Rolf A. Faste Foundation for Design Creativity

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The Creativity Kernel

Innovation is driven by human creativity: the spontaneous and often intrinsically motivated act of invention by which individuals improve themselves and their world through expression and learning. Governments and corporations invest billions in innovation to stay ahead of the pack, outsourcing innovation to designers and strategic consultants. These very innovation experts, however, know that sharing ideas is the best way to improve them and that narrow interests are often contrary to human-centered design. The Creativity Kernel is an open source technology resource for designers. It seeks to make the basic tools of the innovation industry transparent by putting them in the hands of the online community for free.

The Faste Foundation has been working on the Creativity Kernel as a pilot initiative since 2010. Early design work was initially developed as part of Haakon Faste’s PhD dissertation at the PERCRO Perceptual Robotics Laboratory at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. Since then several dozen of Haakon’s students have been involved in the design of the system, both in the HCI Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and the IxD Program at California College of the Arts. Several papers relevant to the design of the kernel have also been published.1, 2, 3 An initial release of the system is now being developed.

Applying design strategy to solving problems, as in engineering projects or other creative processes, requires that the designer be attuned to the subtleties of human behavior and have synthesis skills by which to discern cultural trends, pain-points, blocks, and opportunities. Once identified, this information can provide a valuable roadmap for the accomplishment of project goals. The Creativity Kernel introduces this process to creative people anywhere in a simple and intuitive way, to help them develop their most useful ideas. It also encourages the sharing of ideas, either in groups or with the internet community at large.

Design can be considered a three step process consisting of identifying needs, giving form to possible solutions, and communicating these solutions to others. The first phase, also called “needfinding,” deals with uncovering opportunities for potential innovation.4 This process entails research, synthesis, and a focus on human factors. The central phase, also called “formgiving,” is where ideas are elaborated and bounced around, through brainstorms, sketching sessions, and idea refinement. The final phase always involves communication, even if only as part of the creative process. During the communication phase designers explain their ideas to themselves, to the public, or to whoever may be implementing the final design.

Because idea generation happens all the time, not just during structured moments, the interface allows new ideas to be added anywhere at any time, even on the go. Five main “task-modules” have been identified to simplify the idea development process. Collectively these modules guide users from needfinding to communication, allowing them to sort and organize their ideas whenever and however they please. Because the system is open source, new modules can be developed by the community to enhance the workflow and usability of the system. In time, the Creativity Kernel aims to become the “Wikipedia” for collaborative design, transforming the simple act of learning about design into powerful networked innovation by providing intuitive software and guidance from the community of users.

We’re always interested in connecting with people who would like to help out with the Creativity Kernel. If you’re technically inclined and would like to be involved, send us a message!

  1. Haakon Faste, Opening ‘Open’ Innovation,” Proc. Designing Pleasurable Products and Experiences (DPPI), 2011, pp. 421-428.
  2. Haakon Faste and Honray Lin, The Untapped Promise of Digital Mind Maps,” Proc. CHI, 2012, pp. 1017-1026.
  3. Haakon Faste, Nir Rachmel, Russell Essary and Evan Sheehan, Brainstorm, Chainstorm, Cheatstorm, Tweetstorm: New Ideation Strategies for Distributed HCI Design,” Proc. CHI, 2013, pp. 1343-1352.
  4. Rolf Faste, “Perceiving Needs,” SAE Journal, Society of Automotive Engineers, 1987: perceiving_needs.pdf (300 k)
Quick Links

Some early ideas in the evolution of the Creativity Kernel are still online at

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Faste Foundation
90 Peter Coutts Circle
Stanford, CA 94305

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