Pictures as Idea Triggers

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There are various descriptions by several authors where pictures are used as idea triggers, Brainstorming, BrainWriting and Excursions. Warfield, et al (1975) put together a description ‘BBB’ – Battelle-Bildmappen-Brainwriting – developed at the Batelle Institute in Frankfurt, and input from Schaude (1979) describing visual Synectics. Sometimes the group creates the pictures first (see Greetings Cards and Component Detailing ), however it is more regular to use the pictures as part of a wider battery of idea triggers, rather than on there own. A generalised method might look like this:

  1. The problem statement is put on view and discussed until clearly understood.
  2. Initial exploration of the most obvious ideas, via any standard idea-gathering techniques occurs at the outset (e.g. private idea listing followed by a round robin); in a group environment it is not usually worth introducing special idea triggers until the direct methods are beginning decline.
  3. When the flow of ideas starts to trickle, introduce the pictures. The BBB approach provides each participant a folder of 8-10 prepared pictures, whereas Schaude recommends displaying one picture at a time to the whole group (using a projector or large poster).
  4. Participants can either use the pictures as triggers for Free Association or for Excursions.
  5. If the ideas are being generated in private, they can be collected using a round robin when ready.
  6. If pictures are being used one at a time, go over steps 2-4 as often as you feel necessary. When you have sufficient ideas, they are evaluated.
  7. The choice of relevant picture criteria is important as the following suggestions show:
    • Aim for easily understood pictures that represent or imply something going on (e.g. avoid abstract patterns, etc).
    • Aim for a wide assortment of material, feel and simplicity/complexity, but if possible with impartial or positive associations rather than negative ones (despair, anger, dislike, revulsion).
    • Aim for pictures that present scenes unrelated to the problem; it can help if the picture is open to a variety of interpretations, so that group members can envisage their own scenarios for what is happening.
  8. Facilitators are inclined to assemble collections of pictures that they have found functional. Newspapers and magazines are an obvious source; advertisements often have eye-catching and stimulating material.