How to Run a Design Studio in 90 Minutes

Based on a post by Al Abut on, link here.

Goals for a design studio:

  • Create divergent ideas and convergent decisions–ie idea generation vs synthesis.
  • Balance individual contributions with group insights
  • Quickly express visual ideas in a loose conversational manner
  • Be multi-threaded–best to work on several idea simultaneously
  • Be easily archived–paper rather than whiteboards
  • Make it fun!

Aim for three rounds of activity. Each round should be 10 minutes long, with 5 minutes of sketching and 5 minutes of discussion.


Round 1: every person sketches silently by themselves to get out their initial ideas. Try a six-up–divide paper into 6 equal spaces and ask people to fill the spaces with totally different concepts, not variations on a single concept. The focus of this round is divergence: to come up with as many different approaches as possible. Teams quickly discuss ideas in very general terms.

Round 2: Everyone sketches for 5 minutes again, but now they are required to steal at least one idea from the other team members. This approach is convergence: start picking and evolving the best ideas. Then 5 minutes discussion–and keep the team advised as to time left throughout the discussion.

Round 3: Now the team sketches a single set of interfaces as a group, talking their way to consensus.

Now all teams present briefly to each other. This is a fast effective way to forge through a ton of information and reach a broad consensus on next moves.



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