9 — When there’s a problem with your ‘problem statement’

Whilst idea generation, particularly in a group setting, is exploratory and fun, it is not devoid of complications. This week indicated the movement from a problem space without a solution to a problem statement with a range possible design responses. Ideally.

I found this week’s mapping exercise unproductive. The problem statement I developed was complicated, unfinished, technical and uninteresting, which made brainstorming in a group very slow and difficult. Colette, Brian and Matt could see that I wasn’t interested in the problem I had quickly defined, and prompted me to consider what I was excited by. We discussed my cultural probe and the type of information I was trying to extract from that, finally agreeing that I should take a step back and reframe my problem statement.


In contrast, my group member’s problem sentences were much clearer and more succinct, resulting in brainstorming that was quick, tangential and easy. Brian, Colette and Matt’s problem statements were broad enough so that each of us could call on our individual research and references and offer our own ‘spins’ on the topic, however, narrow enough to allow us to generate a range of useful, considered ideas.

Being adequately prepared for exercises like this is the only way to make the most of them. If I had spent a bit of time preparing a problem statement before class, I may have had a better chance at generating clear and relevant ideas in class with the help of my peers.

In a way, as well as serving as a means for idea-generation, this week’s group brainstorming served a similar purpose to the interviews conducted a few weeks ago, albeit in a very different and informal format. As each problem statement was raised, we responded with stories of personal experiences and projects or design references we were reminded of.

Though this exercise has not advanced my design outcome in terms the upcoming proposal, witnessing and participating in Brian, Matt and Colette’s brainstorming sessions has allowed me to see the value in a strong problem statement.

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