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  • Writer's pictureDiksha Pandey

Define the Problem- Stage 2 in Design Thinking

What Is Define Stage In Design Thinking?

Design Thinking:

Design thinking is a five-step process where understanding the problem, getting the solution, then implementation after the testing, customer evaluation, and survey is very important.

Design thinking results in helping the business to meet its end customer at the right time, right place, with the right strategy and its right implementation.

Please study our Blog - Design Thinking, Empathize- Stage 1 in Design Thinking to get a complete understanding of the process.

Define Stage

As the process of design thinking, it is important to define a meaningful and actionable problem statement that helps the designer to focus on problem-solving goals.

After the completion of the Empathize phase of design thinking, the second step is to synthesise the observations about the users and define a problem statement.

Putting together the information created and collected through the empathize phase of design thinking is the defining stage. Analysing the observations and synthesising them to define the core problem that we have identified. This helps the designer in the Ideation phase of design thinking.

The define stage is the most crucial and essential step in design thinking. Only a clear and well-defined problem helps in getting the appropriate solution.

Define Stage = Analyses To Synthesize (Synthesising The Insights)

Synthesis: Creatively placing the complexity together to form the whole idea. It is the act of combining separate ideas, beliefs, and thoughts to create something creative.

Analysis: Breaking down complex concepts and problems into smaller, easy-to-understand constituents. It is a result of careful examination.

Why Is Define Important In Design Thinking?

  • The defined stage helps in synthesising the raw data into meaningful problem statements which result in solutions for the end-users.

  • The defined stage ensures that you and your team fully understand the goals of the design project. It states the opportunity and potential risks.

  • Defining a good problem statement helps the team to make a clear picture of the companies’ goal in the eyes of the stakeholders, investors, and managers.

  • Guides the design team and provides focus on specific needs that the team has uncovered, like the advantage of the new potential solutions.

  • Guides the team for the ideation process in the right direction.

  • Helps in identifying the target users and describing why a problem matters to the users.

  • Provide a clear and concise description of a problem. It also describes why the previous solution did not succeed.

What Is A Problem Statement?

A problem statement is a well-defined description of a problem that the designer has to solve in a design thinking process. A problem statement helps the design team to understand the problem and gradually generate a solution.

Problem statement defines a current problem and focuses on the goals which have to be achieved in the design thinking process. A problem statement should be human-centered and a base for the ideation process.

It should not be very broad that the managers are not able to manage the problem nor should it be too narrow ( stick to a specific technology or market) so that it restricts the team.

What Is A Good Problem Statement?

Human-Centered: Design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving. Therefore a good problem statement is one that is human-centered and user-focused.

A good problem statement should be the outcome of insights gathered from the empathize stage and not business-oriented or product-specific. A statement like “we need” or “ the product requires” should be avoided.

Create Freedom: A problem statement should be broad enough to accept new technology and ideas. It should create freedom for innovation.

A problem statement should not be technology-specific or restricted to a specific solution which could narrow the ideas and thought processes of the team.

Narrow Enough: A problem statement should also be narrow enough so that it is manageable. One problem statement should not contain too many user needs in order to make it manageable, it should be your guide to solve a problem.

The Base of Ideation Stage: A problem statement is said to be the base of the ideation process of design thinking. It identifies the gap between the problem and the unmet goals of the users.

It should be the base of the ideation phase. Once the problem is clear and defined the team can generate ideas to solve it.

How Can You Create A Problem Statement?

Once we know “what is a good problem statement” another thing that comes to our mind is “how to create a problem statement?”. A problem statement should be created keeping in mind the users’ perspective, from the researcher's perspective, based on 4Ws- Who, What, Where, and Why.

From users’ perspective- While creating a problem statement it should be kept in mind that the problem statement should be from the user's point of view.

Like -"I want to do online purchasing but cannot compromise on the price and quality of the product."

From a user researcher perspective- Sometimes there is a difference in what users say and what they actually do therefore user research is an essential part of design thinking. Data collected from the emphasize phase helps to determine the user research perspective.

