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How to run a Crazy Eights exercise to generate design ideas

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When you want people to ideate quickly on an theme during a design sprint or workshop, Crazy Eights is a fantastic technique for every designer to use. This post will go through step by step instructions for running a successful Crazy Eight exercise.

What is Crazy Eights?

In the context of UX and design, Crazy Eights is simply a fast-paced, generative exercise to get your coworkers thinking broadly about the problem you’re trying to solve.

Participants are asked to quickly sketch 8 ideas within 8 minutes, with the intention being that by constraining the amount of time participants have, there isn’t enough time for people to second-guess their ideas, or worry about them being “perfect”.

This is what makes Crazy Eights a perfect exercise for the beginning stages of any workshop or sprint where you want to encourage divergent thinking.

Step by step instructions for the Crazy Eights exercise:

  • Gather together your UX supplies, including A4 paper, markers and sticky dots
  • Give each person an A4 sheet of paper and ask them to draw eight boxes on it. Or, for even more ease, simply use my free downloadable Crazy 8’s template!
  • Set a timer for 8 minutes
  • Ask the group to sketch 8 quick ideas each in 8 minutes
  • When the timer pings, everyone stops sketching

What happens next?

The idea with the Crazy Eights exercise to generate as many ideas as possible within a short timeframe, focusing on quantity of ideas not quality, so hopefully at the end of the exercise, you’ve got a ton of diverse ideas. Out of all of these, some of them won’t be workable, some of them will be duplicative, but some of them will have a fantastic seed that could grow out into something special.

So, the next step is about quickly identifying which ideas could actually be workable, and to eventually converge on some winning ideas.

Depending on the time you have, there are a few options of how to approach this:

Short on time?

  • Ask people to present their top two or three ideas, out of their whole Crazy Eight matrix, to the group. This relies on people usually having a good sense of which ideas they think are roughly right.
  • Once everyone has presented, give everyone a couple of sticky dots to vote on their two favourite ideas out of the whole group. Usually there will be a cluster of clearly preferred ideas that emerge.
  • Of this cluster, hone in on the 2 or 3 final ideas for the group to work up more.

Have a bit more time?

  • Ask people to pick their top three ideas, but instead of presenting them to the group there and then, give them 6 more minutes to sketch out these ideas further (spending 2 mins per idea).
  • The intent here is again to constrain the time by just enough that nobody will be able to fully flesh anything out, but that they will have just enough time to add some more colour to the idea. Sometimes, this step also involves folks combining elements of previous ideas into one – this is totally fine!
  • After these 6 minutes are up, folks get a chance to present their top two ideas back to the group. Through the process of fleshing out their ideas a bit further, they should be able to separate two out that have more legs.
  • Once everyone has presented, give everyone a couple of sticky dots to vote on their two favourite ideas out of the whole group. Usually there will be a cluster of clearly preferred ideas that emerge.
  • Of this cluster, hone in on the 2 or 3 final ideas for the group to work up more.

The final step of both of these options involves there being 2 or 3 final ideas that the entire group has converged on. As the next step, these chosen ideas could then be worked up into more refined designs, prototypes, to go to stakeholders/research, or be further interrogated by the group – depending on what your workshop is trying to achieve.

The great thing about Crazy Eights is that it is a flexible exercise that can be moulded in many different ways to suit your intention. Have fun!

Related resources:

What stationery you need to prepare for a design workshop

How I Use the Design Sprint Process for Different Types of Projects

Design lead, watermelon addict, Leuchtterm notebook obsessive. I just enjoy designing great experiences for people that just work, writing about my craft and connecting with designers everywhere. Find me on Instagram, Twitter and Google+.

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