Exercise 2.2: Spider Diagrams

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

As a method of practicing idea generation, this exercise involved making four spider diagrams centred around a specific word as a starting point. The words that I was asked to think about were:


Seaside | Childhood | Angry | Festival


I've worked with spider diagrams before and find them to be really useful tools, but I think over time I've fallen into a habit of writing words that only lead in directions relating to my first ideas rather than using free associations to fully explore all the connections that I can.


Strategies


When considering how I could improve, I took a step back and set about doing things a bit differently than I normally would. I usually end up bunching words together in spider diagrams, so this time I left more space between my early words that allowed me the extra room to expand naturally across the page. To avoid getting feeling stuck, I would take quick breaks to try a different word or work on something unrelated for a short while before returning to a page. The exercise also suggested that I also searched for web images as inspiration which I did throughout.


After noting down everything that I could think of on my own, I asked for input from a few other people to add suggestions to the diagrams by adding their words and links in a new colour for each person.

The words in black ink are my own, with orange and green representing contributions from others.

I didn't initially show them my full diagram and instead only gave them the starting words to see what responses they had in common with my first answers. This meant that I wasn't influencing them as I ticked off everything that we had in common before then sharing what I had written down already so that we could fully collaborate and bounce ideas off each other.


Once we had filled the majority of each page, I could look over the information to analyse any trends and relationships between some of the word chains we had developed.

Seaside


Many of our words surrounding the seaside related to relaxation and holidays with stereotypical coastal sights such as sandcastles, sun, sand, waves and boats. These are the types of images that are commonly seen on the postcards or travel leaflets that showed up when I was googling images and I had the most words ticked in common with other people for this subject when compared with the other starting words. I feel that this is


Childhood


This was the most varied topic as there were many differences between each person's word groups due to personal experience. Aside from the first thoughts such as toys and school, the further branches became more personal with specific items or events from thats person's childhood. This provoked a lot of good back and forth once areas had been brought up that I had missed, such as sports and afterschool activities. If I repeated this diagram in the future I would want to expand it to more people with different upbringings to widen the variety of results.


Angry


This was the most difficult word for us to adapt as it's more conceptual than the others. As a distinctly negative emotion rather than a place or time frame, most of the words generated were based around physical feelings like shouting, shaking, hot, red faced and states of mind like upset, frustrated, shaking, shouting, red faced, rather than direct causes. In hindsight I think we didn't end up fully exploring a lot of common causes of anger such as stress and relationships which would have created more branches to discuss.


Festival


Festival was similar to seaside in having lots of common stereotypes between us, but in this case I had come up with more ideas for different types of festivals that the others had not thought of at first. All of these could be its own spider diagram as I was considering all the different types of festivals centered around different aspect of culture (religious, traditional, local, food, film) and feature a broad range of iconography. Once again by working together we could really flesh out the starting points with even more words.

This exercise was a good opportunity to refresh my approach to spider diagrams and has highlighted the importance of widening a research field beyond just my own knowledge early on. I found that when working with others I could fill in unexpected gaps and chain ideas in directions that we wouldn't have each discovered by working alone. Taking short breaks throughout the process turned out to be very valuable as I would always come back to my writing with at least a few fresh ideas, some of which were provoked through looking through related images.


It can be easy to get stuck within your own ideas when working alone and from home, but searching for other perspectives is much more enriching towards coming up with concepts, especially when I'm not thinking with a set goal from the start. I'll remember this to try and avoid mental blocks when I reach some of the larger projects and assignments coming up on the course.

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