Prompts – cards rather than manifestoes

What are some useful playdecks for sparking creativity and innovation?

Associative cards activate the subconscious. The process of bypassing the mind allows advancement into the depths of the psyche. It takes only a couple of seconds to trigger free and spontaneous associations in the mind and reveal the power of our inner images, bringing into view the presence of archetypes and energies within ourselves.

Using cards as boundaries in time and conceptual space is a playful way to explore the tacit, the silent, the implicit, the hidden persuaders, the subconscious, develop creativity and emotional skills, and bring us into contact with the essence of the self.

Of course cards have used for centuries as tools for divination, as has many other artefacts, tortoise shells, animals innards and so forth. Amongst these is the I-Ching of ‘Book of Changes’ one of the Chinese classics of literature which deals with indeterminacy and chance operations. In a famous introduction to one version Carl Gustave Jung famously wrote a foreword. The following is a passage:


Our science… is based upon the principle of causality, and causality is considered to be an axiomatic truth. But a great change in our standpoint is setting in. What Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason failed to do, is being accomplished by modern physics. The axioms of causality are being shaken to their foundations: we know now that what we term natural laws are merely statistical truths and thus must necessarily allow for exceptions. We have not sufficiently taken into account as yet that we need the laboratory with its incisive restrictions in order to demonstrate the invariable validity of natural law. If we leave things to nature, we see a very different picture: every process is partially or totally interfered with by chance, so much so that under natural circumstances a course of events absolutely conforming to specific laws is almost an exception.

The Chinese mind, as I see it at work in the I Ching, seems to be exclusively preoccupied with the chance aspect of events. What we call coincidence seems to be the chief concern of this peculiar mind, and what we worship as causality passes almost unnoticed. We must admit that there is something to be said for the immense importance of chance. An incalculable amount of human effort is directed to combating and restricting the nuisance or danger represented by chance. Theoretical considerations of cause and effect often look pale and dusty in comparison to the practical results of chance. It is all very well to say that the crystal of quartz is a hexagonal prism. The statement is quite true in so far as an ideal crystal is envisaged. But in nature one finds no two crystals exactly alike, although all are unmistakably hexagonal. The actual form, however, seems to appeal more to the Chinese sage than the ideal one. The jumble of natural laws constituting empirical reality holds more significance for him than a causal explanation of events that, moreover, must usually be separated from one another in order to be properly dealt with.

A powerful process of transformation, reflection and insight is one which magnifies our humanity. Our associative ability  – A-HA! – is stimulated by combining words and images, or by using only pictures, offering us a form of training that constitutes true work on the inner self. Game dynamics, facilitation methods, and long-range futures thinking. The association of levels and ideas which are at first total strangers nourishes our creativity. Cards picked at random sometimes catapult a player at once into essential awareness, particularly regarding the influence of projections.

That was this week’s question that went out on twitter, and below are some of your responses.

The number of decks out there is large, so I decided to curate this list based on whether there’s a full free version available online, or at the least a nice sample deck to get you started. So below are 21 tools, ranging from general design process principles to cards on game dynamics, facilitation methods, and long-range futures thinking. Under the descriptions, which are excerpted from the playdeck websites, are links to their free downloads. Below that are another 39 decks, toolkits and further resource lists for creative and innovative thinking.

It is viewed that these cards will:

Place you in the present and help you understand what’s happening to you.

Bring information from your unconscious to help you better interpret your feelings and use them to your advantage.

Build conscious discourse of unconscious matters

Integrate the emotional with the rational.

Liberate your imagination.

Thanks to all who helped compile this.. Did we miss any?



(in no particular order)


Principles & Processes

1. Oblique Strategies: Over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas

keywords: working principles, thinking habits

“These cards evolved from our separate observations on the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognized in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack (a set of possibilities being continuously reviewed in the mind) or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation.”

(edition 4 list)



keywords: design methods, design process, product design

“It is a process and a set of tools, to help your organisation engage with your users through the online products you develop. Based on well founded principles, it allows you to answer your user and business needs.”

