Printlab Autodesk

5 – Idea Generation

In this Make:able toolkit, we’ll be guiding you in generating a vast array of design ideas, before selecting a key idea to take forward. Watch the overview video below before browsing through the idea generation methods and tips. Then use your key learnings to plan and implement your idea generation strategy. Remember that at this stage, we are thinking divergently to generate ideas and not detailed designs! For example, by the end of this toolkit, we might determine we want to design a tactile chess set but we don’t need to be thinking about it’s form and function until the next stage. Again, feel free to use the methods in this toolkit or explore alternatives.


Icon Sketching

Icon sketching is a visual brainstorming activity where you draw out ideas as basic icons, within a limited space and in a set time period. This ensures you don’t focus too much on detail because the aim is to go for quantity over quality. Download the template below and read the instructions to get started.

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Group Brainstorm

The group brainstorm activity is for teams generating ideas to any given question or problem. It focuses on the notion that everyone should have a say and there are no right or wrong answers. Download the group brainstorm instructions below.

View Instructions

Priority Diagramming

Priority diagramming is a method that helps you to analyse and map out your ideas in order of importance, to determine a key idea to take forward. It should be used in combination with a practical idea generation method such as icon sketching or group brainstorming. Download the priority diagramming instructions below.

View Instructions

Dot Voting

Dot voting is another effective method used by teams to determine favourite ideas/solutions. The method is based upon using sticky dots (or digital dots) to vote on a given set of data. It’s biggest benefit is that it gives every group member an equal chance to participate in the decision making process. Download the dot voting instructions below.

View Instructions

Your First Idea

Steven Parkinson, Project Programme Manager at Autodesk, talks to us about not falling in love with your very first idea.

Watch Video

Don't Reinvent the Wheel

When generating ideas, have a computer nearby where you can research existing solutions in the market. Take inspiration from them but try not to reinvent the wheel. Think creatively about how 3D printing can be used to innovate and create fresh, new solutions!

Driven by Empathy

Remember that you’re designing for someone who might have completely different needs, tastes and desires to your own. So make sure to use your empathy studies to drive your ideas.

Crazy 8's Method

Ruby Steel from Studio Exception talks to us about another fun idea generation called Crazy 8's. We also recommend taking a look at the Studio Exception website ( to learn about their innovative approach to design.

Watch Video

Team Dynamics

When generating ideas, work to your team's dynamics. Some teams might prefer individual ideation time, followed by group analysis. Others might work better brainstorming together.

Wild Ideas

In addition to practical ideas, include wild unconventional ones that might help you go beyond the obvious to uncover new and exciting perspectives. Many great solutions are an amalgamation of both wild and practical ideas so don’t forget to experiment with this.

At this point, you should have analysed a vast number of ideas and selected a key idea to take forward. The final step before we move on to the next toolkit is to generate a list of design criteria. These are essentially a set of ‘must have’ guidelines to follow when transforming your idea into a solution. Again, these should be driven by your empathy studies and might include points about ergonomics, weight, size, shape, aesthetics, cost etc.

Design criteria can be set out as a basic text list, or alternatively if you want to get creative, you could use the priority diagramming method again but in a different way. Rather than mapping out ideas onto the bullseye chart, you can map out design criteria/features and place them in order of importance.



Before moving on to the next toolkit, you should have achieved the below objectives.

  1. I can use divergent thinking and design thinking methods to generate a broad range of design ideas.
  2. I can use convergent thinking and design thinking methods to narrow design ideas down to a single key idea.
  3. I can determine necessary design aspects and features based on my end user’s needs and wants.


Go to Next Toolkit – Design + Make