Stuck in your design project? Look for a question you want to answer

This semester I’m a Teacher’s Assistant for a branding class here at NC State. The students are sophomores who already have good knowledge of the design universe. I’ve noticed they’re much better at articulating than I was during my undergrad years, working with fast-paced dynamic group projects that require a lot of creative thinking.

Right now they’re working on a design project where they need to choose a place in Raleigh, observe and come up with with a design project for this specific area, also focusing on the future. After walking around and talking to all the groups about their ideas, I realized most were limited to the conventional, such as a new logo or a website for a park. Whenever I asked them about how they got to a specific solution (the research part), it hit me. They’re only thinking of what they wanted to do as a final product, forgetting what the place actually needs.

Many times we feel stuck in a project like all our ideas aren’t just right, the pieces don’t fit and we don’t know what to do or where to go from there. After all those years, something I’ve learned: We might get attached to our personal preferences without noticing. Molding your research, so you can work with something you really want in the end (mobile apps, for example) might not work every time. When in doubt, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the question I want to solve with this project?
  • What’s the main gap I plan to fill?
  • What’s the relevance of my final product for the user and their environment?
  • Does my user really need this? Is it beneficial?

If our project responds satisfactorily to these questions, then we know we’re going the right way. Always remember to work hard on our research of the scenario before deciding on any specific platform. The design process we choose to follow will tell us exactly what the missing piece from the puzzle is when deciding what we should develop. This could be a new logo or a complex service system.