11 Aesthetics of Design Game

What a blast! Today we played the following Aesthetics of Design game. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.


  • Each team picks a slip of paper from two bowls. One lists an aesthetic and one lists an object. These are your assignments.
  • Your team will have 10 minutes to sketch three versions applying your assigned aesthetic to your assigned object.
  • Consider the essentials of the aesthetic and what it represents. Feel free to look it up on the Web.
  • Consider your object. Feel free to decrease the functional values in favor of the aesthetic. Bling it up!
  • Then your team will give a 30 second presentation of your work.
  • At the end of class, list the most memorable object you saw (not from your team).

Comments on strengths and improvements of game are welcome: Time for playing, keep it short or make a 1 week project? Do a prototype based on this instead of or in addition to Upcycle project? Can you suggest new objects or aesthetics? Have whole team work on one version instead of three versions? Allow for a team to reject the assigned object or aesthetic? Was this helpful in brainstorming aesthetics for your or a teammate’s project? Should we do this again? Should we do it using your projects instead of assigned objects? Do you want a version to play with friends?  Should the we provide a short description of the aesthetic? Should we photo and post the sketches?


Object list

      1. Café chair and table set
      2. Recliner chair
      3. Bedside table
      4. Kitchen table
      5. Coat hanger
      6. Shelving unit
      7. 2 seater electric car
      8. Wheelchair
      9. Walker
      10. Flatware
      11. Couch
      12. Lampshade
      13. Suspended light fixture
      14. Garden ornament
      15. Electric razor
      16. Electric toothbrush
      17. Hairdryer
      18. Showerhead
      19. Toilet
      20. Office trash receptacle
      21. Desktop loudspeakers
      22. Dining nook
      23. Baby crib
      24. Baby stroller
      25. Baby high chair
      26. Bicycle
      27. Dishwasher
      28. Dog leash and collar
      29. Cat box
      30. Bookbag
      31. backpack
      32. Men’s winter coat
      33. Footwear
      34. Wall clock
      35. Shoe horn
      36. Water bottle
      37. Set of screwdrivers
      38. Snowblower
      39. Snowmobile
      40. Speedboat
      41. Outboard motor
      42. Hand truck
      43. Bar and barstools
      44. Beer bottle
      45. Soda/beer drinking hat with holder and straw
      46. Umbrella
      47. Umbrella stand
      48. Scissors

Aesthetics list

Tim Burton, filmmaker. Macabre, spidery, not really scary, humorous

50’s cars

Ron Howard/ 1950’s Greaser culture

Novelty architecture/ Roadside Vernacular Architecture

Muscle cars


Industrial Chic

Biker culture (Harleys, studded clothing)

Japanese motorcycles




Gay leather

Bicycle clothes, covered in logos

Cowboy, country western

Spaghetti western

Distortion boxes

Tiki bar

Mid century modern

Googie architecture


Goth art




Tiny Homes


Hippie Flower power



Art Deco

Art Nouveau

Arts and Crafts Movement


Washi paper

Heavy metal

Surf music

Lolita fashion


Preppie, golf

Gucci driving moccasins

Trucker culture

Las Vegas Casinos

Disney princesses


Black velvet Elvis

Frank Sinatra/ rat pack

Sopranos/Mob culture


Street photography

Modern design

Chinese Qipao

Wes Anderson

Incredibly small things

Post apocalypse survivor

all terrain vehicle

Telefoni Bianchi (Italian ‘White Telephone’ Films of the 1930’s)

Retro Ski

Nerd Culture

Rickenbacker guitars

minimalist movie posters

Pixel Art

log cabin

WPA posters



Wine bottles

Kaiju, translated from Japanese as “strange beast”

Skater shoes

industrial “warehousey” breweries

Japanese Dekotora Trucks

Apple products

Molecular Gastronomy

Google’s “Flat” or “Material Design”


Drone Surf Footage

Freestyle Snowboarding


Ski Town Aesthetic

Surf Inspired Snowboards

Modern Rustic Design

Martial Arts

Rat Rods

Cafe Racers

Danish Design in the mid-1900s

“Dia De Los Muertos” [Day of the Dead]

Aesthetics of Michael Bay Films

cruiser bike

Rock Stacking

Suburbia in TV Commercials

An Architect’s Aesthetic

The Beautifully Deadly Box Jellyfish


The Chinese Lion Dance

The Art of Running and the Kenyan Lifestyle

Shabby Chic


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32 Comments. Leave new

  • This way, your time and effort is structured round the action.

