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“Design games” by Donna Spencer

Information Architect and Interaction Designer Donna Spencer practices knowledge games as part of her work. She calls them design games, which she describes as having these four essential characteristics:

1. They are fun, involving play to promote creativity.

2. They are hands-on, about making ideas real, not just talking about them.

3. They are useful, as opposed to the dreaded team-building exercise.

4. They are structured: they have goals and are planned so the goal is met.

Here’s a list of Donna’s design games:

The 4 C’s is a game that breaks down a problem into four quadrants: Components, Characteristics, Challenges and Characters.

Card sorting is a method for breaking down information into modular units and organizing the units into groups and subgroups.

Design slam is a way to quickly generate design ideas, and improve team dynamics, by breaking a group into small design teams.

Design the box is a game for thinking through features and benefits of any product or service. Design the homepage is a variation on “Design the box” to identify features and design ideas for a website or web application.

Divide the dollar is a game for apportioning features or resources based on value. It has some similar dynamics to Aaron Williamson’s Scenario Slider.

Freelisting is a method for quickly generating lists on a topic or category.

Idea Cards is a game for generating new thinking. It reminds me of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies card deck, which is also now available as an excellent iPhone app.

Reverse it! is a game that asks teams to solve the opposite problem as a way to finding novel solutions.

Role play is a way to work through and experience scenarios.

Scavenger hunt is a game for exploring the usability of a system or web site, where people are given a list of features or other elements to find in a limited time.

Here’s the full list of Donna’s games, with descriptions and a link to the site for more information.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these games, or something similar? What kinds of game-like practices have you employed in your work?

2 thoughts on ““Design games” by Donna Spencer

  1. Donna, this look great. Can I safely assume that we can incorporate some of these into our Knowledge Games book? Dave?

  2. Um, pardon my baboon English up there. I meant ‘these look great.’ Good lord.

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