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Design cards

Page updated: July 23, 2019


Design cards have been proposed to facilitate idearation in a wide range of design situations and topics. Design cards are intended to facilitate creativity by acting as a source of inspiration and design material in a collaborative setting. For example, design cards are used to rephrase abstract frameworks into something more operational making theory more tangible and applicable by making cards with keywords, pictures, and questions. A reported main advantage is that through these cues design cards can provoke new contextual perspectives on problems and thereby extend beyond personal experience when generating ideas. It is reported that design cards facilitate a design process, support design dialogues, make the design process visible and less abstract, provide structure in the process, and are easy to use and manipulate as cards are physical tokens. Therefore, they can serve as a common reference among participants, and act as something specific and concrete to engage discussions.

What are design cards?

  • Essentially physical cards resembling ordinary playing cards
  • No strict definition.
  • Based on a theoretical foundation (frameworks etc.)
  • Sometimes guidelines for use, gamification, etc.

A source of inspiration

  • Cards can present design cues: keywords, pictures and questions.
  • Can be used to: provoke and inspire ideration.

A tool to facilitate a design process

  • The tangibility can support integration with objects and other cards.
  • Can be used to: provide a structure, to keep a flow, and to provide an overview.


Bornoe, N., Bruun, A., & Stage, J. (2016, November). Facilitating redesign with design cards: experiences with novice designers. In Proceedings of the 28th Australian Conference on Computer-Human Interaction (pp. 452-461). ACM.