Design as Problem-Solving

Design as Problem-Solving

Have you taken time to learn lately? Even re-learn something you’ve been doing for years? Last month, the Nova design team attended HOW Design Live in Chicago and came away incredibly inspired and re-energized. Being surrounded by designers in a great design town was the perfect combination to break away from the usual and look at things a bit differently.

One of my favorite sessions was by Christine Mau, a creative design leader with global experience. Somewhat surprising in a conference full of visual inspiration was Mau’s emphasis on design as a problem-solving tool and not just aesthetics. Good design must solve the problem, or else it is not good design – a refreshing departure from a purely visual standpoint.


What I learned:

We don’t trust what we don’t understand.

People need to understand what a proposed design solution is accomplishing and how the problem is being solved. Without this understanding, the most attractive design may not be appreciated or valued.

Fear can drive (non)results.

The market often doesn’t notice small changes, and therefore the results may not be positive. Bigger changes that would be noticed are many times avoided purely out of fear. If you are afraid of big changes to solve the problem, the small changes you do make will unintentionally have the same result you fear in the first place – problem not solved.

Change perspectives with visuals.

Words are processed by short-term memory, while images are processed by long-term memory, and therefore are retained longer. Also, a 1-minute video can equal 1.8 million words in terms of impact. Consider the impact of fewer words when deciding on a solution.

Understand the problem before you try to solve it.

Design is not just an end result but is an integral part of the entire problem-solving process. All the pretty images in the world won’t take the place of a well-thought-out strategy with coordinating creative visuals.

Main Takeaway: The Lucky Iron Fish Project
Over 50% of the population of Cambodia has iron insufficiency. Research showed that cooking with a block of iron for 10 minutes would supply 75% of the daily need. However, people were not using the iron block as intended. The solution came with the design of The Lucky Iron Fish. The fish, shaped in a cultural symbol of hope and good luck, meant that suddenly households were eager to use it. By understanding and designing a product that touched into long-established cultural tradition, the problem was solved.


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