Design problems are often embedded in cultural practices. Some solutions require behavioral changes that users may be reluctant to make. Incremental changes can seem insignificant while attempting a disruptive overthrow can be very risky. So how do you systematically come up with solutions and examine them against risk? Here we delve into what Evans calls "squirrelly-wicked" design problems.
Evans and Sanders talk about breaking design issues into problem space and solution space, where pieces are thought about and worked on separately and simultaneously, keeping in mind both consumer and business needs. They emphasize that in some cases, it's a matter of just starting somewhere.
In the case of reducing paper coffee cup waste, a project investigated by Betacup, the problem is in the awareness stage: Consumers are concerned with convenience, while vendors do not want to reduce margins or offer a less-appealing product than competitors. In the case of Clear RX, a prescription-bottle redesign by then design student Debra Adler was so appealing it was picked up by design-conscious Target, even when it meant unique manufacturing problems would have to be addressed.
Evans and Sanders cite Roger Martin's Design Thinking for Business in breaking down solution-finding: First, deductive, analytical thinking in the examination of problems; second, intuitive, abductive thinking and generative designing in the making of solutions; and third, "configuration" which takes into account business and marketing matters, such as price point and distribution.
Brynn Evans is a Ph.D. student, digital anthropologist, and design research consultant. She has studied people as a psychologist and an ethnographer. Her dissertation work is on “social search,” and how to design online systems that support collaborative question-answering. She's been involved with the betacup initiative, whose goal is to redesign the reusable coffee mug to better align with coffee drinking practices. She has also worked on projects such as understanding the how web developers' motivations and priorities influence their choice of software development tools. Brynn holds a master's degree in Cognitive Science and undergraduate degrees in Science and Technology in Society, and Psychology.
Krista Sanders, creative director for Stone Cobra, has more than ten years of experience as a designer for both on-line and off-line products. She is experienced with creating designs that adhere to industry standards for quality as well as client usability. Recently, she gained recognition for her user interface work on one of the top 40 most innovative applications.
Prior to Stone Cobra, Krista had the distinction of designing and producing nationally recognized multimedia programs in support of compliance to government regulations. She also worked as a design specialist to identify and design effective applications to address client-side gaps in professional development practices.
This free podcast is from our BayCHI series.