Creative Process Microcosm

The IDEA_formwork is a concentrated representation of the creative process. Starting with raw inputs, we assign attributes and interpret stimuli that we encounter. Through some blackbox process in our mind and being, we connect dots and make leaps of conception/inference. From there we formulate questions and hypotheses that provide the seeds of creative acts. Using these prompts we bring to bear all that we are and have learned to create things that never existed before, thus closing the loop between inputs and outputs.

To better train our ability to create under the pressure of extreme constraints and to also surface novel ideas and approaches.
The time required based on the steps below is around 1-hour. Feel free to change any of the time lengths below to suit your preferences.
Like anything, it depends. But for the most part it’s a challenging exercise, and that’s the main point. By forcing ourselves into a discomfort zone, we can adapt and become more creatively adept.

Step 01

Get needed resources

Gather the following things to create an IF-unit:

  • Drawing utensil
  • 2 Sheets of paper
  • Timer
  • 4 Random images (see step 03)

Step 02

Setup your paper

Get your first sheet of paper ready by doing one of the following:

  1. Download IF Unit grid sheet available below
  2. Printout PDF
  1. Get a sheet of paper
  2. Use landscape orientation
  3. Divide sheet into 8 x 8 grid
  4. Number top and bottom row boxes 01-16 for Nouns
  5. Circle numbers 01-16 for Nouns for ease in identification
  6. Number remaining grid boxes 01-48 for Adjectives/Attributes

Download IF-unit grid PDF


Step 03

Images courtesy of Unsplash

Get your visuals

Here are your random images for the next step.

Reload images is the source of the random images above. If they are not showing up:

  • It could be that their server is having a temporary issue
  • You might have an adblocker that’s blocking
  • Just try reloading the page

  1. Fill a folder with random images from the internet
  2. Get collage making software (we use Posterino for macOS)
  3. Setup a 2×2 grid layout
  4. Set it to load shuffled images from your random images folder


Step 04

What do you see?

Free associate the images into Adjectives/Attributes + Nouns.

For each image, come up with:

  • 12 x Adjective/Attributes
  • 04 x Nouns
Start Free Associating for 25 minutes

Using words that end with “…ed” helps in turning associations into adjectives/attributes. For example: stylized, patterned, etc.


Step 05

Get your random numbers

Generate a pair of Random Numbers and create the prompts for the IF-unit creation, then take a 5 min break.

Press the button below to generate your random numbers.

A. 0 – 0 – 0 – 0

B. 0 – 0 – 0 – 0

The numbers above are in the following format:
Attribute – Attribute – Attribute – Noun

Generate random numbers


Step 06

Figure out your IF prompts

Determine the words for your IF-units:

  1. Search your free association sheet for the word associated with the numbers
  2. List the found words in the following format for each number set
    • Attribute – Attribute – Attribute – Noun
  3. Repeat for the second number set
  4. You will have a sheet of paper with an IF-unit production prompt on each side, for a total of 2 prompts

If the corresponding box is empty, simply get the next one to the right. If your at the edge of the sheet, then go the first one on the left side of the row.


Step 07

Make a IF-unit artifact

Using your second sheet of paper, Create two IF-units based on the prompts.

Start Creating for 25 minutes

  1. Get new sheet of paper
  2. Use landscape orientation
  3. Divide paper in half with left + right sides

So you can switch back and forth when you get stuck on one of the IF-units. Also, having the 2 prompts can enable some pretty interesting intersections and combinations in your creative process.

  1. Main thing is to get the gist of the idea expressed in the time allotted
  2. Don’t worry about making it look good, you can spend as much time afterward making more refined drawings/renders
  3. Relax and have fun!


Step 08

Share with others

Done? Share your IF-unit with the world.

Got feedback?

  1. Give yourself a pat on the back, that was not easy
  2. Make a more refined drawing/render of your IF-Units
  3. Share your IF-Unit with the world

Use the hashtag #ideaformwork along with the design prompt you used to create it.



IF-unit 006 Layered - Lit - Overlaid - Container
IF-unit 005 Insulated - Scaled - Self supporting - Opening
IF-unit 004 Cellular - Encompassing - Heat Sensitive - Home Decor