Braindrawing is a type of visual brainstorming in which a group of participants sketch ideas for designs, icons, screen layouts, or other visual concepts.
The method involves drawing quickly and sharing the results with others in the group. Like other ideation methods, the focus is on the quantity of ideas generated rather than the quality. The process operates in rounds with participants starting with a blank page and then using others' drawings as inspiration for subsequent rounds. The output of braindrawing is a set of sketches combining the ideas of everyone in the group that can be used as input for subsequent designs.
Outcomes and Deliverables
The outcomes of braindrawing are:
Benefits, Advantages and Disadvantages
Braindrawing is useful for collaboratively generating ideas for interface elements when designing new icons, GUI features, and screen layouts. It is particularly useful for creating visual representations for abstract concepts like "render" or "filter documents".
Participants and Other Stakeholders
Participants can include anyone from the project team as well as other stakeholders. Including individuals with different roles or different points of view may increase the variety of ideas that result. People from any of the following groups are candidates to participate in braindrawing:
Braindrawing requires a location where the group can sit at tables to draw, and be close enough to pass the drawing to the next person. Materials required include plenty of blank paper and pens or pencils. Variations such as the Gallery Method call for stations with flip charts on easels or a large roll of paper hung on the wall, and markers for drawing. Braindrawing also requires a way to keep time for each round, such as a watch, clock, or other timer.
Who Can Facilitate
Anyone with basic facilitation skills can facilitate a braindrawing session. Through the use of rounds of individual sketching, the method avoids some of the challenges related to social dynamics that can occur with brainstorming and other group methods. A usability or human factors specialist is in a good position to facilitate braindrawing.
Data Analysis Approach
Affinity diagramming – As with other brainstorming data, the resulting sketches can be grouped into an affinity diagram by the braindrawing group or another group. After the affinity groups are formed, they can be prioritized so the best ideas emerge.
Participants can vote on, rate, or rank visual ideas according to a set of criteria. For a formal rating of drawings, you could scan in each drawing and have people choose sketches based on important criteria.
After the braindrawing session, the best ideas from the many different drawings can be combined or used as input to design problems. The facilitator should also follow up with participants to share the results of the event, as appropriate given the situation.
Costs and Scalability
The equipment costs for braindrawing are low. The only materials needed are a simple set of standard office supplies and a timekeeping device.
The only people required are the facilitator and a group of five to twelve participants. While braindrawing could be used with a larger group to collect ideas from many participants, the group debrief described above would not be possible and the data analysis effort would increase significantly.
Braindrawing focuses on rapid generation of ideas through sketching, and as such, can be done very quickly. Sessions can range from twenty minutes to two hours, with most taking about an hour. It's best to keep sessions short (under an hour) or take frequent breaks. If you plan to do a group debrief after the drawing ends, extra time should be built into the session to accommodate the discussion.
Braindrawing should work in cultures that are normally reserved about expressing unusual or divergent ideas, because the creative expression is done individually on paper. When working with individuals in a risk-averse culture, the facilitator may want to collect and redistribute the papers between rounds to preserve the anonymity of all participants.
Ethical and Legal Considerations
Participants many feel pressure if their managers are observing or participating in the braindrawing session. Facilitators can reduce that pressure by having sessions without managers, by arranging the environment so managers are not sitting next to their direct employees and their managers next to each other, or by collecting and redistributing the pages between rounds.
Participants may feel ignored if their ideas are not used in the final design. Fostering a true collaborative atmosphere on the team and in the session can help alleviate this concern. Also, results should be preserved so that good ideas can be used in the future, even if not to solve the immediate design problem.