Ideation & Brainstorming

Spending some time at the outset of your project to come up with an interesting idea that resonates with you is a key component to creating work that is compelling.

At times it can be difficult to try to generate ideas from scratch.  There are some techniques that can be helpful.  We’ll explore some of them here.

For an interactive project we can look at a basic formula that goes like this

Once upon a time…

And then one day…

[option A] or [option B]

And in the end…

[option A ending] or [option B ending]

If you think of an interactive media project as media that:

  1. engages one or more of our senses:
    • Visuals (sight)
    • Audio (hearing)
    • Tactile (touch)
    • Aroma (smell)
    • Flavored (taste)
  2. That in some way changes based on one or more user’s active or passive input via controls, sensors or otherwise.
  3. Ideally with some regard to principles such as:
    1. Synchronization
    2. Change
    3. Continuity
    4. Transitions
    5. Surprise
    6. Engagement
    7. Discovery
    8. Narrative
    9. Tempo
    10. Sequence
    11. Pattern
    12. Rhythm
    13. Rest
    14. Reset
    15. Accumulation

So with respect to making some kind of audio/visual (or otherwise) project that changes in some way based on user input.  While respecting certain principles like synchronization of audio and visual cues and aims for some kind of surprise.   We have a very simple starting point which we can add details and optionally meaning to the experience. 


At this point we can begin exploring ideas…

The important thing here is to just list whatever comes to mind.  If you are lucky enough to have some kind of purpose already established, that is great!  But don’t let it cause you to censor yourself while brainstorming.  Random ideas are fine, anything goes.  It’s important to set a time limit on this process.  5-10 minutes is a good amount of time for a very small project.

Later on you will explore your ideas and look for interesting connections.  At this point you can start ruling things out or you might adjust an idea based on how it relates to something else you put down.  You will also at this point, want to consider the theme or purpose of your project along with any other constraints that may have been imposed.

If these don’t exist for your project, it is a great idea to implement your own.  Purpose gives your project direction.  Theme gives it cohesion.  Constraints will keep you focused.

Once you’re done brainstorming, it’s time to make connections between different ideas written down.  As you do this make sure to keep in mind the purpose, theme and constraints.  If you do this properly, you’ll find that your brain is able to form connections that you may never have considered and you will hopefully come up with a fresh and novel concept.

By this point you should be able to form a short writeup describing your interactive media concept.  The purpose, the media, the subject matter, the initial premise, the choice or change (the dynamic interactive element) and the outcome or outcomes.

This will serve as a strong foundation for a basic prototype, which you can continuously add detail through successive iterations.  It’s important that while you add the scope through iterations, that you continue to work in accordance with the purpose, theme and constraints you set out.

“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

Albert Einstein

© Gavin Ball. All rights reserved.