1 + 1 = 5 How Synthesis Adds Value To Design

Constantly coming up with creative ideas is difficult to say the least. Employing strategies though makes it easier. One of the most successful ways to never fall into a creative rut is to synthesize concepts. To do so is simple; you just take two concepts and stick them together. It doesn’t matter if they are related or not. It can be as simple as word play. Take for example the word “plane”—kind of dull. Then stick the word “endless” after it. As soon as you think of the endless-plane, more ideas come to mind.

In my classes synthesis is a sure-fire way of making any design better. In a recent project on infographics, my students combined ordinary concepts for how-to graphics with interesting qualifiers which gave designs more appeal. For instance, to jazz up an infographic on how to dive into a pool, we added “while trying to impress your boyfriend.”  Then, we kept adding more qualifiers to make it even more unique. One was, “if you don’t know how to swim.”

Below are a couple of links that show how changing one thing, scale makes things better. The first  is a skit by Will Ferrell. The second is a series of photos by Bettina Güber.


The Landlord


Playful Snapshots of Miniature Scenes Around the Office

Biomimicry is also a form of synthesis.  Through it, we can combine the ways of nature into our own designs. See how slime-mold can teach us about traffic.


What Slime Mold Can Teach Us About Fixing Our Highways

François Blanciak is a creative architect who published a book called “Siteless.” It’s filled with architectural icons created from arbitrary compound words. You should try this on you own.

François Blanciak


Since there is an app for everything, there is an app for merging words. Wordmerge is a great tool for combining words into new concepts. It leads to some really interesting ideas.



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