Picking a Topic for Design Project

Often as a design student, one would be asked to take up a project sometime in a curriculum, to get a hands on experience on the vastness of the problems we’re dealing with. Students look around and often do figure multiple areas where they could put their acumen to use, but even after having such versatile choices available to them, if becomes difficult for them to pick up a specific problem and define what they’d like to do. The problems are often multi-pronged and you don’t know where to begin.

The golden rules here are :

  1. Be patient.
  2. Don’t rush to define the problem too soon.
  3. Refrain from starting to find solutions at an early stage.
  4. Only frame the problem statement after you’ve understood, classified and organised the big picture.

Often students tend to take a one-track approach, for example a product designer would start looking for products with problems. STOP. Don’t head there. This approach will restrict you from breaking out of a mould and limit your creativity. You might not even go to the exact problem which needs to be solved.Instead of searching for a field-related problem, go to a population or a community of people you’d like to design for. This will help you give a clear idea on what is your interest area.

Let all your talking sessions be in form of recordings to analysis the data afterwards and you can focus on the interview rather than taking notes.

Your next step should be going for an unstructured questionnaire with a sample of the target audience, a informal interaction with the user, will help you understand them better. Take notes here, make mental cues. Making recordings is always better while interviewing as they help you focus on your subject and the discussion rather than distracting and discouraging people by taking notes.

A good tool here is using IDEO method cards

Once you understand your user, you will be able to categorize his various problems and pick the one based on your interest area. Each problem requires a different method of analysis. Depending on the what your interest, you’ll have to extract information by either

‘LEARN’ ing

‘LOOK’ ing

‘ASK’ ing

‘TRY’ ing

Each of these categories on the IDEO cards has various methods, you can use for user research.Choose two or three methods and apply them in your choice area of study. Once the design method is practiced, note down all your observations.

DONT UNDERESTIMATE any information.

Once you have noted down your observations, start grouping them into clusters, which will help you narrow down to two three main problems, which are all interrelated and pointing towards a big picture. (POST ITS ARE A HANDY TOOL HERE)

Now you chose one major problem where you think there is scope for design intervention and


that becomes your topic for your project.