Getting to Define the Problem

by September 8, 2006

Another common response to the Defining the Problem series on Functioning Form focused on getting the opportunity to effectively reframe problems. Several designers wanted to know how they could convince clients or stakeholders to give them the time and resources needed to better define the problems they were trying to solve. They correctly noted that many people working with designers were more interested in committing time and money toward defining solutions than reframing problems.

From my experience, it’s often best to take a cue from Nike and "just do it". Don’t wait for permission. Instead consider putting in some extra hours or think of the reframing process as a side-project if you have to.

Establishing problem definition as a core value-add of the design process takes time and often more than one concrete example. In fact, the first few times you do it, clients might not even be aware that the way they think about their problem or business changed as a result of your efforts. They’re quite likely to simply be happy to have a solution.

After a few times through the process however, they’ll recognize something different is going on. They’re not just getting a solution from you –they’re getting a better way to look at and understand their problem. At this point, they’ll not only see the value of your efforts but also insist on defining the problem the next time you work together.