The ‘Wicked’ Problem in Design.

10 common mistakes that ‘Designers’ make while choosing a problem to solve.

In the process of Designing the first step that one goes through is coming up with a problem statement. Needless to mention, if the first step that one takes as a designer is wrong, the entire energy is put in the wrong direction and the desired result is obviously a poor design or an unsuccessful product or service as the case may be.

The Design Problem needs to consider many important aspects which unless focussed on severely and naturally direct the solution in the wrong direction. Any ill structured or ill designed problem is a “Wicked Problem”.

Following are the 10 most obvious hurdles that come in before a problem statement is finalised or when the work has just begun.

  1. A good designer should not let an already existing solution in our mind guide our problem statement just for the sake of achieving that long dream of making the solution into a reality.
  2. Very often, designers tend to solve or attempt to solve the wrong problem. This happens either because the context has not been understood properly or one attempts to solve the problem in a different frame than where it exists. A designer needs to ensure that the problem statement narrowed down upon exists in reality and is not just an assumption. Often, we just assume that what we believe exists in reality without doing much of a ground check.
  3. One might even end up creating a problem where none exists and proceed forward towards solving it. This can happen either because of over enthusiastic design patriotism or going a step further than required to solve the particular problem.
  4. While solving, designers tend to create another problem without becoming aware of it and end up picking it as the next step in the design process.
  5. The understanding of the problem also matters in the sense that one’s understanding of the situation need not necessarily be the actual situation.
  6. Employing wrong tools, methods and chasing the wrong solution is another of the prime mistakes that designers make.
  7. Mistaking the act of analysis of problem as the act of solving (synthesis of solution) comes in naturally.
  8. Even if everything else has been taken care of, the starting point is not the user thereby causing a flaw in the fundamental manner the problem should be tackled in.
  9. 80% of the time, designers end up putting all the energy and resources on solving the least important of the problems.
  10. Also because of biases, a designer may not accept that the problem exists in the first place in a given situation.

The above points came in as a gradual realisation out of my course which I recently finished. What is surprising is that we all as designers have been through this phase once for sure.

It’s time we gave a thought to stuff like this…..