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Adventures in Experience Design: Splatter!

Learn the language of your eyes. Solve a problem for bald heads. Redesign your bedroom. Dissect a corpse. Paper a wall with ideas.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In this adventure you will learn how to take a Solution Idea like the ones you SPARKED in the last chapter, and quickly generate a lot of different concepts related to it. We call this SPLATTER because, like splattering paint, you don’t worry too much about where it all lands - just get a bunch of ideas out in a visual way using techniques like sketching and posting up concepts. Once you have your concepts splattered on the wall or table, the patterns that you’ll find can be very interesting!

Questions to Ponder:

  • Why is a picture “worth a thousand words?”
  • If sketching is so powerful, why don’t people use it more often?
  • Why should we spend any time talking about concepts that seem impossible to create?

What You’ll Do:

  • Try your hand at the basics of sketching and learn about its importance when you’re generating ideas.
  • Go big or go home. Then go big at home! Create a large number of concepts in a group challenge, then keep going for the next 24 hours.
  • Learn how to find patterns in your splatter of ideas. Build on them or use them to splatter even more.

Why designers sketch concepts

Sketching is a quick method for expressing ideas in a visual way, rather than just using words. But why is it so important to express information visually? Here are a few of the many reasons:


Some concepts, such as emotions, have more impact when expressed visually. Which of these two boxes seem to have a bigger impact on you?


Images can also be more effective at communicating such things as the relationships between objects, and their relative sizes.


Signs are designed to communicate regardless of which language you speak. If you were on the beach in Japan and considering a swim, which sign would you rather have?


Verbal directions are useful for step-by-step instructions, but the visual form is often easier to grasp at a higher level, or to understand your current location.

Verbal and visual information activates different sides of your brain. If you’re not used to using both sides often, it can be difficult to get started. Let’s try a game that will exercise your ability to transcend the verbal/visual divide!

Game: Talk Sketchy to Me


Learn firsthand why a picture is worth a thousand words (or, in this case, at least 25!) by successfully getting your partner to guess the phrase you are drawing.

What You’ll Need

  • Pen & paper

Step 1: Choose Your Roles

Pick one person to be the artist, and another to be the guesser.

Step 2: Pick a Noteworthy Statement

The artist should flip to page 144 and pick a statement from the list. The person who is going to guess should NOT look at that list.

Step 3: Sketch Your Statement

The artist then begins to sketch that statement, using only pictures! That means no letters or numbers, but symbols - such as a star or a heart - are OK.

Step 4: Best Guessed

The guesser should immediately begin guessing words and phrases out loud to identify the full statement. If the guesser says a correct word, you may write it down at the top of the page. Each word guessed correctly can be written down in the correct order. Keep going until the guesser correctly says the entire statement out loud.

Step 5: Think Sketchy

What words were difficult to sketch? Which were easier? How did the artist use the paper to visually communicate how words related to each other? Can you isolate parts of the sketch where one image was able to capture several words?

Step 6: Replay Value

  • Have a big group and want to play again? Have teams compete against each other to see who can get it right first. (Level up the challenge: Have each team write the statement for the opposing team.)
  • Go digital: Play again but have the artist communicate solely through images found using Google Image Search.

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