Rapid Ideation: An introduction

Understanding Rapid Ideation

The concept of rapid ideation sprints and hackathons are new to me. In my Graphic Design work I do go through what could be described as a ‘rapid ideation’ phase, as I create quick sketches on paper when I’m exploring ideas for layouts and logos. This allows me to quickly try out designs side-by side, comparing and tweaking as I develop my ideas. Occasionally I show my pencil sketches to a client before I go ahead and create a digital version of a logo. Clients often like to see this process, as they feel like they’re getting something handmade, and they feel like they’re part of the process.

Creating low-fidelity paper prototypes is the ideal method to test ideas, potentially during the user research phase, so that you can make changes to the prototypes at a low-cost and at speed. (Nielsen, J. 2003) It makes sense to begin with a low-fidelity design in the initial research stages of a project, as designers we can get attached to our work when we spend time and energy on it. So as we are testing the viability of a product, it’s important to maintain a certain impartiality to the prototype. Quick-fire sketches on paper which can be easily discarded are ideal in this context.


Prototyping in Fashion

Coming from a Fashion Design background, I can compare rapid ideation to some quick-fire sketching activities and the creation of mini paper prototypes explored on my Bachelors degree. However in the fashion industry the prototyping stage is limited as materials are expensive, usually two or three iterations are tested in a cheaper fabric which is called ‘toiling’, nevertheless the costs of toiling are significantly higher than paper prototyping.

During my research I read an article for UX Collective written by a Fashion Designer who has been applying principles of UX design into her work. She feels that the traditional discipline of Fashion Design doesn’t put enough emphasis on the needs or wellbeing of the end user, rather focuses on what will sell, and satisfying the head designers’ creative vision. Whereas UX is about researching and iterating designs to satisfy a users’ needs. (Marisa. 2018)

Fashion Designers are rarely in touch with their end users, they don’t undergo rigorous interview stages to gauge what their customer’s needs may be. Fashion collections don’t undergo progressive iteration. Iteration in UX design means testing, prototyping and refining a product, making sure it meets the stakeholder’s and end users’ needs. (Harston, 2012) In the Fashion design process, clothing is usually tested on a couple of models in the studio. The fast-paced nature of the industry doesn’t factor in a stage of testing on diverse bodies, consequently clothing can be released without real-world testing.

The consequence of this is that some collections don’t sell, because they’re not fit for purpose, or the designer wasn’t truly tuned in to the needs of their customers. And this contributes to the overwhelming waste that the fashion industry produces. Luxury brands burn their pieces on a regular basis, the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and is one of the largest contributors to the global climate crisis. (Davis, 2020)


My learnings

The parallels drawn between the prototyping phases in Fashion & UX reinforce the importance of testing, trying out various ideas, not rushing the ideation phase and that using prototyping in the research phase is efficient. In fact the biggest improvements in UX come from gathering usability data as early as possible in a design project (Nielsen, J. 2003)

I’m looking forward to trying out various prototyping methods this week and seeing how they compare to my own practice. I’d like to explore some digital tools that I’m less familiar with, as sketching on paper is my comfort zone. I’ve started to explore using Figma for Wireframes, so it could be an opportunity to develop my familiarity with this tool as I know I’m going to be using it a lot going forward. I think that my personal challenge will be handing over / presenting work which doesn’t feel ‘finished’.



NIELSEN, J. 2003. ‘Paper Prototyping: Getting User Data Before You Code’. Nielsen Norman Group [online]. 13 April. Available at: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/paper-prototyping.  [accessed 14 June 2021].

HARTSON, Rex. PYLA, Pardha S. 2012. The UX Book: Process and Guidelines for Ensuring a Quality User Experience. Elsevier [online]. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780123852410/the-ux-book. [accessed 14 June 2021].

DAVIS, Nicola. 2020. Fast Fashion, Speeding towards environmental disaster. The Guardian [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2020/apr/07/fast-fashion-speeding-toward-environmental-disaster-report-warns. [accessed 14 June 2021].

Marisa. 2018. Why we should apply UX to fashion design. UX Collective [online]. Available at: https://uxdesign.cc/ux-fashion-2dff96a983a8. [accessed 14 June 2021].

Fig 1: Featured image. Artwork by author. 2021.

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