  • Anfal Abdulrahman
    March 2, 2016 9:00 pm

    it was definitely and interesting game, it helped me think about my project from a different angle in terms of object and aesthetic. One might thing aesthetic and object are obvious things, but it’s not really until this game that I had a better sense for how distinguish and and incorporate these two. Thank you!

  • Jason Mcgrath
    March 2, 2016 12:04 pm

    Unfortunately I missed this class session. But from reading through the game description and rules, it sounds like fun.

  • Brendan Lee
    March 1, 2016 9:59 am

    I really liked this game. It was fun, and it brought out the creativity in people (and some hilarious ideas) by forcing them to apply aesthetics to objects that don’t necessarily match. The only problem with it is our short class period. I really feel like it could be even better if each group could do more than one aesthetic/object combination. Implementing a scoring system where the class votes on the best combo from each round and the group who wins the most rounds wins the game. Fifty minutes is nowhere near enough time to realize the full potential of this game.

  • This was a fun game, I think it should’ve been longer though. It was a good idea by having each person come up with their own design. For presentation purposes it should just be the best out of three.

  • This was a great creative activity. It definitely gets the juices flowing and generates interesting ideas. We should do it more.

    I think it would be fun to do just a short very basic one week prototype project out of this if some thought was put into which objects where in the “pot.”

    In its current form It would be nice to get 3 aesthetics and 3 objects per team and everyone can mix and match (not everything has to be used.) It would also be a good brainstorming and creative spark activity to do this with our final or any other projects. Again using 3 aesthetics with this would allow for some variation and selection while still forcing outside the box ideas.

    A description of the aesthetic would be helpful for time or at least some urls to start from. I do however like researching the aesthetic on our own.

    Only the best as picked by the class should be uploaded to the blog. It could spark more competition to create the best design. Maybe a weekly feature?

  • I had a blast with this game! I’m really looking forward to doing this more often- this is the type of “creative engineering” I think the Mechanical Engineering department is lacking, and why I was so excited to take this class to begin with. More more more! 🙂

  • I liked the game! It was fun thinking outside the box and seeing how other people thought about the challenge. A few things I would change are giving the group more time to present and draw, and give each group more than one aesthetic or object to create a little diversity.

  • I liked the game. The length made you think really fast and essentially draw as you brainstormed. I liked how the aesthetics and objects were random, but maybe make both a little more realistic so that we can really learn to apply aesthetics instead of just making a mashup of two things which is what I felt like happened with most teams. I also liked how we used whiteboards to quickly sketch as it let us have a mini design cycle in the short period of time. This would be a good activity to do once a week. Maybe every Monday at the beginning of class for a warmup? Instead of presenting, just have someone from the team post a picture on the blog for later review by the class.

  • Nicholas Flood
    February 24, 2016 9:17 pm

    I enjoyed playing the game. The time for playing the game should be kept pretty short. No more than 10 minutes. I think doing a prototype based on the game can be fun for some combinations, while others might be too difficult, especially with some of the objects currently on the list. I think that watch, glasses, and stapler should be on the object list. I think we should play the game multiple times, since some combinations that groups got were maybe not challenging enough. I personally would not want to play the game with my final project, but I’m not completely against the idea either.

  • Good game, I would not change much. Perhaps have more time for the game and let students choose 2 aesthetics so you don’t run into a repetitive object and aesthetic.

