Which comes 1st The Problem or The User?

I hope this is a quick reflective post…  However, I tend to write as I speak in tangents, flowery (as my 7th grade teacher Mrs. Heyburn once commented), and I add commas every time I breathe.   It is a good thing I don’t have a complex when it comes to publishing my prototype writing…

Anyway, the question that starts this post off is exactly what I want to answer.  Which comes 1st the problem or the user?  A follow up post will be “Which comes first the solution or the User?”

For me design thinking is all about the User (yes empathy, creative problem solving, mindsets etc), my point is I am finding approaches to DT lately starting with the “problem” and not the “user”. In DEEPdt, there is this discover point, or launching pad into the design challenge. It comes from an observation, a question, a situation, or even a nudge. Yet, never in discovery does the designer propose what the problem is.  How could the designer do that? If DT is human-centered (about another person), how can the designer assume the problem without true contact with the User?  This line of thinking goes along with my beef about starting a design challenge with a HMW…? A Riff & Ramble Unpack it, don’t engrave it The 4th Word If a design challenge starts with a HMW…? which essentially has a framed solution in the making, it is very hard for the designers to detach and maintain a Beginner’s Mindset. Just my opinion. 

So I guess as a caution and a reminder for me yet again, take your observations, your questions, or your design topic, and seek out users to identify, articulate, share, define the “problem” “need” statement…  Just as we are encouraged to stay away from solution, stay away from the problem…  I think once we make that leap, it is very hard to let it go and/or not let it cloud our empathy muscles… Just my two cents. 


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