Design: How to define the problem.

Throughout the creative process, it’s critical to define 3 things:

  • The problem
  • The goal
  • The solution

We’ll talk about goals and solutions later on. For now, let’s focus on the problem.

Why go looking for problems?

It’s important to define a problem statement to measure how well your solution solves it. Think of it as setting a course or a mission.

The greatest challenge in creating something is balancing how it looks and feels with how useful it is. Finding the sweet spot between aesthetics and utility is where the magic happens and the audience “just gets it.”

A problem exists if you can find a complaint and a cause.

You don’t want to end up with a solution looking for a problem.

Start in the mirror

What problems do you have? Make a list of what bothers you and what causes it.

  • The line at the supermarket takes too long because it’s largely a manual process with numerous time-consuming variables.
  • Clamshell packaging is extremely frustrating to open because I don’t usually have the needed tools (scissors?) around to open it.
  • Smoothies are too much work because blenders contain many moving parts that all require cleaning after each use.

If you have a problem and can identify the cause, it’s likely that others share your sentiment about the same issue but might not think too much about the cause or a solution.

The best problems are like old furniture. They’ve been sitting in the same place for years without being bothered.

Find your audience

Do other people have this problem? Who’s tweeting about it? Anything in the news?

Research the scope of your problem to help establish the impact of solving it. The people you find that experience the problem are now your target audience. Every decision in the creative process now revolves around them. #usercentricdesign

Write a problem statement

This is the hardest part for me. Cramming all the thoughts, stats, facts, and other info you’ve uncovered into a few sentences in the midst of brainstorming loads of ideas about possible solutions can be quite a task.

I try to write the problem statement as if I were broadcasting it to my target audience in 140 characters or less. Usually, that looks something like:

__________________ is a challenge for __________________ because __________________.
  • Opening doors is a challenge for dogs because they don’t have thumbs #k9problems
  • Winning at sports is a challenge for this team because reasons.

There you have it. You have a problem. Now go solve it!

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