Have you ever thought about a problem so much that you never actually start doing anything about it? It could be a fear of imperfection, analysis paralysis, mental block or a myriad of other reasons. 

Overthinking always kills new ideas before they are even born.

As a creative, what can you do about it?

One of the things I do with our team is a brainstorming technique called “Crazy 8s” or “Crazy Eights”. It’s a small part of our design sprint process, and the strongest benefit is that it reduces or eliminates overthinking to unlock your subconscious mind. 

Your subconscious mind is a powerful, untapped tool. Ask any creatives and they will agree. 

Sometimes, all you need to do is spend a whole day on a problem and then go to sleep to let your subconscious mind work its magic. I’ve experienced many happy occasions where answers or ideas pop up suddenly in my head after waking up from a restful sleep.

Crazy 8s – Brainstorming & Sketching (GV Design Sprint Technique)

How to use the Crazy 8s technique

The Crazy 8s is great to use when you already have a starting point but are stuck or lacking ideas because its purpose is to expand your ideas or give you a fresh perspective.  It won’t work if you haven’t defined your problem, requirements, goals and are missing basic solutions or ideas. 

We use it a lot to generate product page layouts, logo designs and creative copies. We usually do it in a group, 4 or 5 people, and up to 8. You can do it within your creative teams or with clients and stakeholders.

Here’s what you need:

  1. A pencil/pen for each person
  2. An A4 or any sized paper for each person
  3. A timer

Fold your paper in half, 3 times. Once you unfold it, you should have 8 sections on your paper. Each section is 1 iteration. We will do 8 iterations of your idea – hence, the crazy 8s. 

And each session is timed for 1 minute, giving you 8 minutes in total. You can repeat the crazy 8s process to continue refining your idea, it’s up to you. 

Now, start the timer for 1 minute

Everyone in your team will start sketching or writing ideas in the first section of your paper. Let’s say you are trying to design a product page layout, then you will sketch by hand for a minute. 

Draw or write the first thing that comes to your mind. Remember, you’re not presenting your idea to people, so it does not have to look good on paper, as long as you understand what you are drawing or writing. 

After 1 minute, start the timer again and move on to the next section. Keep at it until you’ve filled up all 8 blocks on your paper. By the end, you would have 8 different versions of your idea or solution.

The whole point is to keep your hand moving and not think too much. You will start with an idea and continue expanding or refining it. Eventually, you may come up with something you hadn’t thought of, or you’ll see the solution in a different light, as you keep on creating and refining. 

This method prevents you from overthinking ideas in your head as you are time bound. It leverages your subconscious mind to come up with better solutions and ideas. Once it’s done, you can compare notes with your team, discuss it, or continue refining it with another Crazy 8s session. 

Typically, the Crazy 8s does not give you the final solution or product.  But it does give you better clarity, fresher perspectives and newer ideas. Here’s an analogy. If you are lost in the woods, and you’ve run out of ideas on what to do and where to go, the Crazy 8s method will help shed some light on which new direction you can try, but it does not get you home. 

We have other forms of brainstorming sessions in our agency, but the Crazy 8s is pretty fun, useful and effective in unblocking mental blocks. Try it and see how powerful your subconscious is.