The Ideation Phase

We all at some point jump right into the deep end of creating a design of some kind. We add colors, images, and all the bells and whistles that come with a design, and then decide to fix and change it from thereon. While no one wants to admit that we have done this, it can be inevitable that this happened, whether we were conscious of it or not depending on different variables. However, going through the ideation phase of the design thinking process can prove to be more beneficial than one may think. 

Why is the Ideation Phase Important?

Once we do all this research and gather information surrounding what we will be creating comes to the ideas part. This can become stressful at times since one or a combination of these ideas will be the official starting point for the actual design. We all want it to be the best it can be and as “perfect” as we can make it. Even though the final design usually is not the exact idea we have at the beginning of the ideation phase, it still allows for ideas to blossom, and new or even better ideas can emerge. There are many ways to go about communicating and showing one’s ideas to everyone. 

Ideation Techniques

Mind Maps

Mind maps are very common in that they allow a designer to become creative from the start. Starting with a central idea or topic and branching out from there is the common way to do a mind map. This ideation technique or method allows for the designer to use words, colors, and even images until their heart’s content. However, not everyone has the same way of creating a mind map. Some people may use mostly images and colors with very few words while others may use images and words equally or only use words and colors. In reality, it’s up to the designer to show how they want to communicate their ideas so it doesn’t get lost in translation in any way. Not only that, but mind maps help to ignite new, creative, and exciting ideas that probably were never thought about or going to reach until every idea is visible on the map.

Example of a mind map I created


Brainstorming is another great way to communicate ideas. This method allows for everyone as a group to come up with ideas. New ideas may spark from hearing what other people come up with. Even though mind maps are a separate method, they can still be used by combining it with this method. Each idea that comes up in a brainstorming session can be written or drawn on a mind map as a way to organize every idea that pops up. One can never be certain when a mind map can be needed.

Brainwalking and Brainwriting

Brainwalking and brainwriting are similar in some ways. Brainwalking is when there are “idea stations” in different areas of the room and everyone goes to each station to write their ideas down, including new ones that come from being active. Sometimes by moving around from one point to another, can spark new ideas than just sitting and thinking which can be boring for many people. Brainwriting on the other hand is where everyone writes their ideas down and then passes it to someone else who writes their ideas and so on. After using these techniques either as a group or by one’s self, a mind map can be created to see all of the great ideas while sparking new ones that may come along. 


Who doesn’t like games? Gamestorming can be a unique, fun, and interesting way to spark ideas and come up with ideas you may never have before or would have if it wasn’t for this technique. This method allows for the ideas to come in a way that is fun because it’s done like a game. When people are engaging with each other and being interactive with the topic and ideas, there are an endless amount of ideas that can come up because everyone is enjoying what is going on and they want to participate and add their ideas. Also, during the gamestorming, everyone is feeding off others energy and excitement that can spark new ideas and ultimately create great ideas no matter how outrageous they may be. During the games, as people are saying their ideas, it can go right onto a mind map that can hold onto the great ideas, in that afterward it may be shocking to see what everyone came up with because everyone was having fun and was relaxed from doing it as a game the whole time.


Sketching ideas out can be incredibly helpful for visual learners or for those who find it easier to get their ideas across through images instead of words. However, even though they are sketches and need to get one’s point across, it’s very important to not make it so pretty and detailed and rather just keep them rough and very simple. These sketches can help think more creatively and openly (Interaction Design Foundation). Sketching ideas allows the designer to visually see what they want their idea to be, but it can also lead to a new idea or change it after seeing what they thought could be a great idea. Either way, involving a mind map can be even more beneficial to have with the sketches since it is also involved in portraying one’s ideas. 

Worst Possible Ideas

People can get very stressed and overwhelmed when coming up with ideas in fear that they will get judged that their ideas are not good enough, or just have tons of anxiety with coming up with an idea that’ll be seen by everyone eventually. An ideation technique that can control all of that is the worst possible idea technique. This method helps to relieve all that tension, anxiety, and stress by allowing everyone to come up with what they believe is the worst solutions for the overall topic or problem to get them out of the way to focus on the best possible solutions. It also is a way to boost one’s self-confidence since that won’t have the pressure and insecurities that come with creating the best and creative ideas. Then including a mind map that holds all the worst possible ideas in words, images, and colors can be a lot of fun since it can allow everyone to see all the bad ideas and laugh about them while also having more creativity and confidence when coming up with the best ideas that can spark from those awful ideas.

The Relevance of Mind Maps

After going through just some of the numerous techniques that the ideation phase has to offer, it’s clear to see just how relevant and useful a mind map can be. Having a list of ideas and feeling the pressure and becoming overwhelmed just isn’t enough sometimes to get the creative juices flowing. Incorporating a mind map into the ideation phase can help the ideas flow, spark new and exciting ones, and to have a visual representation of all the ideas that are not only pleasing to look at but can be very helpful down the road when people go back a look at it for ideas when they are stuck. 


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