5 Killer UX Design Warm-Up Exercises

Klew Still
Published in
4 min readDec 10, 2019


Are you planning on running an Ideation with your Design or Product Team? Or maybe you’ve invited some users into the office and want to pick their brains with a good old fashioned brainstorming? Perhaps you’re trying a new team building exercise on the topic of Design, Mockups, or Prototyping.

Or not, I don’t know, I’m a listicle not a cop.

Regardless of what you need it for, you’re sure to need a good warm-up exercise! Warm-ups get the juices flowing, free the mind, and get your team working together. So check out these 5 awesome warm-ups for all your UX Design needs.

1. A Story in Three Acts

Story-based warm-ups are perfect for getting your team ready to think about workflows and happy paths. First, break your participants into teams of two (although, in a pinch, a team of three in a round-robin configuration works pretty well). One team member provides three words at random — nouns usually work best — which the other team member has to use in a story formulated on the spot. The story should use all three words, but they can be in any order. Then have the partners switch roles!

This one goes fairly fast so you can run a few rounds of it and even switch partners. Consider providing a theme to help folks brainstorm their three words — for example, Science Fiction, The 80s, or Super Heroes.

2. The Monkey’s Paw

This exercise can be done in a team of two, like A Story in Three Acts, or in a group. One team member is the ‘wisher’ and has to think of a wish they’d make if they could ask for anything. It’s up to their team member or the group to elegantly ruin that wish.

Oh, do you want a million dollars? It’s in pennies! Did you want to quarterback a football team? Congrats, it’s PeeWee league! Maybe you wanted the cutest dog ever? Ok, well, let’s not ruin that one. That’s a good wish.

The challenge for this exercise is to ruin a wish in a sentence or even just a single word. Avoid convoluted explanations and strive for simplicity.

3. Quick Fire Daily UI

If you’ve never used Daily UI, check it out now. It’s a great little daily reminder to warm up with a new and clever type of design you may have never done before. Even cooler, you can use their daily design prompts — which come in the form of emails — as topics for a design quick fire exercise with your team. Pick a particularly provocative set of 4–5 topics and have your team sketch out an approach in just 30 seconds or less.

If you have time, consider running a final round where team members get an additional 30 seconds to create a second iteration of their favorite design.

4. Tower of Iterations

This is a team exercise that I once had a professor use in a graduate-level interactive media design course as an introduction to thinking iteratively. The exercise works best with teams of 3–5 people. It’s an awesome warm up for a longer session like a half-day or full-day Design Studio.

In Tower of Iterations, teams must work to build the tallest tower in a set amount of time (10 minutes is good) with just two building materials: plastic straws and marshmallows. Let teams work out their process themselves, execute their builds, and then come together for a group discussion. You will find that the teams that did the best — had the highest or most stable builds — worked iteratively, failed early, and made plans and prototypes. Teams that put all their eggs in one basket usually have dramatic engineering failures, often at the last second! This exercise is a great introduction to the concept of iterative design and prototype and why they are such valuable practices.

5. An Actual Physical Warm-Up

This last warm-up will literally warm up your body. Never discount the creative potential of getting your body moving!

Cross-lateral movements and full-body engagement offer the best benefits to the brain, so the sequence I recommend is:

  • 10 jumping jacks
  • 20 windmills (that’s touching your right toe with your left hand, then vice versa)
  • 2 spins clockwise
  • …and 2 final spins counterclockwise

Count out loud for your team so no one gets left behind!

Remember to consider beforehand if you need to make any modifications for team members with mobility limitations, injuries, or disabilities. For example, instead of traditional windmills you can have team members pair up and play patty-cake. Get creative!

Originally published at https://www.activeoversight.io.



Klew Still
Writer for

Klew Still is a UX Designer, Game Designer, and gallery artist. She lives with her wife and dog child in Denver, CO.