problems in front of a blank page?

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December 20, 2013 by Liat

It is often very difficult to come up with good idea. The white paper is there, looking at us, we look at it. That’s it. Even if we collected so many inspiring best practices, even if people gave us very interesting insights with our design probes, still the white paper is a difficult moment.

Usually, in this moment we don’t really know where we are going. And since we don’t know that, it doesn’t really matter which way to take. Exactly like when Alice meets the cat:

 Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

Alice: “I don’t much care where –” said Alice.

Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Alice: “– so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

So we have to force ourselves to start and walk a road that we don’t know exactly where will end. And this is not an easy task!

In the last lessons we learned some tricks that might help us:

1) change your mood: do something playful, surprising, fun! For example, ask everyone to fold papers into airplains and make a competition! How long ago have you done that? Make you feel a little like a child? Good…

2) put your mind into a non judgmental mode and don’t think about what other people will think about you.

3) now that you don’t care about what people think, come up with as many ideas that you can. Simple and small ideas without going into detail. Go for quantity in a first moment: the first part of coming up with idea, is more productive if you are not stuck on one idea. Let your mind follow one idea by another.


Bob McKim developed a simple but cool exercise called the 30 circles. It is all about the divergent phase and the flexibility of the mind. You can see the instructions for this exercise HERE.  The whole sequence is based on a very famous talk by Tim Brown about playing, that you can see here.


Picture from Tim Brown’s Ted Talk

When we begin to come up with ideas we can help ourselves by forcing our mind to apply the same idea in different contexts. For example: I want to create a game explaining the local culture for foreigners. If the game is developed for primary school it is different from a one for university. Is it physical or digital? And if it a game for people that arrive for a conference?

Other then thinking on different context, you may try to think with different hats, like suggested by De Bono. He developed a method for parallel thinking based on putting on 6 types of imaginary hats that make you think from different perspectives.  The hats are as here in the image below. Want to try, read more about it HERE.

A simpler method that has a similar effect is the Disney method. In this process, people will have the same role in the same moment and room and after some time will all change room and mode. The three phases are: the dreamer, the realist and the spoiler. some ad another role which is the “outsider” , all about research. HERE is more for you on the method.

Hope this can be helpful for your project development. And please watch the whole ted talk by Tim Brown! And most importantly, PLAY!


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This course is held at NABA: Nuova Accademia di belle arti by Chiara Gambarana and Liat Rogel

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