The form leads function (FLF) is an approach to creative ideation where a form generated externally, such as one provided by a generative AI model, is used to trigger ideas regarding the function of a product. To illustrate this concept, we will discuss how new product ideas for Zootle - a brand of bio-inspired children's rattle toys - can be identified. First, we will use Midjourney to generate rattle toy concepts using simple prompts, such as "butterfly inspired rattle toy."
Likewise, other animal names were used to generate concepts, as shown in the following collage. Most of the generated images appear similar to common rattles, and their functionality can be inferred by simply looking at them.
However, some of the generated images included novel elements that suggest the possibility of unique functionalities for the products. Here are some of the novel designs that were generated, hinting at some unusual functionalities of the product.
Now, as part of FLF ideation exercises, ideators can be given images of these products and asked to generate new ideas. Another approach would involve showing the image to ideators and asking them to create an association between the image and the idea. This can also be done with the help of an LLM like ChatGPT. To illustrate, I will use the image below, generated for a cat-inspired rattle toy by Midjourney, which seems to suggest novel functionality.
Next, without using the image above as input, ChatGPT was prompted to provide 10 unique idea descriptions for a "cat-inspired rattle toy" using the following prompt: Could you please provide me with 10 ideas for interesting functions for a rattle toy that resembles a cat?
ChatGPT listed the following 10 concepts.
- Electronic purring sound: Add an electronic purring sound to the toy that activates when it is picked up or touched. This will mimic the sound of a contented cat, providing a soothing and comforting effect for the child.
- Swishing tail: Create a tail for the toy that swishes back and forth when the toy is moved. This will mimic the movement of a cat's tail and add an interactive element to the toy.
- Moving ears: Add ears to the toy that move up and down or back and forth. This will create a more lifelike appearance and add an interactive element to the toy.
- Squeaky mouse: Add a small squeaky mouse to the toy that rattles around inside. This will add an extra element of sound and interaction to the toy.
- Soft fur: Use a soft, plush material for the toy's exterior to make it more tactile and cuddly.
- Hidden treats: Add a small compartment inside the toy that can be filled with small treats or snacks. This will encourage the child to play with the toy and discover its hidden surprises.
- Light-up eyes: Create eyes for the toy that light up when it is moved or squeezed. This will create a more engaging and interactive experience for the child.
- Feather toy: Attach a feather toy to the top of the toy that can be moved around by the child. This will create a more playful and interactive experience.
- Lullaby music: Add a small music player to the toy that plays lullabies or calming music. This will provide a soothing and calming effect for the child.
- Voice recording: Add a feature to the toy that allows parents or caregivers to record a message or lullaby. This will create a more personalized experience for the child and help them feel more connected to their caregiver.
In the next step, the ideator is asked to "force" an association between the independently generated image of the cat-inspired rattle generated by Midjourney and one of the functional descriptions generated by ChatGPT to generate novel product concepts. For instance, below is our description of one possible way in which the third idea generated by ChatGPT ("moving ears") might possibly be further refined by associating it with the AI-generated image of the cat-inspired rattle.
The image of the cat-inspired rattle toy generated by Midjourney features large, prominent ears, suggesting the possibility of incorporating moving ears into the design. The ears of the cat can be designed to move up and down when the rattle toy is shaken, creating a more interactive and engaging experience for the child. When the toy is placed upside-down, the ears and the eyes could be designed to close, creating the impression that the toy cat is going to sleep.
The Form Leads Function (FLF) approach to creative ideation involves using externally generated forms to trigger ideas about the function of a product. By using a generative AI model like Midjourney to create images of bio-inspired rattle toys, unique functional concepts can be identified using prompts and an LLM like ChatGPT. By "forcing" associations between independently generated forms and functional concepts, novel ideas for product designs can be generated. This approach can be useful in creating innovative and engaging products that can surprise and delight consumers.