  • I really enjoyed this game. It was fun and challenging to come up with designs so quickly for an aesthetic that we might not be familiar with. Our team got dog collar, mixed with surrealism. It was really fun to get creative. I think one way to improve this game is to pull one item and aesthetic, and have the whole class follow those two categories. This way it’s easier to see more creative ideas that each group might not have thought of. b;

  • Samantha Maierhofer
    February 23, 2016 9:28 pm

    I liked the game and thought it did a good job at getting our brains going on the thought of aesthetics and how to apply them. I wish we had had more time in class to draw up our designs as well as present those designs to the class. However I think that the game fits just that, the role of a game. I think it is a good exercise to reinforce the aesthetics we learn and would be good to do repeatedly, but it does not fit as a project itself in my opinion. I would probably keep the upcycling project as the intro project for future classes.

  • The game was fun, but I would make sure groups have more time and also more time to present. I can’t say it was particularly helpful in brainstorming aesthetics for my project, but that’s probably because I already have one in mind. I really liked the upcycling project so I would not take that away from the curriculum in the future.

  • Chip Bollendonk
    February 23, 2016 8:23 am

    This game finally got me going in the direction that I think this class is intended. It can be really hard to not only define an aesthetic, but apply it to some object or idea. This game helped me realize that I am already capable of doing that! I’d like to practice more, so that I can expand my understanding of many different aesthetics and be able to apply them creatively.

  • I really enjoyed this design aesthetics game we played. I think it would have been nice to have about 15 minutes to brainstorm/sketch and then more time to present. I think this would be a cool game to play just a whole class period, and I don’t think it should be a project in place of upcycling. I think the upcycling project was really neat and got our creative juices flowing. I don’t think people would be as excited about having an object and an aesthetic assigned to them.

    I do think it would be cooler if the teams worked on one together. They could all have their own opinions and additions to the team, but come together to create the best possible design. I don’t think a team should be able to reject an object or an aesthetic, because I think the fun of the game and creativity is being able to create something with a random object and a unique aesthetic.

    I don’t really think it spurred any huge ideas for me at least for my final project, but I can’t speak for others. I think the pairing of an object and different aesthetics definitely made people think in a different way, but they were so contrasting that they didn’t necessarily make sense to pair the two together. I do think we should do this game again. I think it would be cool to do the game once before we do our upcycling project and then again after, using our upcycled projects and aesthetics. I think it would be cool to see the contrast between having done it before and then how we see if after our projects.

    I think my main comment to add to this game would be to allow us more time to explain our thinking and how we combined the object and the aesthetic to make it a cohesive whole and work together. I do think it would be neat if this was a blog post too. It would be neat to randomly have us as individuals pick our object and aesthetic and then go home and make our own sketch and blog about it and our process of choosing how to combine the two into our design. This was a really creative game and I liked how it really got us thinking outside the box. More time overall would be appreciated!

  • Time for playing, keep it short or make a 1 week project? This game works better as a short game to get our ideas following.

    Do a prototype based on this instead of or in addition to Upcycle project? I think this works better for the main project (prototype), because this forces the designer to look at a project from a new perspective or angle.

    Can you suggest new objects or aesthetics? I would recommend: NEOCLASSIC, COLONIAL, MODERN SURF STYLE, STONER, CARTOONS, and GAMER.

    Have whole team work on one version instead of three versions? I would prefer three versions for a few reasons: 1) It allows us to show off our individual unique style. 2) It lets everyone to have the chance to throw out a design idea. 3) You can collaborate on all three aesthetics too! 4) Allows the option to be fun and silly.

    Allow for a team to reject the assigned object or aesthetic? If an aesthetic or object is completely unreasonable to fabricate (cannot be physically built, break the laws of science, or takes 100 hours to complete).

    Was this helpful in brainstorming aesthetics for your or a teammate’s project? Should we do this again? I thought it was really helpful, but I do not know about the rest of my teammates.

    Should we do it using your projects instead of assigned objects?

    Do you want a version to play with friends? I need to answer this with a question. Can it involve adult beverages?

    Should the we provide a short description of the aesthetic? I do not think this is necessary.

    Should we photo and post the sketches? Umm, Too late.

