How a Random Image can help you to generate creative ideas

When the traditional methods no longer suffice, you’ll have to get creative. Creative thinking is all about approaching your challenge from a different angle. One of the easiest ways to do this is by making use of a random image.

The Random Image is one of my favourite thinking techniques to start a brainstorm with. By looking for a connection between a random image and your challenge, you force yourself to find surprising ideas.

The technique consists of three very simple steps. Let’s look at an example to see how it works.

Imagine that you want to design a new type of table. How can a random image help you with this? 

The Random Image - designing a table

Step 1. Generate a random image
First, you’ll need to generate a random image. By using a random image, you can challenge and surprise yourself by approaching your challenge from an unusual angle.

There are many ways to generate a random image. One way to do it is by simply opening a magazine and selecting the first image you see.

What kind of image you use doesn’t really matter. However, always make sure that your image is selected randomly. You should never steer the selection, or else this technique will be much less powerful.

Let’s say, for our example, that your ‘random image’ is a picture of an elephant.


The Random Image; a great technique for generating creative ideas

Step 2. Write down properties
Describe your image. What are its characteristics?
What makes your subject unique?
Write down approximately 5 properties of the subject on your image.

The more specific you describe your properties, the better. Keep in mind that you are looking for unique properties. For example, ‘big’ is obviously a characteristic of an elephant, yet as a property, it’s not very unique. ‘Large ears’ would already be a more distinctive and interesting property.

The Random Image - a great technique for generating creative ideas

In our example with the random image of an elephant, we could write down things like; trunk, tusks, thick skin, great memory, group animal etc.

Step 3. Pick one property & generate ideas
Next, you select one property. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, yet it’s best to pick one that seems totally unrelated to your challenge. The more illogical a combination seems, the more interesting it is to use as a way to spark creative ideas.

In our example, we could, for instance, choose ‘trunk’. A great property to start with, since it’s such a weird starting point.

After you have chosen one property, it’s time to generate ideas. Combine the selected property with your challenge, and force a combination.

What new ideas can you come up with?
Stretch your mind and try to develop as many new ideas as possible. Continue generating new ideas for about 3 minutes.

In our example, we could use the design of the ‘trunk’ as a flower holder, as an adjustable light, or perhaps as leather table legs. See this exercise as a fun game and try to find as many novel combinations as possible.


The Random Image - creative table design


What challenge can you solve by using a random image?


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