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D+ve: Design Problem – What does it mean and how to address it

In his column, Manoj Deb, Founder and Specialist in Branding Strategy and Design, Venacava, talks about how identifying the problem is an important step in order to address and resolve it successfully

We’ve all had them, answered them, and utmost surely caused them, but to put it in simple terms is a challenge in itself. According to the Oxford dictionary, a problem is “a matter or situation regarded as unpleasant or dangerous and demanding to be dealt with and overcome.”

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Yes, true indeed! But this implies there's a mindfulness of the required outcome.

By framing the problem with a statement, which is narrow enough to bring focus yet broad enough for creativity, the team of designers can stay totally concentrated on the design problem. They can start working towards a proper direction and be open to innovative possibilities.

Why Should We Frame a Problem Statement?

The great industrialist Henry Ford knew all about this when he famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

But this was not really the problem that needed to be solved or the issue to be addressed. There was a deeper need in the world that neither his audience could articulate nor could they even fathom. Ford’s customers demanded a newer and quicker version of something that they already had and knew about. But Ford understood their deeper purpose to get from one place to another faster.

This distinction helped him avoid simply breeding up a briskly steed and rather opened the doors to roll out the first automobile that would lead the way for progress in years to come.

Discovering the Opportunities and Shortcomings

When you know what direction you want to go in, you can easily visualize the journey and the destination. With an easily defined problem that’s embedded in a customer’s purpose, it’s easier to see what walls are in the way of reaching that end goal. And if the problem is easily stated at the launch of a design, it can act as a lens through which one can find fresh openings that might have gone unnoticed.

Keeping the Team Aligned about the Design Solutions

Each member of a design team will have a different image in their head of what the end product should be, without even realizing it at times. Every person thinks from a different perspective, so they might each be thinking about it in a slightly different way guided by their own process and subconscious mind.

Arguably, the biggest impact of framing a problem is that it can align different views towards a common goal. The process of framing a problem collects multiple perspectives within a frame that sparks effective exchanges and opinions. Once an articulated statement is made, all the different thoughts and ideas from each member of the team can be managed and aligned.

Guiding the Design and All Ideas and Opinions

A team developing a product can serve without a problem defined. It happens all the time. But when an unequivocal statement declares what problem needs to be answered, every solution is concentrated on that single end result. A well- framed design problem statement, that's approved as part of a design detail, is a simple tool to weigh options and measure success.

A good design problem statement will leave room for creativity, but it eventually provides a clear lens through which to view each element of the design. Outlining the problem statement and being clear about the steps involved in the design process can be a filter that weeds out redundant ideas and retains only those that will help us reach our end goal smoothly. As the design process progresses, the design team should be able to relate to the original problem statement and make sure that the product being designed still addresses the core problem statement.

Helping Connect Emotionally to the Audience

A problem can’t be defined unless you know where the fault is and which area has scope for improvement. By taking the time to conduct exploration and speaking to the people who will actually use it and asking questions about their current situation, the team of designers can suddenly see things from the user’s perspective.

The emotional engagement demanded at the problem framing stage aligns the product with the person it’s meant to serve. Hence, seeing a problem from the end user’s point of view will inescapably illuminate intuitive and emotional perceptivity that will take the product closer to perfection.

But how to come up with the problem statement? What questions to ask?

Keep an eye on this space. We’ll find out more about it in the next article.


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