Like- " Women like to compare a product on the basis of price and reviews on different purchasing websites"

Based on 4 W’s- What is the problem, who is affected, where is the problem and why is the problem worth solving is the 4 W’s that are to be kept in mind while we create a problem.

Like- "Women want to purchase online, making comparisons from different websites on the basis of price and review. Absolution should deliver a quick and easy way of online purchasing."

All the above-mentioned statements address the same issue in three different ways. Focusing on the user, his needs, and why he's up to a specific problem. It is the design thinking team that chooses how to frame a problem statement.

How To Write A Meaningful Problem Statement?

Writing a problem statement is a challenging task in design thinking. Putting all the complexities of the user and his desire into a single statement is a tough task for the design team.

Some methods are used to make this task manageable for the design thinking team.

Space saturation and group: Space saturation is putting up the observations and findings into one place, in order to create a collage of experience, stories, data, thoughts, etc.

'Saturate' is to fill something in such a way that there is no possibility to add anything more. In design thinking, the team covers the display with their thoughts, experiences, observations, data, stories, and interviews in such a way that it creates a wall of information that leads to learning the problem.

Then these thoughts or other information are joined to create links, connections in between, which help in defining the problem and developing solutions.

The four W's: The four W's in every stage of design thinking define the focus on the end-user by the team. When focused on four W's the problem statement can become meaningful and help the designer to get meaningful ideas in the ideation stage.

Who: Through the empathy phase of design thinking now it is clear in the mind of the designers who are facing the problem and who will be the beneficiary from the solutions.

Research helps in breaking down the population into the target audience which needs to be focused on. What does the researcher know about the end-users and the reason for the problem must be clear while stating a problem statement?

What: At this point, what needs to be considered is what is the problem the end user is facing, it is real or not. The nature of the problem and evidence to support the problem are very essential for a problem statement.

Where: Where is the problem actually? Is it in the product, user insight, or any other factor which created the problem? Focusing on the outcome of the impact, the question about whether the problem is a problem statement should be defined.

Why: Why it is important to solve a problem gives a motive to the designer to solve it more efficiently. Problem is recently caused by a new policy or authority or it existed previously. Solving the problem will help the user and affect the business.

Point of View (POV): A point of view (POV) is a meaningful and actionable problem statement that will help you to ideate towards your goal.

POV allows the designer to set the right direction towards his goals by defining the right challenge to be addressed in the ideation process. It gives a vision of the design to the designer which is the combination of knowledge of the user you are designing for.

A POV is the combination of the user, his needs, and insight that a designer has collected in the empathy phase. Once the design challenges are clear and defined a designer can start getting ideas in order to solve the challenges.

Using POV we can start asking questions like "how might we" or "in what way might we" in the brainstorming sessions to generate ideas. The questions may be broad enough to accept innovation and accept a wide range of solutions but on the other hand narrow enough to be manageable.


Understanding design thinking and every phase of it is very essential for every business organization and individual day-to-day life. Before solving a problem it is important to know what the actual problem is. Defining the stage makes it clear in the mind of the designer what the actual problem is, where it came from, who is affected by the problem and why the problem needed to be solved.

A good problem statement defines the current problem which the designer needs to solve. It focuses on the goals which need to be achieved in the design thinking process.

A good problem statement helps the designer to generate ideas in the ideation process or it can be said that it is the base of the ideation process.

Only once a problem is clear, a solution can be generated. A wrong problem or considering solution as a problem can mislead the designer and make the process of design thinking of failure.


What Is Design Hypothesis?

Ans. Design hypothesis is an assumption of a designer that he believes to be true. It helps the designer to prove or disprove the assumption using research data.

What Comes After The Design Stage?

Ans. Once the team is able to convert the problem into actionable problem statements, ideation is the next step in the process of design thinking.

What Is The Need For Define Stage In Design Thinking?

Ans. Define stage identifies the problem in the most beneficial way that the designer is trying to solve.

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