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This method is used to access and harness intuitive knowing and aesthetic sensemaking; it disrupts linear, habituated reasoning, contributing to new framing and innovative ideation.


Collage allows both rational and emotional reasoning to surface through the free combination of images which, due to their evocative power, can contribute inspiration to new imaginative horizons. It is typically used to express and share emotions, themes, and ideas via an intuitive visual representation related to a specific topic. It can be an effective tool for clarifying observations or crystallizing ideas, visions, or scenarios before moving into more tangible brainstorming or definition of action steps.

Collage can be a highly inclusive method because: a) it can be used with a variety of age ranges (from very young to adult and elderly audiences); b) it can be employed by people with special needs, who might not feel at ease communicating verbally; c) it requires less “creative confidence” as compared to drawing or other forms of artistic expression; d) it is suitable for people from cultures that primarily value oral ways of communicating (e.g. indigenous communities).

Variation: Collaborative Collage (in pairs or groups)

The process of creating a collage can be done collaboratively and (optionally) combined with the principles of 23. Silent Conversation, p. 50. In this version, participants experiment with their intuitive listening to collaborate with others in silence and learn to be mindful of their own style of participation.


  1. Place an abundance of material (images and/or 3D material) on the table in such a way that people can easily search through it;
  2. Clearly outline the purpose of the collage, the principles of collage making, the topic or question that is being addressed, and the time available (sample script):
    • In this exercise, each person will create a collage that expresses your goals or visions for our case study in the form of abstract elements, feelings, and moods. It doesn’t have to express a coherent or logical story, as the process is meant to draw from your intuitive understanding. Sensemaking comes afterward while describing the meaning of the collage to others. Also, there will be time to make things more tangible and practical later in the workshop.
    • Think of the time limit as a spark for your creativity, rather than as a source of stress. As you are working, don’t second guess yourself - use whatever images draw your attention. Allow yourself to be surprised by your creative work. You are also welcome to add your own drawings or doodles.
  3. When time is up, in pairs, invite participants to take turns describing the story and meaning of their collage. Remind them that it is during this ‘sensemaking’ process that insights come
    to light, so they will likely not know the full meaning of their creation before they reflect on it out loud.
  4. Next, participants discuss outcomes and reflections in the group. Prompting questions could include: “What are some key differences or similarities between the visions? Were you surprised by the outcome in any way? What would you like to take from this exercise into the next phase of developing a concrete action plan?”;
  5. (optional) Insights and key points can be summarized on a flip chart.

Place on U
10 - 30 minutes
Materials Needed

Abundance of pre-cut or torn out images from magazinesstored neatly in a folder or box; for a 3D collage, include clay,recycled materials, etc.; glue sticks, small scissors, and felt-tipmarkers; A3 or larger paper for individuals; One or two piecesof flip chart paper for collaborative collage; one storage boxand one folder per group to keep materials organized.

Emotional Intelligence
Future Visioning
Ideation & Brainstorming
Online Engagement
Visual Learning
Sense of Place
Tip and Experiences
  • Emphasize the intuitive nature of the process (don’t overthink!);
  • Have a variety of images already cut or ripped out to save time. If not, encourage participants to rip rather than cut if time constraints;
  • Choose images and materials that are in line with themes and contexts explored in the workshop;
  • Have participants only partially glue images, so that you can remove them from the paper and re-use them in future workshops (unless they want to keep the collage for themselves).

Relevant References & Resources

Various collage techniques: “Painting with Scissors: 6 Paper Collage Techniques to Try”.  
A story of collage: “How Is Collage Used in Art?”.

Collage in research: Hamilton & Pinnegar (2009). Creating Representations: Using Collage in Self-Study.

Vaughan (2005). Pieced Together: Collage as an Artist’s Method for interdisciplinary research.

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