requires boards, paper, writing, and takes much longer). The only materials you need from the actual game are the category cards and the die. This is how you play:

Sit all players in a circle, preferably around a table.Using a category card, have each person take turns reading off a category and rolling the die to see which letter will be the subject of the round. (The player holding the card is the host and doesn't contribute to that round.) Then, the remaining players go around in clockwise order naming a word for the category, without repeating ideas. When a player can't think of anything, they get a "strike" and are out of the round. When three people can't name anything, there are three strikes and the round ends. Because the point of the game is to be creative and have people improvise, there aren't points involved. The winner can be chosen by the group as the person with the best/most ideas. The game was well-received by the group and they agreed that is was a quicker way to play the board game.


Before we could start the brainstorming session, I had to formulate my two problem/need statements into "how might we" statements. I did this beforehand and, based on the previous assignment's notes, came up with the two following statements to use with the group:

1. "How might we make wearing scarves more masculine?"
2. "How might we store scarves effectively?"

I felt as though these questions were broad enough but also specific to the ideas I was trying to get out of the activity.


Next, I started to set up the materials for the brainstorming session in the living room. Similar to the class brainstorming activity, we used markers and post-its for participants to draw and title their ideas. I used the same set-up and rules in class (i.e. drawings must have a title, ideas must be introduced to the group, etc.) We set 20 minutes as a timer and got started.

At first, it didn't go so well. It took the group a long time to get the ideas flowing, and even by the end, the quantity of ideas was pretty low. The group was shy and it took a while for them to come out of their shells. I tried to continually inspire them to be silly and think outside of the box, which seemed to help. As a modification to the class activity, when things got slow I decided to throw in random activities or objects to inspire them. This also seemed to help.

For the first session focused on making scarves more masculine, the IPM for the group was about 0.85. For the second session about scarf storage, the IPM was 1.05 for the group. The IPM per person, however, was much lower than in class, which makes sense.

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The following photos summarize the photos for each brainstorming session. The first is for masculine scarf ideas, the second is for scarf storage.

How might we make wearing scarves more masculine?

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How might we store scarves effectively?

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Next, I had the group categorize the ideas and choose their favorites. The following are the highest ranked ideas for innovating scarves respective to each session category.

How might we make wearing scarves more masculine?
"iScarf": A scarf with a built-in iPod jack and headphones
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"Movember Scarf": A scarf that doubles as a faux moustache
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"Beer/Drink Scarf": A scarf that includes both a bottle opener and a coozie to keep your beverage insulated
2013-11-17 20.57.39.jpg 2013-11-17 20.58.06.jpg
"Massage Scarf": A scarf that provides the user with a neck massage when wearing it
2013-11-17 20.58.24.jpg
"Chive Scarf": A scarf that embodies the popular men's website The Chive
2013-11-17 20.58.35.jpg

How might we store scarves effectively?

"Cinch Scarf": A scarf that has a built-in cinch capability to quickly shrink in size and hang on a hook
2013-11-17 20.56.20.jpg
"Pull-Out Drawer Scarf Shelving": A shelving system on a track to pull out of the wall and vertically display scarves (similar to a food pantry shelving system)
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"Over-the-door Scarf Hanger": A scarf storage system that hangs over the back of a door (similar to a shoe rack)
2013-11-17 20.56.42.jpg
"Zipper Blanket Scarf": Scarves have zippers that allow them to be added to a blanket to use when not being worn, rather than be stored somewhere out of reach
2013-11-17 20.56.52.jpg
"Coat w/ Built-in Scarf System": Redesigning a coat so that a scarf can zipper to it directly -- the user is never without a scarf and doesn't have to store it separately
2013-11-17 20.57.01.jpg

I made sure to keep all the ideas and document the top ten in my design notebook for further research and future assignments. Overall I think this assignment was really fun! It was interesting to see how a brainstorming session can be held outside of the classroom, which is more of an ideal environment. I was able to make notes on how I would change the process in future sessions.


First - I love that you included the prompt at the beginning of the post.
Second, you mention repeatedly that you had a difficult time getting your brainstormers to participate. Maybe it would have helped to play a game at the beginning that included more movement. I know that it can be hard to 'force' anyone to be creative, but sometimes getting up and moving helps. Also, maybe you could have tried giving them some chocolate! Regardless of the number of ideas you have, some of them seem to be intriguing - the scarf/coat idea is pretty cool. Additionally, it would have been cool to hear about the backgrounds of your participants, what their interests are, etc.
Great job documenting the process!

First off I like the idea of tackling how to adjust the view on a certain item that generally would be biased. However- I'm not sure if you may have done this- maybe introduce the topic of what is considered masculine? There is a large market, and using the term 'masculine' could almost lead to generalizations where a percentage of your target market might appreciate/not appreciate the concept (The chives scarf would be one to consider, even thought this was an idea generated by one of your participants). The ideas listed seem mostly sell-able to more than the masculine demographic.

Great and fun ideas. Heck, i'd take that cinch scarf, i know as a guy i hate having to stuff a large scarf in my pocket!

Hey Marin!

I really enjoyed your use of typography to make this document simple and easy to digest. +1 for that.

Your brainstorming session seems like it yielded some interesting results, although I can see that your participants were a little unwilling to step outside of their comfort zone. I wonder if there was some judgement going on (whether verbally or nonverbally?) or maybe they were just not used to this type of activity.

One idea I thought was great was the zipper scarf idea. I can imagine a product where there were tons of different patterns that someone could buy and make their own blanket, which is always fun, as well as having a plethora of choices for scarves. Limited addition scarves to add to your blanket, marketing genius! Either way I think that's an idea to pursue.

Great job and great post!


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Marin Blair published on November 18, 2013 10:46 AM.

Assignment #3: Ethnographic Research was the previous entry in this blog.

Assignment #5: Structured Idea Generation is the next entry in this blog.

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