Glossary: Creative Research Methods

Glossary: Creative Research Methods

This page is a growing list of methods to collect, analyse or communicate insight that we have successfully used

The List

Bag of Words: Find a poetry reading online and listen to the stream of words the poet speaks. You don't have to work out the 'meaning' of the poem, instead you are listening out to keywords or phrases that give you pleasure, or that you feel possess gravity. Make a note of them and use them as ideation material

Read more: Jorie Graham writes in a maximalist style, which makes her work suitable for this exercise. This links to her poem 'Fast'

Character Cards: A evolution of the 'design persona', the character card enriches detail and develops a narrative. A framework is below:  

Close Reading: reading literary work within the context of a project.  'Literary work' refers to writing where the writer has packed as much resonance, ambiguity and meaning into their sentences as possible. Selecting the right text is crucial. Questions to ask yourself include: Where is this set? Who is talking? What is their point of view? How are things described? What style of writing is used? What is the tone? What is alluded to?

Read more: Explore our Analysing Literature Insight Database (link to Trello)

Collective Design: using social design principles to 1) connect a group of people together 2) define common aims and 3) work in a shared direction

Read more: Visit this insight database that offers a toolbox for creating a collective

Colour Hunting: explore a colour to open your imagination. See card below...

Concept Constellation: similar to a mindmap, a concept constellation shows a network of ideas. You can use the actual constellations to guide you, leaning on astrology to add an extra dimension. For example, the sign 'Cancer' is made up of ten stars and planets, so this gives you the constraint of ten concepts. It is also connected to the moon, water, kindness and emotional intelligence.

Consciousness Raising: bringing a group of people together and raising their collective awareness that their shared problems are caused by an outside force. This is a molecular task.

Cultural Canvas: the InsightOS method for understanding cultural energy. Explore further by clicking here

Cultural Ethnography: Ethnography is the illumination of cultural and social life. It involves lots of notetaking: scribbles in notebooks; emails to yourself; voice recordings; or using notetaking tools like Evernote or Trello.

Digital Netnography: Adapting ethnography for an online world, searching through online conversations on forums, comments, social media, blogs and so on

Deep Meaningful Conversation (DMC): a friendly interview  addressing meaningful topics that cultivates benevolent listening, care and reciprocity between all speakers.

Read more: this method was pioneered by the Design Management and Cultures course at the London College of Communication

Double Diamond: we have adapted the Design Councils model of thinking through a project in the following way:

Discussion Guide: a discussion guide frames research conversations, giving them flow, depth and structure. They ignite ideas, prompt reflective comments, and help a conversation meander. A typical discussion guide will be split into topics and sections

Emotion elicitation: instilling an emotional feeling that is related to the concept you are trying to communicate. For example, a competitive game can enable participants to feel envy

Gallery Walk: Begin by exploring the gallery shows and exhibitions around your city. Choose one that is most relevant to your current insight project. Visit and take notes. The goal here is to interpret and use the art: either to lubricate your mind, or to simply steal an idea!

Read more: The Tate Gallery in London is a good place to start, see an example output card below...

Google Slides Worksheets: Create a template in Google Slides with blank space. Invite people to fill in the blanks. This is a powerful way to crowdsource during a conference call. Example below:

Great Report: traditional anthropology would aim to write a ‘great report’ that sums up the culture that is being studied. Today, we know that such a report is impossible. In this task, however, we strive nonetheless. What would go in this report? And what form would it take?

Hive Mind: a notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence. In science fiction - a unified consciousness or intelligence formed by a number of alien individuals...

Ideological Analysis: an ideology is a set of ideas. The smallest particle of an ideology is an 'ideologeme' which is made up of 'opinion' + 'narrative'

Read more:

I like.../I wish.../I wonder...: a framework for collecting feedback in a positive way. Finish each of the three sentences.

Immersive Forum: a place where people meet up and exchange ideas within a carefully designed experiential environment. Imagine ideating within a sci-fi novel.

Read more: A leading practitioner of this is the Adv Immersive forum

Innovation Salon: a place to explore and connect big ideas and meditate upon complex questions. Use this canvas to help plan:

Read more about innovation salons here:

Innovation Workshop: a place to make and build prototypes. A workshop typically includes the rapid generation and discrimination between ideas.

Read more:

Insight Database: This refers to a collection of insight, organised into categories. This is often the first step in a research investigation. The tool Trello is perfect for this click the link to see an overview of how this works:


Life Writing: autobiographical subjective analysis, best done in a free headspace, using experimental and poetic techniques, creating a weird and deep relationship between the person and the 'stuff' of language  

Manifesto Generation: a punchy, call-to-arms, document that outlines an ideological stance and set of principles and actions. The Eden Manifesto is one example of this

Read more:

Meme creation: use the format of a popular meme to communicate your insight. For example, creating a GIF. Use Giphy for inspiration

Poster Design: mock up a poster, as demonstrated below...

Progress Modelling: a way to understand and map out desired progress. One popular method of doing this is via the 'jobs to be done' methodology

Read more: Explore the JTBD (Jobs to be Done) methodology by Ryan Garner on Humanising

Rapid Cultural History: Sketching a quick narrative of a complex period, with the aim of creating a usable past. The example below performs this on the 20th century:

The Three Paragraphs: Three brief paragraphs works perfectly on a slide, and offers a powerful format for converging insight.  Method card below:

Serious Noticing: this is about looking deeply into the things that surround you. It requires stillness, patience and focus. Taking a walk with a notepad and leaving the phone at home is a good start

Slack Swarm Chat: creating a channel in Slack where people come together to IM (instant message) replies to questions and themes. Creating an outline of topics in advance helps the process

xTopia Analysis: An imaginative and creative exercise. Example below. Check out the xTopia page for more details.


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