What are some useful playdecks for sparking creativity and innovation?

That was this week’s question that went out on twitter, and below are some of your responses.

The number of decks out there is large, so I decided to curate this list based on whether there’s a full free version available online, or at the least a nice sample deck to get you started. So below are 21 tools, ranging from general design process principles to cards on game dynamics, facilitation methods, and long-range futures thinking. Under the descriptions, which are excerpted from the playdeck websites, are links to their free downloads. Below that are another 39 decks, toolkits and further resource lists for creative and innovative thinking.

Thanks to all who helped compile this.. Did we miss any?

(in no particular order)


Principles & Processes

1. Oblique Strategies: Over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas
keywords: working principles, thinking habits

oblique_box“These cards evolved from our separate observations on the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognized in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack (a set of possibilities being continuously reviewed in the mind) or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation.”

(edition 4 list)

keywords: design methods, design process, product design

Screen-shot-2012-10-25-at-7.14.01-AM1“It is a process and a set of tools, to help your organisation engage with your users through the online products you develop. Based on well founded principles, it allows you to answer your user and business needs.”

(interactive deck)

3. SILK Method Deck
keywords: methods, principles, process




“The SILK method deck is a handy collection of methods, principles and prompt cards, which can be used by project teams, designers, project managers, social science researchers, community and economic development experts alike. The method deck includes five categories of methods. Each category includes methods that are likely to be useful as guides, prompts or references at different stages of a project.”

(free download)

Experience & Game Design

4. Strategy Card Deck for Changing User Behavior
keywords: strategy, behavioral economics, decision making, brainstorming, ideation



“This deck of cards provide 21 strategies to change user behavior. This tool will help you or your team brainstorm and design solutions during idea generation. This card deck works best as a synthesis tool if you have at least a basic understanding of user needs and motivations.”

(free download)

5. Design with Intent: 101 Patterns for Influencing Behavior Through Design
keywords: decision making, behavior, interaction design, persuasive technology



“Requisite Variety’s Design with Intent toolkit is a collection of design patterns, or ‘gambits’, for influencing user behaviour through design. It’s applicable across product, service, interaction and architectural design, aimed at socially and environmentally beneficial behaviour change.”

(free download)

6. nForm Trading Cards
keywords: user experience, design methods, design process





“Originally created for the IA Summit in 2007, this deck of cards show methods, deliverables, and ideas that practitioners can use to design great user experiences.”

(interactive deck)

7. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses
keywords: principles, psychology, game design



“This convenient deck contains 100 unique “lens cards” each featuring key questions that will make your game great, and a magnificent color illustration to help you remember each principle. The lenses span every aspect of game design – story, game mechanics, technology, aesthetics, psychology, creativity, teamwork, playtesting, and even business issues.”

(sample lenses)


8. SCVNGR Game Dynamics Playdeck
keywords: game design, game mechanics



SCVNGR, which makes a mobile game with real-world challenges, has a playdeck. It is a deck of cards listing nearly 50 different game mechanics that can be mixed and matched to create the foundation for different types of games.”

(full list)


9. Values at Play: Grow-a-Game Cards
keywords: game design, human values



“The Values at Play (VAP) methodology for incorporating values in the context of system design is characterized by three analytically distinct activities: Discovery, Translation, and Verification. These are pursued in tandem, the results of each iteratively affecting successive versions of the system.“

(free download)


10. Design for Dynamic User Experiences
keywords: methods, process, user experience



“Our physical, sensory and cognitive abilities are not static – they change continuously depending on the contexts and situations that we are immersed in. Within HaptiMap a workbook has been developed with the key objective to make it easier for designers and developers to embed dynamic user experience, and thus accessibility, considerations and practices into the everyday design and development work.”

(free download)


Communication & Learning


11. BBC Learning Design Toolkit Cards
keywords: learning, confidence, creativity



“The purpose of this toolkit is to help you design experiences that are learner-centred. Each set of cards aims to help you answer one simple question, for example “What are the principles that define your learner experience?” or helps you understand a central theme, for instance Behaviours explores “How people learn in a web 2.0 world.”

(free download)


12. Surviving Design Projects: Managing Conflict in Creative Environments
keywords: communication, facilitation, interaction, collaboration


“Collaborating with smart people on challenging problems is, inevitably, fraught with conflict. Conflict can be good for creative work, moving a project forward as designers wrestle with the challenge. But not all conflict is healthy, and frankly most designers aren’t, shall we say, diplomats. Surviving Design Projects is, among other things, a little game to help designers hone their people skills.”

(patterns, situations & traits)

13. Liberating Voices: Pattern Language for Communication Revolution
keywords: communication, social change, public dialogue, empowered citizens




“The Liberating Voices pattern language is intended to help us develop the social imagination we need to better face the future as engaged and empowered citizens.”

