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Begin & End with Objects Warm-up, 5 mins, 4-10 players.

goal: To introduce

analysis mechanisms into the performance.

de si gn im pr ov


Begin & End with Objects flow: Player A performs a simple action with an object. Player then repeats the action, this time calling out “begin” each time fresh contact is made with the object, and “End” when each detail is completed. Player repeats the action again, this time doing it as fast as possible, without calling out begin and end.

suggestions: The result is akin to a stop-frame movie. Coach the player to begin and end with great burst of energy. How small can the segments of time be?


s s s e e, n e d. e t, r

exposure Warm-up, 3-5 mins, 4-10 players.

goal: To introduce

the idea of focus, and show how it can help overcome stage fright.

de si gn im pr ov


exposure flow: Split the group in half. One is the stage, one is the audience. Both sides stare at each other, without laughing for 30 seconds. Then, once you notice players fidgeting and in discomfort, ask them to do a simple task: count the number of post-its in the room. No one must laugh. Now swop the groups. The audience now are the stage players, and vice-versa.

suggestions: When both groups have been on stage, question them on what they have experienced. Don’t put words in their mouth. They should discover that the activity helped relieve the stage fright. How did the actors look when on stage? Were they fidgeting? Ask specific questions: How did your stomach feel? Avoid generalisations.


Part of a whole activity (who) 7HO 7HY

Warm-up, 5 mins, 2-8 players.

goal: To bring all the

elements together and understand the process of improv. Introducing Who.

de si gn im pr ov


Part of a whole activity (who) flow: One person goes onto stage and begins a simple activity. The next player to enter must assume a character and show their relationship to the person already on stage through the action they are performing. The first player must accept this relationship, and agree. Keep adding players.

suggestions: It is important for players to avoid telling us who they are, instead they must show through their actions and interactions with each other. Audience, did the players show us the relationship? Did they agree? In this game, try using the pentagonal role cards.


Part of a whole activity (what)

Warm-up, 5 mins, 3-15 players.

goal: To bring all the

elements together and understand the process of improv. Introducing What.

de si gn im pr ov


Part of a whole activity (what) flow: One person goes onto stage and begins a simple activity. Upon seeing this activity, other players join in one at a time until everyone is in.

suggestions: It is important for players to avoid describing what they are doing, instead they must show through their actions and interactions with environment. Audience, did the players show us or tell us? Was everyone involved? Were their actions connected? Does it feel real?


Gifts

7HO 7HY

Warm-up, 3-10 mins, 4-10 players.

goal: To increase our

spontaneity to suggestions and to encourage agreement.

de si gn im pr ov


Gifts flow: Players stand in a circle and give each other presents. Hold out your hands to offer/ accept. Don’t try to think about what you’re holding, but give it to the person on your right. Upon receiving the present, exclaim what you have, the first thing that comes to mind. You say something like ‘Oh, thanks, a pair of flying goggles’. You promptly wrap a new present and pass it to the next person.

suggestions: This game works best if it’s played fast, so players don’t have the time to preconceive. Encourage acceptance, stop the game if people are being negative about their presents – it should be a fast fun game. Try wrapping the presents in innovative or unusual ways. How does it change the gifts?


Imaginary Props

Warm-up, 3-10 mins, 3-25 players.

goal: To explore group

imagination in a physical way. Great for spontaneity and learning not to pre-think.

de si gn im pr ov


Imaginary Props flow: Player 1 builds an object, as precise and carefully as possible, then hands it over to the other. Player 2 accepts the object, being as truthful to what the first player built as possible. After having acknowledged this, player 2 starts morphing the object into something else. This can be done by breaking, twisting, extending, shrinking. etc When the new object is complete it gets passed back to player 1, who accepts and then morphs it.

suggestions: The circle format works well here, you can create waves of evolution that whip around. This game can teach players to relax. The object is to tap into the mind body think, rather than rationalising. Ask how they feel as the object approaches them. It’s also about detaching ego from success & failure.


Malapropism

Warm-up, 3 mins, 4-10 players.

goal: This will help us

loosen up our physical associations with objects, and into the moment for improvisation.

de si gn im pr ov


Malapropism flow: Everyone start walking through the room at varying speeds. Walk with conviction, towards something you see in the space. Explore the room, the objects within it, see it anew. Now point to things in the space and call aloud what they are not.

suggestions: Watch for people saying the same thing over and over again. It works better if people free associate with each new object that they point at. Try setting a rule: no one can repeat anything! In fact a malapropism (from French mal à propos, ‘ill to purpose’) means an incorrect usage of a word, so try to encourage players to find new uses for the space and the objects around them.


