Lenses and Creative Problem Solving

Think of a time when your eyes deceived you. Or maybe a time when you saw one thing, and another person saw something completely different. We view the world through the lens of our past experience. This isn’t inherently bad. It’s a heuristic, or a mental shortcut. This helps our brain make sense of the world.

What we gain in speed is often lost in accuracy.

Our problem solving lenses are narrow. We’ve only lived one life and thus we perceive the world through this singular lens. Your set of salient concerns are fundamentally different compared to anyone else.

Picture two people in a fancy shop. They’re from different socioeconomic classes looking at a nice shirt. One person’s main concern would be the price, while the other person’s main concern would be the style and fit.

This is a simple example, but differences in priorities happen all the time. Lucky for us, they can inform our creative problem solving process and help us make better decisions!

Check out this example of how Smart Design made the famous OXO Good Grip Peeler by designing for someone with arthritis.

Designing the OXO Good Grips Peeler
If we understand what the extremes are, the middle will take care of itself. — Dan Formosa, Smart Design

Lenses can stoke the fire of ideas. If you’re not sure where to go next, try out some different perspectives. Here are a few lenses to apply in your next brainstorm!

The Environmentalist

How could we make this sustainable? Can we make this product out of natural, compostable or recyclable materials?

The Elderly

Is it practical to buy? How can we make this easier to use? How would your grandparents view this problem?

The Poor

Is this worth the money? How can we make this more accessible? How can we deliver this to those in need? How might we make this cheaper?

The Child

Is it fun to play with? Could a child use this? Would it be dangerous? Is it simple enough for young people to understand?


These lenses are pretty broad. Maybe some of these people aren’t even in your target market. No problem! Take your target market and break it down from there. Male, female, single, married, city-dweller, country-person, etc..

You don’t need to design a product for any single one of these personas, but you need to consider their perspectives. Giving each one some thought will better inform your product development and problem solving process. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, pop on a different set of lenses!

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