(interactive deck)


3. SILK Method Deck

keywords: methods, principles, process

“The SILK method deck is a handy collection of methods, principles and prompt cards, which can be used by project teams, designers, project managers, social science researchers, community and economic development experts alike. The method deck includes five categories of methods. Each category includes methods that are likely to be useful as guides, prompts or references at different stages of a project.”

(free download)

Experience & Game Design

4. Strategy Card Deck for Changing User Behavior

keywords: strategy, behavioral economics, decision making, brainstorming, ideation

“This deck of cards provide 21 strategies to change user behavior. This tool will help you or your team brainstorm and design solutions during idea generation. This card deck works best as a synthesis tool if you have at least a basic understanding of user needs and motivations.”

(free download)


5. Design with Intent: 101 Patterns for Influencing Behavior Through Design

keywords: decision making, behavior, interaction design, persuasive technology

“Requisite Variety’s Design with Intent toolkit is a collection of design patterns, or ‘gambits’, for influencing user behaviour through design. It’s applicable across product, service, interaction and architectural design, aimed at socially and environmentally beneficial behaviour change.”

(free download)


6. nForm Trading Cards

keywords: user experience, design methods, design process

“Originally created for the IA Summit in 2007, this deck of cards show methods, deliverables, and ideas that practitioners can use to design great user experiences.”

(interactive deck)


7. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

keywords: principles, psychology, game design

“This convenient deck contains 100 unique “lens cards” each featuring key questions that will make your game great, and a magnificent color illustration to help you remember each principle. The lenses span every aspect of game design – story, game mechanics, technology, aesthetics, psychology, creativity, teamwork, playtesting, and even business issues.”

(sample lenses)


8. SCVNGR Game Dynamics Playdeck

keywords: game design, game mechanics

SCVNGR, which makes a mobile game with real-world challenges, has a playdeck. It is a deck of cards listing nearly 50 different game mechanics that can be mixed and matched to create the foundation for different types of games.”

(full list)


9. Values at Play: Grow-a-Game Cards

keywords: game design, human values

“The Values at Play (VAP) methodology for incorporating values in the context of system design is characterized by three analytically distinct activities: Discovery, Translation, and Verification. These are pursued in tandem, the results of each iteratively affecting successive versions of the system.“

(free download)


10. Design for Dynamic User Experiences

keywords: methods, process, user experience

“Our physical, sensory and cognitive abilities are not static – they change continuously depending on the contexts and situations that we are immersed in. Within HaptiMap a workbook has been developed with the key objective to make it easier for designers and developers to embed dynamic user experience, and thus accessibility, considerations and practices into the everyday design and development work.”

(free download)


Communication & Learning

11. BBC Learning Design Toolkit Cards

keywords: learning, confidence, creativity

“The purpose of this toolkit is to help you design experiences that are learner-centred. Each set of cards aims to help you answer one simple question, for example “What are the principles that define your learner experience?” or helps you understand a central theme, for instance Behaviours explores “How people learn in a web 2.0 world.”

(free download)


12. Surviving Design Projects: Managing Conflict in Creative Environments

keywords: communication, facilitation, interaction, collaboration

“Collaborating with smart people on challenging problems is, inevitably, fraught with conflict. Conflict can be good for creative work, moving a project forward as designers wrestle with the challenge. But not all conflict is healthy, and frankly most designers aren’t, shall we say, diplomats. Surviving Design Projects is, among other things, a little game to help designers hone their people skills.”

(patterns, situations & traits)

13. Liberating Voices: Pattern Language for Communication Revolution

keywords: communication, social change, public dialogue, empowered citizens

“The Liberating Voices pattern language is intended to help us develop the social imagination we need to better face the future as engaged and empowered citizens.”

(table of contents, all patterns)


14. Service Design Tools: Communication Methods Supporting Design Processes

keywords: communication, process, methods

“An open collection of communication tools used in design processes that deal with complex systems. The tools are displayed according to the design activity they are used for, the kind of representation they produce, the recipients they are addressed to and the contents of the project they can convey.”

(tools list)


15. Group Works: A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and other Gatherings

keywords: communication, facilitation, meetings

“The Group Works card deck is designed to support your process as a group convenor, planner, facilitator, or participant. The people who developed this deck spent several years pooling our knowledge of the best group events we had ever witnessed. We looked at meetings, conferences, retreats, town halls, and other sessions that give organizations life, solve a longstanding dilemma, get stuck relationships flowing, result in clear decisions with wide support, and make a lasting difference.”

