Phrase the Challenge

Phrase the Challenge

You can use this method to identify criteria, establish a point of view and write an appropriate Design Challenge.

Your challenge will guide the questions you ask in the field and the solutions you develop later in the process. A good challenge is framed in human terms (rather than technology, product, or service functionality), with a sense of possibility. It is both broad enough to allow you to discover areas of unexpected value and narrow enough to make the topic manageable.

1-5 Hours
  • Pen
  • Notepad
  • Design team
  • Community leadership
The HCD Toolkit
and all HCD methods are licensed under: Creative Commons License
Instructions for this Method
  1. Your design team will work with leadership and/or the people you are designing for, to identify a list of criteria for the challenge. Criteria might answer these questions: Does it need to fit into a certain timeframe? Does it need to have a geographical or topical focus? Does it need to fit into an existing initiative? Does it need to explore new opportunities?

  2. Keeping these criteria in mind, make a list of the challenges people are facing.

  3. Re-frame those challenges in a broader context and from the point of view of those you are designing for.

  4. Choose the top two or three challenges based on your criteria. Work together to narrow the list to one specific challenge.

  5. Write a succinct, one-sentence Design Challenge to guide the design team. Make sure to phrase the challenge in human terms with a sense of possibility. It is helpful to start the Design Challenge with an action verb such as “Create”, “Define”, “Adapt”, etc. Or phrase the challenge as a question starting with: “How can...?”

  • Example of a well-phrased design challenge: “Create savings and investment products that are appropriate for people living in rural areas.”
  • The challenge you choose may be related to adoption of new technologies, behaviors, medicines, products, or services. This might lead to framing a design challenge that is organization-focused, such as “How can we get people in villages to adopt savings accounts?” Instead, work to re-frame the challenge in a more human-centered way, such as “How can we create a financial safety net for people in villages?”

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