I’ve been testing out some of the many iPhone apps available in the area of creativity, design and innovation, and there are five that I really like and recommend.
Here they are, in no particular order.
IDEO METHOD CARDS. In 2003, the internationally recognized design firm published a boxed set of 51 cards capturing the methods they use to inspire their designers and inform their design process.
Much like a deck of playing cards, they are organized by suit: Learn, Look, Ask, and Try.
Learn cards give you techniques to help you identify patterns in data you’ve collected that might lead to insights. Look cards contain a number of useful methods for observing people to discover what, how and why they do what they do. Ask cards give you practical ways to get people involved in your project and give your valuable input. Try cards offer different ways to test out your ideas.
The iPhone free version contains eight of these cards. (The full version of 51 costs $4.99.) I recently used the IDEO cards with a creative team, having each member select a card and use it to come up with a plan to observe potential users.
CREATIVE WHACK PACK. Roger von Oech is a well-known author, creativity coach and inventor of the Creative Whack Pack.
Like the IDEO Method Cards, the Creative Whack Pack began its life years ago as a physical deck of 64 cards, meant to be a creativity workshop in a box. And like the IDEO deck, there are four suits, each with 16 cards: Explorer, Artist, Judge, Warrior.
The titles are fairly self-explanatory. Explorer cards give you ways to create new knowledge. Artist cards contain strategies for generating new ideas. Judge cards lend decision-making techniques. Warrior cards help you turn ideas into action.
Roger intended the deck to “whack” you out of habitual thought patterns and allow you to look at what you’re doing in a fresh way. Why I really like most about this app is that you can share a card via Twitter, Facebook or Email from within the app. There’s a “Card of the Day” menu option on the homescreen, which makes it super easy to send a daily creative Tweet. The Creative Whack Pack is $1.99, and a bestseller.
SIMPLEMIND XPRESS. This is a free mindmapping app, and it is indeed simple and easy to use. There a number of mindmapping apps available that have more options and features, but they are more complex, cost more, and aren’t necessarily any easier to use.
For example, some apps allow you to have multiple-line text in a bubble... SimpleMind Xpress doesn’t. But I like that constraint, because it uses the Twitter mindset of keeping it short and sweet.
You can select from various styles, change colors, and customize borders and lines for better visual impact. It’s easy to rearrange and edit your mindmap, and as far a size limitation, you can make your mindmap as large as you want—the only limitation is available memory. You can share your mindmap as a jpeg image using the iPhone Camera roll, and there’s a desktop version of SimpleMind so you can exchange mindmaps between the iPhone and desktop version, if you have a WiFi connection (3G doesn't work).
ADOBE IDEAS. This is a great free app from Adobe that acts at once as a quick-sketch book, idea organizer, and companion app to Adobe's suite of professional design software programs.
It’s essentially a mobile-lite version of Adobe Illustrator with some Photoshop features thrown in. The app has a few features in common with another drawing/painting app called Brushes, which is more of a professional artist’s tool (it was used to create the cover of the June 1, 2009 issue of The New Yorker magazine!).
What I didn’t like so much about Adobe Ideas is that it related less to the drawing/painting capabilities (although I really missed the trusty old Adobe eyedropper tool and ability to create and save a new color) and more to do with the sharing features. You can send your ideas as low-res pdfs via Email, but you can’t save them as hi-res images to your Camera Roll!
IDEA GENERATOR This was one of the first apps I downloaded when I got my iPhone, and the first one I spent money on ($2.99).
It was created by The Directors Bureau, and now comes in several versions: Song, Movie, Chef, and coming soon, Fashion. But this Classic version has come in handy both as a creative spark and also as a personal antidote to writer’s word block.
The Idea Generator is dirt simple to use. It’s basically three concentric roulette wheels with randomized words. You shake your phone, the wheels spin, and you get three different concepts meant to jolt your thinking pattern and get you off-road a bit. I’ll do three spins right now.
Spin 1: comedic/aquatic/prayer. Spin 2 scary/syrupy/furniture. Spin 3: pre fab/destructive/cellphone. (no kidding!)
The app can be easily customized by adding or deleting words to each of the lists. In essence, this app makes non-linear thinking (see my OPEN column How to Avoid Satisficing) a snap.
You can download all five apps, boost your business creativity, and do so for less than ten dollars!
Matthew E. May is a design/innovation strategist and author. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewemay.