In our First Year classes we use ‘concept bombs’ for a couple of reasons:
To kick-start a new project—the short time limit gets students started on ideation without overthinking things. Then we return to the normal pace of a one- or two-month project with more deliberation.
To provide some variety in a long project by taking an hour out to do something completely different. First Year students sometimes find they start to feel a little stale during the semester-long arc of a longer project and this can refresh them. I think of it like a bit of a mental stretching exercise.
Regardless, the compressed time period helps people develop their rapid ideation ‘muscles’ and avoid getting bogged down.
It’s important to choose design briefs that are realistic for the timespan. In our industrial design classes they are simple products, often with a focus on style and form. For example:
- design a compact electric travel toothbrush
- design a wifi router in a ‘kawaii’ style
These are my ideas: think of your own!
There are so many possibilities: small structures like bus stops, outdoor BBQ areas, uniforms for staff in a night club, logo for a library, etc… Unusual style requirements can be a lot of fun too: try 1970s punk, or 90s Mambo or Memphis, Ancient Egyptian, the afro futurism from Marvel’s Black Panther (2018). The possibilities are endless and having some fun is one of the goals.
Each of these micro-projects are introduced with a ‘briefing’ slide listing essential features and sometimes reference images such as examples of similar products or styles.
While the design syllabus requires you to give students their choice of design scope (architecture, garment, app, etc.) my feeling is that for short, one-hour exercises like this you’d be fine to dictate the scope of the design and/or in a particular style. Give them too wide a scope, too much choice, and they’ll burn precious minutes trying to decide.