(free download)


Visioning & Foresight

16. Mobility Vision Integration Process

keywords: future scenario development, trends, visioning, foresight

“Mobility VIP investigates ways that expert designers can support and accelerate the dialogue about the future of sustainable mobility. The outcome of mVIP is to enable teams of creative people, charged with designing viable, future mobility solutions to deal with wide-ranging, unpredictable and disparate issues that we usually have no control over and to spot otherwise unforeseen opportunities.”

(flash application)

17. Envisioning Cards

keywords: futures thinking, interactive systems, human values, foresight

“We feel it is important to envision the long-term influence of new technology as it spans across time, becomes pervasive throughout society, affects the lives of different stakeholders, and raises issues that touch human values. Based on nearly two decades of work in Value Sensitive Design, the Envisioning Cards are designed to evoke consideration and discussion of such concerns within the context of design practice.”

(sample cards)

18. Drivers of Change

keywords: foresight, emerging trends

“Since our first set of Drivers of Change cards, we have been producing an ongoing series of publications that deal with key issues affecting the future of the built environment. The intention is for these cards to act as a trigger for discussion, further research and reflection about our future. Each set of cards is arranged and presented within societal, technological, economic, environmental and political domains that together are known as a the STEEP framework.”

(sample cards)


Ideation and Brainstorming

19. Mental Notes

keywords: psychology, motivation, game mechanics, behavioral economics

“Mental Notes brings together 50 insights from psychology into an easy reference and brainstorming tool. Each card describes one insight into human behavior and suggests ways to apply this to the design of Web sites, Web apps, and software applications.”

(sample cards)


20. ThinkCube

keywords: brainstorming, ideation, SCAMPER

“ThinkCube, a new idea generation tool from Kes Sampanthar, takes the idea of a brainstorming card deck to the next level. Not only does it provide you with a diverse selection of thought-provoking stimuli, it also incorporates a simple innovation process that should result in a higher quality of ideas.”

(about ThinkCube: Handbook & card samples)

21. ThinkPak

keywords: ideation, brainstorming, SCAMPER, creative thinking

“This pack of brainstorming cards was developed to assist people in stimulating their creativity and foster new and different ideas. It is a tool for coming up with creative ideas for developing new (or changing existing) products, services, names, businesses, processes, marketing materials, etc.”

(google books preview)


people who helped compile this resource:

Bernd Nurnberger @CoCreatr

Christopher S. Rice@ricetopher

Seb Paquet@sebpaquet

Stephen Anderson@stephenanderson

Jack Bennett@32000days

Estelle Metayer @Competia

Gavin Marshall – @nuwrldnf8r

Fabian M. – @Fabian_Metzeler


further exploring:

Quora: What are some interesting playdecks to get creative design inspiration?

IDEO Method Cards

Using Cards in User Experience

Ultimate Game Dynamics List

The Elements of Gaming

Jesper: The creative brief meets story crafting

Creative Whack Pack

25 Recommendations for usability in product development practice

Inclusive Design Toolkit

A Visual Study Guide to Cognitive Biases


Collaborative Consumption Sceario Card Deck by Garry Golden

Foresight Workbook by Garry Golden

Infinite Futures Toolbox

UX Ideas in the Cards

Facilitator Tool Kit

Collection of Creativity & Brainstorming Cards

Creativity Tool Reviews

Strategy Tools

Creativity and Innovation Techniques – an A to Z

Learn Logic – Toolkits

Modelling and Decision Support Tools

Facilitation Card Decks

Learner-Centred Toolkit

UX Ideas in the Cards

Foresight Cards – STEEP Edition

Free the Genie Cards

The Mingle Cards

Greatness Now Facilitation Cards

Change Designs Cards

XPLANE Discovery Cards

15 properties of pattern language

Gamestorming Card Deck iPhone app

inSights: a tool for persuasive design

NLP Coaching Cards

NLP Meta Model

Seeds of Change by Glistening Deepwater


KM Method Cards: Guide to Contents

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