Tool no. 37 - Innovation from Diversity

Download article: Bisociation within Keyword-Mapping - a purpose-declared approach using shared thinking and writing to help metadesigners


Tool Purpose

  • How can we use creativity as a tool for resource-creation?
  • Differences of viewpoint, or diversity of opinion is sometimes regarded as an area of conflict.
  • What is needed is a method of turning variety into novelty.

Tool Context

  • This tool works with the language that designers (and other creatives) use to support a purpose-led approach to metadesigning.
  • The bisociation within keyword-mapping aids the early, awkward phase of working together to create solutions
  • It invites input from the benefactors/stakeholders of the design problem (e.g. client, collaborator or user).
  • Arthur Koestler's term bisociation (1964) describes the meeting of two seemingly unconnected events.
  • This can create a new context or ‘matrices of experience’ that could lead to a shared meaning, or purpose.
  • Bisociation refers to a creative act that is dynamic and unpredictable - i.e. belongs to several ‘planes’ of existence
  • It does not refer to a non-creative act that derives from a linear or causal chain of events.

Tool Process


  • In this tool/workshop, participants work together (usually in pairs) and choose/synthesise keywords to create new meanings.
  • The process of working with a partner to bisociate keywords and the structure of the workshop that followed are presented here in a series of 10 stages
  1. First of all the students identify four keywords that represent the ‘metadesign’ proposals for their final thesis.
  2. The students then co-design a set of forty one keyword cards which include thirty two cards presenting keywords with accompanying definitions or descriptions or supportive quotes, eight profile cards that provide the contact details of each of the students and one card that gives a brief description of the MA Design Futures course.
  3. Next, the eight designers pair up each choosing two of the four keywords to ‘bisociate’ with the other through a process of discussion.
  4. The two designers then produce new possible questions or visual examples that emerge out of the bisociations.
  5. The students facilitate a two hour workshop as a part of an annual public event at Spitalfields Market in East London.
  6. As a part of the workshop the students facilitate a discussion with the two clients using keyword cards and materials gathered through bisociating their individual keywords. (See Figure Three) The workshop is comprised of four groups of four participants.
  7. In the first phase of the workshop, students introduce themselves and their design proposals to their invited guests using the keyword cards.
  8. In the second stage of the workshop the students present the bisociated keywords and the clients also ‘bisociate’ the ideas to provide another layer of reflection or feedback for the designers. Explaining the definitions, hearing the reader’s interpretations, re-defining keywords and clarifying ideas, creates new viewpoints and examples to work with in their proposals.
  9. The invited guests and students give feedback at the end of the workshop on the discussions.
  10. Finally, the students go back to their original proposition with new insights as to the purpose and direction of their design proposals.

Tool Example

bisociation_image2.jpg bisociation_image3.jpg

  • One of the four student partnerships has been chosen to illustrate the outcomes from the bisociation of individual keywords. This is an example of one of the bisociations discussed by Tomohide Mizuuchi and Cecile Toubeau.
  • Cecile is interested in sustainable building and sustainable cities.
  • Tomohide is interested in how you can improve the design of everyday routines such as using public transport by basing solutions on the traveller’s overall experience.
  • Tomohide chose the keywords 'experience' and 'everyday' to represent his design proposal
  • Cecile chose the words 'sustainable' and 'building'
  • From the bisociation of the keywords 'sustainable' and 'experience' the following questions were created
  1. How can you design a sustainable experience?
  2. How can we create a more experiential approach to designing that supports sustainable practices of everyday life?


(Co-designed by the MA Design Futures cohort, 2005-2006 and Jones, 2007)

  • The Bisociation within Keyword-Mapping tool was developed for an MA Design Futures public event, entitled 'Readers', held on 1st June 2006.
  • A full account of the Bisociation within Keyword-Mapping tool by can be found in 'The Journal of Writing in Creative Practice', Volume 1, Issue 1, 2007. 'Bisociation within Keyword-Mapping: An Aid to Writing Purposefully in Design' p19 - p31
  • The workshop adapted Buzan’s mindmapping system as a prelude to writing. (Buzan, 1995)

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