Design Thinking: Ideation


What is Ideation?

The empathy phase will have given you the ability to understand and observe your users, allowing you to define a problem that needs to be solved. This will now allow for a possible solution to be reached through ideation. The ideation phase is the process of generating as many ideas as possible that align with the end users needs—regardless of how outlandish the ideas may seem. You can read a quick introduction to design thinking HERE to gain an overview of the design thinking process.

What is the goal of Ideation?

The key here is to go for quantity over quality and avoid getting fixated on a single idea. Without any ideas, a project isn’t going to take off. Each idea should be accepted and critique should be avoided at this stage, as this will come later when you structure the ideas. There are certain techniques that can be applied to create an even greater resource of ideas, before a summary is created and prototyping and testing commence.

How to best structure the ideation phase

The ideation phase is best structured as a brainstorming workshop. There are a number of different steps to the ideation phase that include generating, structuring, selecting and refining ideas before moving onto the prototyping and testing stage. A process of how an ideation phase is structured is listed below.


It’s important that people feel confident and empowered when sharing their ideas within a brainstorming session. There should be no criticism of any ideas at this initial stage, the evaluation and criticism of ideas take place at a later stage. Rather than becoming fixed on a single idea, it’s best to generate as many ideas as possible and start adding them on post-it notes.

It’s vital to share all ideas no matter how crazy they may seem—as long as everything relates to the user profile and problems that were defined in the previous stage. The reason for this is because people may build on other people’s ideas, or may be inspired to create a more practical idea based off the back of one that may seem outlandish.

A useful tip to generate even more ideas is the SCAMPER technique. Which stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to others uses, Eliminate, Rearrange. This technique can be applied to answers that have already been generated opening up even more ideas.


Once you have a large selection of ideas, the next phase in the ideation process is to structure them into a format that is easier to digest, ultimately moving towards a stage in which you can refine a selection of ideas before moving onto the prototype stage.  

If the range of ideas is very broad or out of scope, a few key ways to structure them could be to categorise them into topics: Does this idea match the question or meet the user’s needs? Is this idea out of scope? etc.

Select and Refine

A way to shortlist a number of ideas is to allow each member of the workshop to vote on what idea they think is the most viable moving forward. This can be accomplished by voting with dot stickers and shortlisting the two most popular ideas.

Once ideas have been selected you can begin to document and refine each one, detailing the discovered solution and the benefit of this idea, as well as how this aligns with the user’s needs. The next phase is to prototype each idea to gain valuable user feedback.