Defining Terms: Ideation

Ideation is a term I did not hear of until beginning my design education. I have always felt it was an odd word, but it refers to a process that mixes both brainstorming and the sketch.

The Definition

Being a term that is used in different ways in different vocations, the Mirriam-Webster definition of ideation, “the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas,” is a bit limited for my use here – especially as it sounds very similar to brainstorming. In the world of design, it entails a visual form of brainstorming that uses sketching as the primary method of putting down ideas. Typically, ideation occurs when designing an object or a space.

Ideation sketches are created rapidly and usually clustered on a page, which can look a bit messy or looses. Pen, pencil, and/or markers are typically used for the linework and basic shadows. Ideation sketches are all about getting the idea down on paper and allowing refinement of the idea to happen later. Dwelling too much on a single sketch will slow down the process and reduce the number of ideas, or sketches in this case, that can be produced.