New Year’s Day and resolutions are only a month away, and though I don’t usually make resolutions because there is every likelihood I won’t keep them, New Year’s Day is also a good time to brainstorm a list of ideas you’d like to explore as an artist or a writer. Instead of just jotting down ideas list-style, why not try force-fitting? Force-fitting is an idea-generating tool that involves making unusual connections between ideas or items that don’t normally fit together.

To make force-fitting work, you first need to define a challenge or problem you want to solve. For example, suppose you have lots of cotton fabrics stashed in boxes, and want to come up with creative ways to use them. (By the way, I do have this problem!) Cut out some swatches, and put them in a paper sack. Without peeking, select a swatch. Next, close your eyes and randomly select a word from the dictionary. Let’s say your fabric shows a dinosaur print, and the dictionary word is “mother.” Now it’s time for the force-fitting to begin. What finished products suggest themselves to you when you think about dinosaur print fabric and the word “mother?” Maybe you think of pajamas, bibs, diaper bags, burp cloths, crib ornaments . . . well, hopefully you’re on a roll by now and have found lots of ways to meet your challenge: using up all of those fabrics.

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS /
Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS /

To make force-fitting work for you, keep in mind these basic principles:

  • Don’t evaluate your ideas as you generate them. Ideas are simply potential paths to follow, neither good nor bad.
  • The more ideas you have, the more ideas you will tend to come up with.
  • Don’t ignore silly or odd ideas; they could have potential down the road.
  • Consider combining ideas, as you go along, or doing this exercise with a partner.

I use force-fitting a lot when I’m looking for ways to develop new products, particularly in MisterPenQuin, where I sell handmade books, journals and clipboards. If I challenge myself to develop products using floral paper, for example, force-fitting could involve pulling slips of paper from a bowl that describe different types of users, such as a teacher, a grandmother, a writer, a painter, or a gardener.

The first time you use force-fitting to generate a list of ideas, you may feel a little uncomfortable, but practice really does make you more nimble. Just for fun, take a look at the treasury of fellow Blogging Business Artisans‘ products I curated below, where I challenge viewers to tell a story that begins with a prince sliding down a rainbow. Using the pictured items that are obviously not connected to each other in any way, continue the story. Have fun!

[sh-etsy-treasury treasury=”NjIyMjQyNHwyNzI1MzQ4Mjgw” size=”large” columns=”4″ display=”complete”]

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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9 thoughts on “Using force-fitting to generate product ideas”

  1. What an interesting concept! Sounds like a great way to get “unstuck” when I’m not feeling creative.
    And I definitely have boxes of cotton fabric, too!!
    Thank you! And thank you for including my tractor bib in your fun treasury.

  2. Thank you for featuring my “relax” hanging hearts in your wonderful treasury, Judy 🙂
    This is the first time I’ve heard of this concept – it sounds like fun! I will give it a try!

  3. I love this idea. I also have lots of unused fabrics (it must be an etsy thing!)

    I’ll definitely give this a go!


  4. This is a great way to find ideas to use up all my paper and chipboard scraps 🙂
    Thanks for including me in your treasury!

  5. Sarah ~ Magnolia Surprise

    Hmmm, I might be able to use this idea with all the skeins of yarn I have stuck in every conceivable hiding place! Clever idea, too, with the treasury — thanks for including my growing butterfly play set!

  6. Trina (Trina's Clay Creations)

    Great idea!! Great way to inspire creative ideas!!

    Thank you so much for the feature in this fun treasury!!

  7. What a fun post! and you are so right … when you’re working on idea you should let them flow and see where they take you 🙂 Thanks for including my earrings in your lovely treasury!

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