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The inspiration cards are cards with words in different categories that can be used for idea development by enabling remote associations via unexpected input.

The inspiration cards exercise works best in the early phases of an innovation process, during which large quantity of ideas are generated. Before the inspiration cards exercise the students should frame for their idea development. The frame can be a pre-established problem area or a user needs observed through fieldwork. (Search here for fieldwork or problem defining methods)


  1. Firstly, either you or the students write words on differently coloured sheets of cardboard (one colour per category). The categories might be: technology, culture, trends and values. Words within the category ‘technology’ could include: welfare technology, social media, mobile phones and robots. Choose words that are both relevant to the student projects, but also words that are not directly related to the student projects.
  2. The students are then asked to choose a word from each colour (category) and develop a defined number of ideas over the following 5 to 15 minutes.
  3. The idea development can be repeated with varying time-allotments until no words are left.

When the students have gone through all of the inspiration cards and developed a great many ideas, they can benefit from clustering the ideas (See the method for clustering ideas)

Worth Considering

You can also choose random words to be used on the inspiration cards, and there is a generator of random words to be found online. Using random words the exercise becomes far less defined and associations appear from a much broader basis. The use of random words can be beneficial as inspiration early on in the process to provoke creativity. It can also be used if students keep ending up with the same type of ideas.


  • You should allocate around 10-30 minutes for preparation.
  • You will need coloured cardboard (a variety of colours) and markers. Make around 25 notes of paper, 5 yellow, 5 blue, 5 red and so on, until there are 5 cards of each colour /category.
  • You can prepare the words and categories ahead of time, or let the students do it themselves.


Halskov, K & Dalsgård, P 2006, ‘Inspiration Card Workshops’ i Designing Interactive Systems. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, s. 2-11.

Brandt, E & Messeter, J, 2004, ‘Facilitating Colaboration through Design Games’ in Proceedings of the eigth conference on Participatory Design: Artful integration interweaving media, materials and practices. Vol. 1. ACM Press, s. 121-131.

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