New App for the iPhone Takes a Visual Approach to Ideation

The Riffer is an intriguing new ideation tool for the iPhone and iPod Touch that leverages images and your brain's power of association to generate fresh ideas.

The Riffer is an intriguing new ideation tool for the iPhone and iPod Touch that leverages images and your brain’s power of association to generate fresh ideas. By randomly drawing up pairs of images from its vast library, the Riffer acts as a stimulus to the right-brain, causing it to create associated ideas, links and metaphors.

The user interface of the Riffer couldn’t be any simpler. The app opens to a page of simple instructions. The screen background looks like a piece of looseleaf paper that has been torn from a notebook. Tap on the round “R” button at the bottom of the Riffer’s screen, and the paper gets crunched up – simulating a frustrated writer throwing away a failed idea – and then uncrumples to display two images for your creative inspiration – such as a telephone and a glue gun. Hmmm…

A red “prompt” to the left of the big “R” button causes a number of random creative prompts to appear at the top of the screen, such as “compare and contrast” and “what does each symbolize?” After a few seconds, the prompt fades from view, giving you another piece of creative inspiration to ponder. At first, I wasn’t sure why these prompts were included in the Riffer. But as I thought about it more, I realized that the prompts provide a context within which you can consider the images that this app is displaying to court your creative muse.

Finally, an “info” link to the right of the “R” button enables you to view information about the developers and to visit their website. Riffer is the creation of Jeremy Clancy and Richard Hoffman, who call themselves Idea-Apps. They created Riffer because they were disappointed at the relative lack of idea-generation tools for this highly portable platform.

“The idea of a go-anywhere tool that you can use to catalyze ideas on demand is a compelling one, at least to my way of thinking. We know there’s more potential than what we’ve seen so far,” Jeremy explains. So they decided to create their own ideation tool. The Riffer is free, but the developer’s website implies that a paid version with a much larger database of images is in the works.

A number of idea-generation tools for the iPhone – notably IdeaGen, Brainstormer and iGen – use random combinations of three words as a creative catalyst. I like the fact that Riffer takes a different approach, using pictures rather than words. This should appeal to a different part of the brain – a more visual area that should result in some rich ideas.

If you use an iPhone or iPod Touch, I recommend that you download this interesting app and give it a try. It is well designed and fulfills its role of creative catalyst very elegantly.