Interaction Designer Warm-up Ideate, ,3–5 3–5mins, mins,2–6 4–10 players players

goal: To develop fast concepts; build teamwork, and explore roles in the group

7HO 7HY

design improv


Interaction Designer flow: One player describes their design, and the second player asks them questions about it, suggesting and helping with the creation of this object. Each player can describe new attributes and the observer or client can make observations about it, imbuing it with new qualities, and transforming its purpose/ context.

suggestions: How is it made? Is it big? Was it vacuum formed, cast in hot wax, lathed – show us the process. This game can be done with two teams - make the two objects interact.

design improv


Imaginary Props Warm-up Ideate, 3–8 , 3–5mins, mins,3–25 4–10players players

goal: To goal: explore To develop group imagination fast concepts; in a physical build way. Greatteamwork, for spontaneity and explore and learning roles innot thetogroup pre-think.

design improv


Imaginary Exposure Props flow: Player Split the 1 builds group an in half. object, Each as group precisemust and observe carefully as then it over PlayerNo 2 accepts thepossible, other. One is hands the stage, onetoisthe theother. audience. one the object, truthful toiswhat the first player built as must laugh.being Onceasdiscomfort reached, assign a simple possible. After the having acknowledged starts task, counting post-its on the wall.this, Nowplayer swop2the groups. morphing the object intothe something else. This be done The audience now are stage players, and can vice-versa. by breaking, twisting, extending, shrinking. etc When the suggestions: When both have been on 1, new object is complete it getsgroups passed back to player stage, question what they who accepts andthem thenon morphs it. have experienced. Don’t put words in their mouth. They should discover suggestions: The circle format here, that the activity helped relieve the works stage well fright. Howyou didcan create waves ofwhen evolution that whip game can the actors look on stage? Askaround. specificThis questions: teachdid players relax. The object to tap into the mind How your to stomach feel? Avoidis generalisations. body think, rather than rationalising. Ask how they feel as the object approaches them. It’s also about detaching ego from success & failure.

design improv


Who’s Line? Warm-up Ideate, ,4–7 3–5mins, mins,2–6 4–10 players players

goal:ToTodevelop increase spontaneity goal: fast concepts; and build

constructand scenes based oninkeywords teamwork, explore roles the group and concepts from research or brainstorms.

design improv


Who’s Line? flow: Before the scene is played out, members of the group write out favourite lines or phrases on slips of paper. When all of the slips are collected they are scattered on the floor and the scene begins. As the two players develop the scene at any time they can pick up a piece of paper and read the line adding a different direction to the scene.

suggestions: The suggestions could be fed from previous games. Ask the group to use ideas/ keywords from their research. They could even be drawings/ symbols.

design improv


Group Vision Warm-up Ideate, ,4–9 3–5mins, mins,5–8 4–10 players players

goal: To construct andconcepts; explore group develop fast build

visions of aand newexplore product or environment. teamwork, roles in the group Great for creating a shared vision.

design improv


Group Vision flow: Everyone in a circle, state the specific focus for the vision: “the mobile phone of 2020” or “our/ my office in 5 years time”. Tell the participants that in a minute you will ask them to close their eyes. You would like them to, at their leisure, offer details about their ideal vision of that environment. As the flow decreases, let the group know the activity is about to end, ask if anyone has anything to add. Discuss.

suggestions: Try starting with a specific situation: “You overhear a conversation in the street about a new idea or product, what do you hear?” You can start broader or narrower: Start with “You see the headlines of the year 2015”; or “Your best friend is navigating you through their new phone, tell us about the flow.”

design improv


Deconstruct Warm-up Ideate, ,5-20 3–5 mins, 2-6 4–10 players players

goal: for collectively exploring the goal:Great To develop fast concepts; build

components of aexplore problem, whilst structuring teamwork, and roles in the group the requirements for a dramatic scene.

design improv


Deconstruct flow: Summarise your design problem in 3 key words. Using flip窶田hart and pens place each word at the head of a flip窶田hart. Give everyone post its, and using W stickers as prompts, run through Who, Where, Why, When, and What one at a time.

suggestions: You do not have to use all the W stickers, choose 3 that best help you to address the problem area. Use idea hats instead of flip窶田harts for the random factor. Follow this exercise with Recombination.

design improv


Begin & End with Objects Warm-up Develop, 3–5 5-10mins, mins,4–10 4-6 players players To analyse an object build goal:goal: To develop fast concepts;

or environment basedroles interaction or teamwork, and explore in the group process flow. Great for finding bugs.

design improv


Begin & End with Objects flow: Player A performs a simple action with an object. Player then repeats the action, this time calling out “begin” each time fresh contact is made with the object, and “End” when each detail is completed. Player repeats the action again, this time doing it as fast as possible, without calling out begin and end.

