Hello again,

Still tweaking and weeding out some old projects from school and got stumped on something:

For most of my class projects, the way I arrived at a “problem statement” was by thinking of a design problem that I could solve and try to find hard facts to support my hypothesis of why it needs a solution. I would never go on assumptions. Sometimes it was based on personal experience and insight but I would still make sure by researching published data to then determine if there is truly a problem that needs a design solution.

For ex: for my senior project, I designed a “dental flossing reminder device” and at first, I went on my personal experiences of hardly ever flossing on a regular basis but before I undertook this project, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t the only one who didn’t floss regularly. After digging and researching online, turns out half of the population doesn’t floss. Ok, so my problem statement was defined clearly afterwards by published data showing a major problem that needed a solution. I had to then find out why the other half doesn’t floss regularly by doing surveys, observational research, etc.

On the other hand, one older project I have (that I want to include in my portfolio) was based on redesigning a simple hand tool. I chose the “whisk”; mostly because of my own personal experience of never using it and picking up a fork instead to “whisk”.
There was no user research involved, as the ergonomic form I ultimately chose was based merely on my own personal preferences as to comfort, issues of cleanliness, etc. My instructors raved about my result; but now looking back at this project, I’d like to revisit it and do some in-depth research to see if there truly ARE a lot of people who forgo their whisks for a fork and find out why. As it stands, the design solution I chose was based on the things I observed lacking in whisk designs but if I include this in my portfolio, I would have to revisit this project and start from scratch. It needs more process.

Since in this case there aren’t published cold hard facts or studies (as in my dental flossing project) as to why people don’t use a whisk, (as it is not the most exciting topic around!) should I poll people as to their “whisk vs fork” habits and with the information I gather, then decide if this truly is a problem and then see if my original design solution addresses the issues most people have with whisks.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I didn’t get a great ID education, but here goes: Can one arrive at a problem statement by surveys/polls as much as finding published indisputable facts? I know for sure that more in-depth research is needed afterward to solidify a design direction, but how do most of you arrive at a problem statement?

Thanks everyone!!

Ummm, after re-reading my original post, I might have come up with the answer to my question! Correct me if I am wrong, folks and bear with me because even after all my time in school, I am STILL learning.

I think I just realized that a “problem statement” can come by way of lots of initial research with users, polls, surveys about a particular product (especially when redesigning it) to find out what the issues are (if any) with a product and what users would like to see changed to make it better. Then it is up to us to then dig deeper to address those “problem areas” and solved them, which requires more research, observations, prototypes, etc. Am I getting close?

I always assumed the problem statement came first BEFORE interviewing users by way of personal observation/published facts, etc, and then later, we’d prove our problem statement out by doing more indepth research with users.

My school was good, but I wouldn’t say it was the best. One thing I took away from one former alumni of my school who I found online and whom I conversed with before I enrolled was this: “You will never learn everything there is to know about ID from your instructors, so you have to seek elsewhere too.”. I expect most of the stuff I ask about a lot will eventually come to me the more experience I have in this field, so I will try not to feel so bad. I am just grateful for this forum!

So if I am way off, please anyone, correct me. I am a eager learner, no matter how old I am! :smiley:

CJ- I think you are on the right track. Designers should to be open to changing the original problem statement if your research tells you to. That’s why the process is valuable.

You’ll never have enough research. I think that each project’s unique requirements allow only a certain amount of time for the designer to gather insights. Just make sure you show additional insight that goes beyond your hunch. There are a lot of different angles to gather insight from to support your designs. It may not always be statistics or interviews, it may come from trend or competitive analysis. Ideally, you cover a range of these areas.

I also think portfolios should show some range of abilities. If other projects show a strong design process, the whisk project may not need to focus on that. Just my thoughts.

Hi Ryan; thanks for the reply. So my original problem statement might then have to change to reflect the results of my research; because sometimes our original hunch, might be incorrect and the “problem” that we think it might be, might be totally off. Is that right?

By the way, you are right about my hand tool; leaving it as simple as it is now. My instructor did inform us once that if we had much more in-depth pieces to include, that a slightly less in-depth piece can be included, as long as the result is successful. I had forgotten that. So maybe I will tweak that hand tool project just a bit but keep it simple. I have way more involved projects I can include that go deeper than my whisk ever did.

Have a nice day, Ryan!

WOW. I just found an older thread last night, while researching the topic of “problem statements” and found this nugget! Thanks to rkuchinsky for participating in the discussion and offering a wealth of information about the subject. Thank you!!! Sorry I didn’t find it earlier as I was looking in the wrong place.

This part in particular was the MOST helpful:

  1. _Define your problem. You need a solid problem statement. This can come from research. Read articles, interview kids, parents and teachers, find out what issues currently exist in the realm of kids carrying things to school. The problem may be how to better carry a large amount of stuff. The problem may be how to protect the stuff they have from damage. The problem may be how to store the stuff when at school safely? The problem may be carrying food that doesn’t go bad or get squished. Find a concrete problem and define it in a succinct yet open way. It helps to use open ended definitions. For example, it is not about designing a backpack per se, but maybe a “carrying device”. That will allow more freedom and prevent you from defining the solution in your problem statement. In that example, maybe the solution is not a backpack, but a hat with straps, a wheelbarrow, a trolley, a coat with built in pockets, etc.
  2. Do useful research. useful research is based on the scientific method of defining a problem, setting up a hypothesis and gathering research to prove or disprove a hypothesis or get more information to define the problem. Avoid open ended surveys that ask a bunch of random info. It won’t help and you will just get tons of data that has no meaning.
  3. Explore solutions that are based on your problem and research. It should all follow logically. Problem is A, research shows B, therefore a solution X solves A by doing/avoiding/preventing/assisting B._