Ideation/ Brainstorming

Note: some find the term brainstorming offensive as it originated from an early word related to mental illness, while others feel differently. I include it here for internet searchability, but prefer the term ‘ideation.’

Remember that ideation is a trick to generate as many ideas as possible. We’re going for QUANTITY rather than quality at this point. No judging your ideas or those of others. Get every single idea out, no matter how silly or absurd you might normally think it is.


This is an abbreviation for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Revers. Asking these questions based on your prompt can help with ideation.

“What if?”

The group will divide into ideation groups. Each group will come up with the most unique “what if” question and answer they can think of. (In other words, start with “what if” and finish with some unusual situation.) Here are some examples: What if people came to my installation to sleep? What if I held a lottery? What if my walk included hot dog buns? Groups then share their top 5 favorite scenarios with the class.


Create a visual representation of a central topic and its related subtopics using keywords, images, colors, and connections.

“Limited Resources”

We’ll select an object (example: a box of cereal). Everyone will write down as many ways to use the object in a walk as they can in two minutes. Everyone share their answers with the class.

“What Would ____ Do?”

Break into groups of three. We’ll name the parameters of an walking project (example: you must create a walk that addresses borders of some kind). Then each group will be assigned a familiar artist from art history, fiction, or current events. Each group must determine how that person would solve the problem. For example, what if Joseph Beuys were to tackle the problem? What if Spiderman were to try it? President Obama? If you get stuck, start by considering what particular expertise the person would bring to the problem and what their objectives would be.

“Breaking the Rules”

Divide into small groups (4-6 each). Each group will make a list of ten unwritten rules that they seem to follow when creating walking projects. Examples might be “I think about the materials I have at my disposal”, “I think about what I want the end result to be”, or “I think about what I want people to think about it”. Groups discuss why they follow these “rules” and what it would take to get them to break them. Alternative: Try the same sort of activity, this time people list beliefs about art that they accept without question – truisms like “Accept capitalism – your art is only for rich people”, “If you want to sell your art, use lots of diamonds and gold”, or “Anything can be art if it’s in a glass vitrine”.

“Compare It”

The group divides into ideation groups. Have each group develop as many clever or unusual analogies as they can related to the walking project parameters. For example: “Walking is like a jumpstart for a car”, “Walking is like a calming bath,” etc.

Adapted from this site and this article