  • Rachel Grosskrueger
    February 22, 2016 7:48 pm

    I really liked how this game forced you to think beyond what you are used to and outside the normal. Sometimes we get so stuck with what we are comfortable designing/creating and when it comes to designing we never branch out. I think keeping it with 3 or more designs is a great method, we get to try out different styles and this really forms a basis for inspiration rather than sticking with one design. I would love to do this with our current projects. I think it would really help add a new approach that each person and their team wouldn’t have thought of. Maybe some people hate it but others might really love it an actually incorporate it into their design. I would recommend three rounds of merging the aesthetic theme with your project main object/idea in order to provide the option for more insight. We might get lucky and decide to incorporate aspects from each aesthetic theme. Definitely enjoyed this!

  • Brittany Warly
    February 22, 2016 5:34 pm

    Time for playing, keep it short or make a 1 week project? Keep it short, this was a perfect in-class activity.
    Do a prototype based on this instead of or in addition to Upcycle project? No, I enjoyed just the sketching aspect
    Have whole team work on one version instead of three versions? I like having the 3 versions so each member can draw their own interpretation.
    Allow for a team to reject the assigned object or aesthetic? No, part of the challenge is finding an accurate visual for your object and aesthetic even if you aren’t 100% certain what it is. My group didnt know what WPA posters were, but we looked them up online.
    Was this helpful in brainstorming aesthetics for your or a teammate’s project? It wasn’t directly helpful, though it did provide some relief in that we realized by opening up your mind you can create anything, and no idea is a crazy idea.
    Should we do this again? Yes, absolutely.
    Should we do it using your projects instead of assigned objects? I think we could do both.

  • Thomas Brunsgaard
    February 22, 2016 5:33 pm

    It would be interesting to play the aesthetic game once a week as a class for an entire semester. At first we were definitely unsure about how to get started. We selected “Gucci driving moccasin” aesthetic applied to a hairdryer. After a couple of minutes we actually came up with a couple really good ideas. I think you would get much more comfortable and creative after having a couple of tries at it. I enjoyed how ridiculous some of the aesthetics combinations were! I think the process of thinking about it is more important than actually creating a prototype.

  • Andre Szlendak
    February 22, 2016 5:28 pm

    I thought this game was really fun. It gave some challenge to apply an aesthetic to a very traditional object in our case. This was the kind of thinking I was hoping to develop by taking this class. I don’t think running new ideas by our team every class would be very useful, but I do think this game every Friday would be really fun and good exercise.

  • I thought that the game was pretty fun! It definitely was a fun way to combine design brainstorming and sketching practice!
    Time for playing? Keep it short! The point is to be quick on your feet. A week long design is too large of an investment for something that does much better as a rapid brainstorming.
    Prototype? No, some of these aesthetics are quite in compatible and can potentially be difficult to make a prototype for – and again, I think it would take away from how it excels at making you quickly design mentally.
    New object or aesthetic suggestions? See the “reject object/aesthetic question?” below. Otherwise, the only new thing I really would want would be more marker colors per table.
    One vs three versions? I actually really liked the three versions, but you could have two rounds of the game and do both. They each offer different forms of insight.
    Reject assigned object or aesthetic? I’m on the fence about this one. I want to say no, but some combinations are not very compatible. A better idea would be to use aesthetics that aren’t entirely based on an object (e.g. Gucci moccasins) and instead on a concept (e.g. minimalism/oriental). While Gucci moccasins hairdryer was hilarious, it makes it obvious that this type of aesthetic is not very applicable to this given object unless you literally assemble the object out of the object of the aesthetic. Another idea would be to pick two aesthetics and one object and then get to choose which aesthetic inspires you more.
    Was this helpful? Should we do this again? Yes and yes! It was fun! But again, I would recommend either changing the extremely specific object-oriented aesthetics or allow a rejection.
    Should we do it using your projects instead of assigned objects? Sure, could be really fun!
    Provide a description of aesthetic? No, we have the internet.
    Should we photo and post the sketches? Sure!

