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Conversation Starters

Conversation Starters put a bunch of ideas in front of users to spark their reactions.


Suggested Time

30-60 Minutes

Level of Difficulty


Materials Needed

Pens, notebook


Design team

Process Phase

Conversation Starters are all about getting a reaction and sparking dialogue. The idea here is to suggest a bunch of ideas around a central theme to the people you’re designing for and then see how they react. The ideas you generate for your Conversation Starters are totally sacrificial, so if they don’t work, drop them and move on. The goal here is to encourage creativity and outside-the-box thinking from the people you’re designing for.


  1. Determine what you want the people you’re designing for to react to. If you’re designing a sanitation system you might come up with a bunch of Conversation Starters around toilets, or privacy.
  2. Now come up with many ideas that could get the conversation started. What is the toilet of the future, the toilet of the past, a super toilet, the president’s toilet? Come up with a list of ideas like this to share with the person you’re designing for.
  3. Once you’re with the person you’re designing for, start by telling them that you’re interested in their reactions to these Conversation Starters. Some may be silly, some may be absurd, you’re only looking to get their opinions.
  4. As the person you’re designing for shares her take on your Conversation Starters, be open to however she interprets the concepts. When one of them strikes her, ask her follow-up questions. You can learn a lot about how she thinks and what she might want out of your solution.