To give the students an opportunity to explore the overall theme or a specific problem, and thereafter structure suggestions and select a focus for their further work.


The first part of Open Space works as a brainstorming technique, where the overall theme of the design process (chosen by the teacher) is mapped out. The students are placed in a large circle and are given 3-4 pieces of A4 paper and a crayon/pen. All the students write down challenges – one on each piece of paper, related to the overall theme. As the students write down challenges on paper, these are placed on the floor, and this part of the technique is conducted in silence (5-10 minutes).

When all pieces of paper have a challenge written on them and are placed on the floor, the students walk around and read all the written challenges. They then help each other to structure and group the challenges into sub-themes. Each challenge can be moved around between sub-themes, until the teacher and the students together assess that the structure and sub-themes are meaningful and sufficient. This part of the process can both be done in silence or in discussion.

Each sub-theme then gets a title that represents the challenges it covers. Additional time can be given to allow the students to get a better overview of the various challenges in each subtheme, and last placement changes can be made.

After this process, the different sub-themes are presented in plenum. During the presentation rounds, the students physically move between the sub-themes as they are presented.

Now, the students choose the sub-theme they are the most interested in working with. Then a negotiation to secure equal resource levels and versatility in each design team takes place, and design teams are formed – hopefully ending up comprising 5-6 students who represent different resources. The teacher can also choose to form the design teams by him-/herself (see technique 5, Formation of Design Teams) and holds the power to include, exclude or combine certain sub-themes.

Open Space is useful with any number of students and at various points in the process, where new ideas, questions or subjects are needed. The technique can also be used in the phases Perceive and Prototype.


  • Preparation and setup. The overall theme is written somewhere visible to all the students.
  • Challenges are written on sheets of A4 paper.
  • The sheets are placed inside the circle and the students examine them.
  • The sheets are structured and grouped under sub-themes (optional break after this point).
  • The sub-themes are given titles.
  • Last changes to the grouping of challenges are made.
  • Presentation round in plenum (optional break after this point).
  • Formation of design teams. 

Execution time
2 lessons. It can be advantageous to stretch the lessons over two days, as this gives the teacher time to get an overview of the number of sub-themes and the challenges they include, before the students choose which ones they want to work with.

A4 paper (preferably in various colors) and crayons/pens. 3-4 pieces of paper per student and 1 pen/crayon.

The students form a circle with their chairs and sit facing towards the middle of the circle. The circle/room needs to be large enough for the floor in the middle to be used to spread out the papers on. The overall theme is written on a blackboard making it visible to all students.