  • Ryan Yankowsky
    February 22, 2016 5:05 pm

    I enjoyed the exercise and think it worked well as a short brainstorming activity. I like the fact it only took a bit of class time, but would like to see more focus on a single design rather than three, which caused a bit of rushing in our group. Also think a small description of the aesthetic could move things along faster allowing for more design time. Great for a half hour to an hour exercise.

  • Ashley Zimmerer
    February 22, 2016 2:24 pm

    I thought the game was fun, but I wasn’t too happy with my team’s aesthetic. I think that teams should be able to reject either their object or their aesthetic once. I like that everyone in the team got to come up with an idea. More time would really help. 15-20 minutes to brainstorm and draw up ideas would be good, and about 30 seconds to a minute for each group to present their ideas would be about right. It would be fun to play again, but it wasn’t particularly helpful in coming up with ideas for my project, it was mostly just funny to see what crazy things everybody came up with.

  • Time for playing, keep it short or make a 1 week project? – I think that this game is most useful as a short game. It forces you to think on your feet.

    Do a prototype based on this instead of or in addition to Upcycle project? – I think that the upcycle is a better first project because it forced me to think outside the box.

    Have whole team work on one version instead of three versions? – This could be interesting to get some collaboration.

    Allow for a team to reject the assigned object or aesthetic? – I think that this is good. Maybe we could get 2 or 3 options and then pick from those.

    Was this helpful in brainstorming aesthetics for your or a teammate’s project? – Our aesthetic was not very applicable to my personal project.

    Should we do this again? – I think that if we do, we should have a choice of aesthetics or object.

    Should the we provide a short description of the aesthetic? – Yes, this would be very helpful

    Should we photo and post the sketches? – No I don’t think that we should

  • I thought it was a great game. At first it was weird to think about the combination of the object and the aesthetics, but afterwards the team picked up the pace and great ideas were flowing. I would love to play the game again. Sketching on white board was a little tough, I prefer having a paper and pencil; however, having a white board helped get out ideas faster without fear of scrapping out paper? I think it might be a good idea to play this game once a week.

  • I enjoyed the game a lot! It was great way to get the design juices flowing. It might be nice to do a shorter version of it every class just to warm up and get everyone warmed up and thinking. We do something similar in Grad. Design where students were expected to bring in something they think could use improvement from a design aspect and then we break off into groups and brainstorm ideas of improved design and present them to the class. Something similar where we improve the aesthetics of an object would be great I think!

  • I really enjoyed how random this game was. When we first got our combination of snowmobile and Las Vegas, we were pretty worried about actually being able to draw anything. At first the time constraint sounded drastic, but looking back that pressure forced us to produce. After about 5 minutes we had yet to even begin drawing. By the end, however, we really liked our drawings and were surprised they looked somewhat decent. I was also surprised by all the fun and creativity of all the other projects in the class. Great activity!

  • Sreyas Krishnan
    February 22, 2016 11:54 am

    Really enjoyed this game and I think it’d make for a good warm up exercise for most lectures!

  • I thought this activity was a fun change of pace for class. I liked the unique combinations but some were a bit too outlandish to be useful for a project.

    • I would definitely do the aesthetics activity again: I would suggest limiting the activity to a day in-class, a week long project might be too much for a randomly selected combination. Personally, I liked the Upcycle project because it provided a lot of freedom. If this activity replaced the up-cycle project I think it would be too constrained. It might be helpful to have each person draw three objects and three aesthetics so they could choose the combination that they felt most inspired to pursue. I do think it would be helpful to apply the aesthetics to our projects as a second step in the game. As for photos, it might be fun to save the best sketches but uploading 40+ whiteboard images would make the blog difficult to navigate.

  • I enjoyed this class activity. The combination of object and aesthetic prompted me to think about things more creatively that were likely outside my comfort zone. There were fun ideas shared all around and it was interesting to see where people went with their designs. The white boards were challenging to design on and more colors would have been helpful. Otherwise, I think that activity is a keeper.


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