suggestions: The result is akin to a stop-frame movie. Coach the player to begin and end with great burst of energy. How small can the segments of time be?

design improv


Deconstruct Warm-up Develop, 3–5 5-10mins, mins,4–10 4-6 players players

goal: To To analyse an fast object or environment goal: develop concepts; build based interaction process flow. teamwork, and exploreorroles in the group Great for finding bugs.

design improv


Deconstruct flow: Summarise your design problem in 3 key words. Using flip窶田hart and pens place each word at the head of a flip窶田hart. Give everyone post its, and using W stickers as prompts, run through Who, Where, Why, When, and What one at a time.

suggestions: You do not have to use all the W stickers, choose 3 that best help you to address the problem area. Use idea hats instead of flip窶田harts for the random factor. Follow this exercise with Recombination.

design improv


Reconstruct Warm-up Define, 3–5 3 mins, mins, 5–15 4–10 players players

goal: To find new combinations and opportunities in goal: To develop fast concepts; build context. teamwork,your andproblem explore roles in the group

design improv


Reconstruct flow: Using the results of the Deconstruction game, either using hats (random) or separate flip charts. Choose one person at a time to recombine the fragments of the problem. Tell them to choose one from each of the vertical rows and the horizontal rows. For example: a Who combined with ‘business’. You need three for a scene. They must collect them on a separate flipchart. Depending on your time frame, you can detail in discussion what these combinations mean.They must then show us through the use of velcro props or interaction with other players what the new idea means.

suggestions: Let the audience know they will have to help. Suggestions are welcome here. The audience should jump in at any time to help form the interaction.

design improv


Segmenting Warm-up Define, ,5-10 3–5 mins, 2–6 4–10players players

goal: Identify and understand groups and goal: To develop fast concepts; build relationships in an organisation or system. teamwork, and explore roles in the group

design improv


Segmenting flow: Discuss the roles in the organisation or community your context involves. One by one, assign those roles to each player. They then step on to the stage one at a time and interact with each other based on their relationships.

suggestions: Write the names on the role cards. Decide a primary Why for each. Assign names, change them, swop them, observe how the system changes. Have someone enter the scene and have to interact with each of the roles. For example: a visitor, someone at the door etc.

design improv


Group Goal Warm-up Define, 4-8 3–5mins, mins,2–6 4–10 players players

goal: To create awareness goal:Identify To develop fast group concepts; build of the project goal, and to explore the teamwork, and explore roles in the group smaller steps needed to meet it.

design improv


Group Goal flow: Brainstorm & discuss the task at hand, or use Deconstruct alternatively. Now arrange 3 people on stage. The first one must say “in order to...�, the last must say the goal, and the middle one say the action or task required to meet the goal.

suggestions: Swop roles each time, use the audience to call out the structure.

design improv


Visualise the System Warm-up Define, 5-8 3–5mins, mins,2–6 4–10 players players

goal: ToTo understand andconcepts; show a complex goal: develop fast build system, and findroles the bugs. teamwork, and explore in the group

design improv


Visualise the System flow: Use post-its of different colours and shapes to map out the system that exists in your problem. It might be a network, a service etc. Write on the pieces what each one means. Now represent the system on stage using larger shapes such as the floor props, or make your own from card . Players must walk us through the system, with and without other players showing us how the system works.

suggestions: Mark a start and an end point. Show us each point of the system, how does it work? Audience: is it convincing?

design improv


Machines Warm-up Develop, ,3–5 5 mins, mins, 4–10 4–10 players players

goal:goal: To prototype a system of parts or a whole. To develop fast concepts; build teamwork, and explore roles in the group

design improv


Machines flow: Test out your (real or invented) machine. The players make the machine; every player becomes a part of the machine. We want to see/ hear the machine work.

suggestions: Make the players change roles, and watch the machine change. If players are not pulling their weight, ask them to step out and observe, and get them to point out where the weaknesses are in the machine – then ask them to jump in a make it work. You can use this for scenario testing, service structures or systems as well as machines. Start simply, taking two elements at once, and make sure they are working together. Encourage communication between the machine parts. Audience: ‘Does it work well?’ Now add the next element. The more parts are added, the more difficult it might be to maintain communication between the elements.

design improv


Voiceover Warm-up Develop , 3–5 , 3–5mins, mins,4–10 4 players players

goal: concepts; build goal:ToTodevelop explorefast a where context

teamwork,inand explore rolesway. in the group a collaborative

design improv


Voiceover flow: Two participants play a scene but without a voice. Each player has someone off stage who speaks for them. The players should mouth the words as if they were really speaking.