(table of contents, all patterns)


14. Service Design Tools: Communication Methods Supporting Design Processes
keywords: communication, process, methods



“An open collection of communication tools used in design processes that deal with complex systems. The tools are displayed according to the design activity they are used for, the kind of representation they produce, the recipients they are addressed to and the contents of the project they can convey.”

(tools list)


15. Group Works: A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and other Gatherings
keywords: communication, facilitation, meetings



“The Group Works card deck is designed to support your process as a group convenor, planner, facilitator, or participant. The people who developed this deck spent several years pooling our knowledge of the best group events we had ever witnessed. We looked at meetings, conferences, retreats, town halls, and other sessions that give organizations life, solve a longstanding dilemma, get stuck relationships flowing, result in clear decisions with wide support, and make a lasting difference.”

(free download)


Visioning & Foresight


16. Mobility Vision Integration Process
keywords: future scenario development, trends, visioning, foresight


“Mobility VIP investigates ways that expert designers can support and accelerate the dialogue about the future of sustainable mobility. The outcome of mVIP is to enable teams of creative people, charged with designing viable, future mobility solutions to deal with wide-ranging, unpredictable and disparate issues that we usually have no control over and to spot otherwise unforeseen opportunities.”

(flash application)

17. Envisioning Cards
keywords: futures thinking, interactive systems, human values, foresight



“We feel it is important to envision the long-term influence of new technology as it spans across time, becomes pervasive throughout society, affects the lives of different stakeholders, and raises issues that touch human values. Based on nearly two decades of work in Value Sensitive Design, the Envisioning Cards are designed to evoke consideration and discussion of such concerns within the context of design practice.”

(sample cards)

18. Drivers of Change
keywords: foresight, emerging trends



“Since our first set of  Drivers of Change cards, we have been producing an ongoing series of publications that deal with key issues affecting the future of the built environment. The intention is for these cards to act as a trigger for discussion, further research and reflection about our future. Each set of cards is arranged and presented within societal, technological, economic, environmental and political domains that together are known as a the STEEP framework.”

(sample cards)


Ideation and Brainstorming


19. Mental Notes
keywords: psychology, motivation, game mechanics, behavioral economics




“Mental Notes brings together 50 insights from psychology into an easy reference and brainstorming tool. Each card describes one insight into human behavior and suggests ways to apply this to the design of Web sites, Web apps, and software applications.”

(sample cards)


20. ThinkCube
keywords: brainstorming, ideation, SCAMPER



“ThinkCube, a new idea generation tool from Kes Sampanthar, takes the idea of a brainstorming card deck to the next level. Not only does it provide you with a diverse selection of thought-provoking stimuli, it also incorporates a simple innovation process that should result in a higher quality of ideas.”

(about ThinkCube: Handbook & card samples)

21. ThinkPak
keywords: ideation, brainstorming, SCAMPER, creative thinking




“This pack of brainstorming cards was developed to assist people in stimulating their creativity and foster new and different ideas.  It is a tool for coming up with creative ideas for developing new (or changing existing) products, services, names, businesses, processes, marketing materials, etc.”

(google books preview)



people who helped compile this resource:

Bernd Nurnberger @CoCreatr
Christopher S. Rice@ricetopher
Seb Paquet@sebpaquet
Stephen Anderson@stephenanderson
Jack Bennett@32000days
Estelle Metayer @Competia
Gavin Marshall – @nuwrldnf8r
Fabian M. – @Fabian_Metzeler


further exploring:

Quora: What are some interesting playdecks to get creative design inspiration?
IDEO Method Cards
Using Cards in User Experience
Ultimate Game Dynamics List
The Elements of Gaming
Jesper: The creative brief meets story crafting
Creative Whack Pack
25 Recommendations for usability in product development practice
Inclusive Design Toolkit
A Visual Study Guide to Cognitive Biases
Collaborative Consumption Sceario Card Deck by Garry Golden
Foresight Workbook by Garry Golden
Infinite Futures Toolbox
UX Ideas in the Cards
Facilitator Tool Kit
Collection of Creativity & Brainstorming Cards
Creativity Tool Reviews
Strategy Tools
Creativity and Innovation Techniques – an A to Z
Learn Logic – Toolkits
Modelling and Decision Support Tools
Facilitation Card Decks
Learner-Centred Toolkit
UX Ideas in the Cards
Foresight Cards – STEEP Edition
Free the Genie Cards
The Mingle Cards
Greatness Now Facilitation Cards
Change Designs Cards
XPLANE Discovery Cards
15 properties of pattern language
Gamestorming Card Deck iPhone app
inSights: a tool for persuasive design
NLP Coaching Cards
NLP Meta Model
Seeds of Change by Glistening Deepwater
KM Method Cards: Guide to Contents