A Design Jam is an idea factory. It’s a fun, fast, creative brainstorming session intended to create a range of diverse visions that address an issue. In the design, architecture and urban planning fields, jams (or charettes) are employed as one of the many stages of a larger planning, strategy and design process undertaken by the lead design organization and stakeholders involved in a project.

Nerd Jams originated in the cozy living rooms of our founding members as a way to feed their shared desire to dream up projects over shared food and wine. Over the years, the scale of the jams and the design nerd community kept growing, as did our experience in producing and  facilitating these beautiful and productive gatherings.

Typical Stages of a Jam

At the core of the Jam are four technical stages:

1.    Briefing / Presentation of challenge, expectations, examples
2.    Pitches / Participants get ‘on stage’ and pitch starter ideas to audience
3.    Breakout / Participants split into smaller teams, share and draw ideas
4.    Showdown / Each team presents their ideas back to the main group

While this four-step method forms the foundation, all Jam frameworks are adaptive, multiple other stages can be added added or removed depending on the complexity of the task, the time available, the number of facilitators and the number and type of participants.


Participants leave the Jam-space feeling hopeful and empowered that a situation can change because they have the tools and the team to make their world different. They were listened to (+ didn’t think their idea was crazy); they gain new friends, allies, partners (and sometimes a team); they feel grounded, ready-for-action, capable; they feel connected and engaged to those around them, the place they call home and the issues they encountered.