suggestions: Follow your partner. Avoid second-guessing what will be said. Act out only what you hear. Dub only what you see. The partnership should be fluid.

design improv


Push ‘n Pop Warm-up Develop,, 5– 3–5 10mins, mins,4–10 2-6 players players

goal: To explore the fast structure of a narrative goal: To develop concepts; build in a scenario, service,roles or system teamwork, and explore in theflow. group

0USH 0OP

design improv


Push ‘n Pop flow: Two This can be used as a device for other improvs. For example, use it with a circle game for fast ideating. Everyone has a push and a pop card. Hold up a push card when you hear something you want explored more. Hold a pop card up when you want to return to the previous thread, or the top level discussion.

suggestions: Ask everyone to help with the cocreation of the narrative. If someone is lost, jump in, make a suggestion. The individual story nodes should be short and fast.

design improv


Telephone Call Warm-up Develop,, 3–5 2–4mins, mins,4–10 2-6 players players

To develop fast concepts; buildand to goal:goal: To increase acceptance, spontaneity, teamwork, explore roles in the group explore group and interactions and problem solving.

design improv


Telephone Call flow: In this game 4-5 players are given some situation that a group of people might be have to deal with. They then improvise a series of telephone calls between members of the group about the situation and come to some sort of a resolution. Players stand in a semicircle and present the phone calls to the audience.

suggestions: To initiate a call, a player picks up a (imaginary) phone and says “ring . . . ring . . . ring”. The next player picks up the phone and answers. Situations should stem from the themes of the project. For example: organising a group–mob, setting up a service contract.

design improv


Revolution! Warm-up Develop,, 3–5 5–8mins, mins,4–10 2-6 players players

goal: To develop fast concepts; build a sticky goal: To challenge assumptions, to un–stick teamwork, and there explore group problem where is aroles lackinofthe direction.

design improv


Revolution! flow: Choose one person to be the leader of your revolution. Discuss in a group what tactics he should choose, write them down and give them to him. Now present your current design ideas to the leader one at a time. The leader must agree with your ideas, but use his revolutionary tactics to either flip the ideas on their head, reverse them, or make changes.

suggestions: Each member of the group should ‘own’ a number of ideas, generated previously from ideation sessions. When they are given their new commands, they must record them on a flip chart.

design improv


Storytelling Warm-up Explore , 3–5 , 3 mins, mins,2–8 4–10 players players

To develop fast through concepts; build goal: goal: To explore the context the sharing of teamwork, personal and explore roles in the group narratives.

design improv


Storytelling flow: Leader starts by introducing the topic to be narrated. This can be done prior to the session to get people to think of stories from their past. One person starts, telling a story about an object, an event, a place or context. The next person follows afterwards.

suggestions: Have the players tell their story in one minute or less. Alternatively, try using a format like exquisite corpse. Call out ‘next’ when the current storyteller should stop and the next player take on where they left off. This game is great for taking ethnographic data from videos or for using as an interview format in conjunction with Why?

design improv


Who’s Line? Warm-up Explore , 3–5 , 5 mins, mins,2+ 4–10 players players

goal: To develop fast concepts; build scenes goal: To increase spontaneity and construct teamwork, and explore in the group based on ideas fromroles the audience.

design improv


Who’s Line? flow: Ask the audience to write short sentences on cards. Give 2 players 3 cards, which they put in their pockets. Then they play a scene. At any point in time, (if they are stuck for example), they take a card, and read what’s on the card. Whatever is said should be justified.

suggestions: The suggestions could be fed from previous games. Ask the group to use ideas/ keywords from your idea buckets., or if you have them, transcriptions from user interviews.

design improv


Performance Testing Warm-up Deliver, , 5-10 3–5 mins, mins, 4–10 2-6 players players

Toadevelop fast concepts; goal:goal: To test scenario, system flow, build or service

teamwork, andperformance, explore rolesand in the structure through findgroup the bugs.

design improv


Performance Testing flow: Using an existing scenario, set the stage, decide where everything should be. Assign roles and relationships. If you are testing a scenario, take it in slices. As soon as it starts to break down, the audience must call bug! Iterate the scene, changing the variables as you do. Change relationships, Who, Where, and Why.

suggestions: This can be used as a longer exercise to develop and ideate on an existing scenario, by combining with Push and Pop. Use this with potential users to test the experience of a device or service. Take the kit’s floor shapes or make new ones. Use prototypes in conjunction with the velcro props to help suggest all the elements in the test. Performance testing can be done on the road, or in the studio.

design improv


new games introductions Ethnographic Analysis & Empathy Improv Interview Technique Should these be techniques or games? Why? Staged Interaction

(Goffman’s interaction theory)

Abstract props (velcro props)


Design Improv Games