We do some mistakes at the beginning of the design projects. Some are ;

    • Skipping the idea creation phase and jumping directly to the detailing stage.
    • Constructing the whole project just on a product detail instead of an idea .
    • Focusing on the first product idea instead of creating more than one and choosing the best.
    • Having an intimate, emotional relationship with the product idea and lingering till the end, not being able to quit.
    • Feeling pressure during idea creation and saying “I want to get rid of this project” and choosing an inconsistent product idea.

In order to bring out a successful project, the designer should bring up at least 5 product ideas and choose the most consistent one.

The idea creation phase is a stressful and intense stage. Considering facing with these intensity every three months, the designer should find a method to sustain this profession with ease.

The anatomy, way of thinking, response to the events of all human beings are almost the same.  The designer, on the one hand having the same overal brain structure with others on the other hand being able to find extraordinary ideas continuously,  needs to follow a method which can orient his own thinking.

Brain is the only instrument for idea creation. Human being should get to know and keep on the right side of this instrument. Human mind on one side is very complicated but on the other side is very primitive and simple. It approaches all the problems in the same way. For example;

    • Finds answers to the questions, finds questions to the answers
    • Creates hierarchy
    • Links connections
    • Makes verifications
    • Creates ideas only based on the surrounding information.
    • Finds solutions only to the surrounding problems.

Human mind learns only from its surrounding, questions what it learns, answers all the questions, verifies the answers. There are filtered information behind all product ideas. For example the idea of ceramic pottery is based on the information that “Mud becomes harden and water-resistant after cooked”. The need of water storage will not turn into a product idea with the lack of this information. We can not force human to make this transformation. As a matter of fact, there is no need, human will instinctively make it itself after facing this information. All we need to do is to be surrounded with the information for the base of a potential idea. In short, all potential underlying information can be a source of inspiration for an idea.

Human instinctively finds solutions to the problems surrounding itself. However designer finds solutions to the problems surrounding the others. In order to be able to solve the others’ problems, designer should be able to rearrange all those questions on a paper as if virtually surrounded by the problem of the owners.

Based on this main idea, this article proposes an applicable, practical method to the designer by collecting the required information and generating ideas from each of it.

In this method below, each information/knowledge can be a source for an idea, on other side each idea can be a source for an information/knowledge.

The title is “idea mapping”. Because I am using “mind mapping” technique. Ccombining the “idea mapping” and “idea creation” process,  I call it in short “idea mapping”. Mind mapping is a type of chart that you place the main title in the middle of paper/screen and creating branches and subbranches from this main title.

There are various softwares to create mind map in computer. You can make a google to access them all. I used free Xmind software for creating the charts below.

Let’s first have a look at the innovative ideas/products in the market. Let’s see how they could be revealed by deduction. And then using the same base understanding we reveal our own ideas by induction.

Case 1   Silicon cake mold

Silicon cake molds are used for making cakes. For almost all ovens maximum temperature is not more than 250°C. Melting point of silicon is around 357°C. For this reason such elastic material surprisingly can be used in the oven. Silicon cake molds have some advantages over teflon molds. Silicon does not conduct heat as much as metal. For this reason cake touching the silicon surface is not overcooked. Every part of cake is cooked homogeneous. Comparing to the other plastics, silicon does not stick to the cooked material. It is even easier to take it out comparing to teflon. It is a hygienic material does not contain toxics inside.

Considering these features, there is knowledge of “high melting point” behind this product idea.

Let’s submit two different project definitions to a designer and see the products coming out from that definition.

  1. A mold design for shaping and cooking cakes.
  2. A new product design using silicon material.

A mold design for shaping and cooking cakes.

A new product design considering the material specification of silicon

(you can click on the image to enlarge)

When we have a look at those products it is possible to derive silicon cake mold idea from both project definitions. It seems like first definition is more basic. But consider, it is impossible for a person to create this idea if s/he doesn’t know about the silicon specification. Calling after the word “plastic”, all designer, even me, would not give it a chance for cookware. It is obvious that the the idea is derived from material specification not from project definition. Material and component information can be a source of an idea.

Case 2   Philips Mylight

Mylight, is a book light produced by Philips. The light passing through the right side of the acrylic plate dissolve on the page, makes the text visible. It is thin, so can be used as a bookmark. The light only dissolves on the page, saves energy.

Considering this features there is knowledge of “light can pass through an acrylic plate” behind this product idea. Without this knowledge it is not possible to bring that product into life.

It is not expected from a designer to know all the information. Because there is information behind our all awareness. Alright how can we build the infrastructure of the ideas in this infinity? The answer is behind organizing the information. When we create branches and subbranches with our knowledge missing branches will be more obvious. And every missing branch is a topic for new investigation.

Most prior information for a project is its definition. If we can clarify and investigate the definition we can find a input for our branches.

“A new consumer electronics for SONY”

Let’s start new project for our article. Let’s take “A new consumer product for SONY” definition as an example. We can devide this definition into two. “Sony” and “consumer electronics”.

Let’s expand the Sony brand and consumer electronics a bit more. We clarify the consumer electronics definition.

After all we will follow a question-answer process. We take the word “entertain” into hand and answer the question of “what entertains us?” And we should do the same for “communication” and “planning”.

As I mentioned at the beginning, each information/knowledge can be a source for an idea. There is hardware and software information behind all electronic products.

I categorized these as input, output and data transmission.

Besides the electronics technologies let’s add the materials and production techniques into the table.

>  Click for the last version of the table <

Now all we have to do is to make some crosses and connection from this tree branches and try to create product ideas from each cross. Then we list the ideas on the right side of the chart.

> Click for the last version of the table including product ideas <

Some ideas can be consistent, applicable, feasible some can not. So it’s better to create as much ideas as possible and choose the best one.

Actually human brain functions in the same way above. I do not bring up a brand new thinking method. All I try to do is to let human reflect its mind on to the paper and approach itself and whole problem externally.

I called the method “idea mapping”. Actually “map” is a nice connotation for the process because map informs us about the corresponding point of our location on the map. The map shows us the location where we are and where we are not. The location where we are not is a place to investigate. This process actually lets us move away and recognize the all possible undiscovered points.


We are organizing “idea mapping” workshops for different kind of project definitions.

For the workshop please contact to necidesign.