How to come up with Lots of Ideas on Command

written by Johannes Ippen. founder of Human Deluxe, @johannesippen

As designers, we rely on our ideas. We need to have a constant stream of ideas coming – good ideas, bad ideas, stupid ideas. We need to be able to access them on demand – no time to wait until inspiration hits.

I often get asked why I always push to bring our design process to the next level – the ability to generate ideas is a very important factor for that.

Every great product starts with a great idea – and every great idea is surrounded by many boring, stupid or bad ideas, that influence the good idea and make it stand out. The key is to generate many ideas in a very short time on command.

This is where the design process comes in: In form of an exercise called Crazy 8.


The Crazy 8 exercise comes from the world of Design Thinking, we often use it as part of a Design Sprint. Because it is so simple, short and easy to do, I will always encourage everyone to use it even as a standalone trick to kickstart your mind.

All you need is a sheet of blank printer paper (A4 or Letter, both work fine), a nice thick marker (Sharpie works best) and simple timer. The stopwatch on your phone is more than sufficient for the exercise

Step 1: Task & Fold.

To begin the Crazy 8 exercise, pick a simple and clear task. When we do the exercise in the context of a workshop, we ask people to think of different solutions for a problem – or even different variants of the same solution. Ask people to take one sheet of paper and fold it 3 times, once in the middle along the long side, twice along the shorter side.

Goal is to have a piece of paper that has 8 sections for 8 ideas.

Step 2: Generate Ideas.

Set the timer to 8 Minutes and ask people to generate different ideas: One for each section of the freshly folded paper. These ideas can be drawn, sketched or simply written. They don’t need to be beautiful, important is that the creator can identify them.

Allow yourself (or your participants) to go crazy & stupid – we’re not aiming for 8 GOOD ideas, we’re aiming for 8 ideas. In case you are stuck: time machines or zero gravity are allowed as part of the problem solution in that exercise.

Step 3: Select & Present.

Don’t worry if you don’t have 8 once the timer finishes. Most Crazy 8 newbies hit somewhere between 5-7 ideas, and that is great! Just think of it that way: In less than 10 minutes, you created over 5 ideas and jotted them down – that is impressive.

Now look at your sheet of paper and select your Top 3 ideas: Draw a frame around them and present them to your workshop peers (or yourself). Gather some feedback and, if needed: Iterate. You can repeat the crazy 8 exercise a couple of times to refine your ideas, if needed.

It’s that simple, isn’t it? The beauty of the Crazy 8 exercise is in it’s versatility and simplicity. It encourages you to come up with many ideas, fast. It is a little harder to do remotely on a digital canvas, but also possible. If you want to know how we do that, make sure you subscribe to the Human Deluxe newsletter

written by Johannes Ippen. founder of Human Deluxe, @johannesippen