Design Thinking: How Market Research can Develop by Using It

August 19, 2020

Nicholas Lee
Senior Creative Designer

Welcome to the latest in our Monthly Dose of Design Series where we look again at Design Thinking. 

Design Thinking is a creative design research process that can be used by a market research agency to generate design solutions to problems. Suppose you want to offer your clients greater creativity and services. In that case, it’s worth understanding just what Design Thinking is and how it can be used in market research to gain consumer insights. 

Design thinking is visualized by the Design Council’s Double Diamond methodology. It’s a visual explanation of the design process represented by two diamonds, which correspond to looking at a problem deeply and subsequently taking real action to solve it. There are four aspects to this approach:

  • Discover and understand the problem
  • Define the challenge through insight communication
  • Develop answers to the question (s)
  • Deliver a feasible and working solution

In this Monthly Dose of Design, we look at the ‘Define’ phase, which has two parts:

  • How to form a ‘Problem statement.’
  • How to form a ‘How We Might statement.’

When combined, these lead to brainstorming and to the eventual creation of fresh ideas. The ‘Define’ phase shapes the entire problem-solving process. It enables market researchers to successfully move to the Develop and Deliver phases. 

What’s the Define phase?

The Define phase shapes the brief for the next two phases. It begins with the collation of design research, data and analytics collected in the earlier Discover phase. This information is then condensed into a “problem statement” that defines clearly the challenge you’re trying to solve. 

A concise and clear “problem statement” allows you, your team and stakeholders to agree upon a user-friendly and common goal.

How to write a problem statement

There’s no specific formula here. However, based on your research, you should break down the problem to define it. Here’s an example:  


Persona, character, role

Need to be online

Action, situation

Because they enjoy being connected and having fun

Aim, need, outcome

But they also realize that the internet can be addictive and is a place where bullying occurs, causing anxiety and low self-esteem.

Restriction obstacle, friction

A problem statement’s common areas are:

1. Persona

This is your problem statement’s focus: who you’re designing for. For example, businesses, people, products.

2. Action

Based on your design research and data analytics, list what task the persona is trying to accomplish or the situation that requires completion. For example, increasing revenue, eating ice cream, improving an existing platform.

3. Need

Why does this action matter and what leads to these needs that the persona is looking to accomplish? Once you identify this, you can see why the problem needs solving and what value your solution will bring to the persona. For example, income, happiness, useability.

4. Obstacles and problems

Defining these helps you to look What are the issues and pain-points? Stating the challenges helps you look exhaustively at what you need to overcome and what criteria you can use. For example, a competitive market, health problems, budget.

Defining the challenge – How Might We

Once you’ve defined your ‘problem statement’ you can create your ‘how we might statement.’ Chiefly, by questioning your consumer insights and quantitative data analysis to uncover and explore new ideas. By answering ‘how we might,’ you’re generating alternative solutions to a problem.

“Every design challenge at IDEO begins with a “How Might We?”

Navigating between the overly general and too specific.”

Tim Brown, Executive Chair at IDEO

How to form a ‘How Might We’ statement

There’s no formula here, but you have to frame the parameters of the problem. That’s essential so you can think creatively. For example, suppose the challenge or problem is framed too broadly. In that case, there will be too many elements to consider and solve. If it’s framed too narrowly, it’s restrictive to new ideas. 

Using the youth/cyberbullying example again:

Too widely framed: How might we help youths be relaxed

This statement is too broad. Too many factors are involved which doesn’t narrow down where youths can be relaxed. 

Too narrowly framed: How might we control and lock phones of youths to prevent anxiety

This statement is too narrow, focussing on locking and controlling phones. It limits ideas to this small space, giving less creative freedom to generate new ideas.

The sweet spot: How might we help youth be conscious while being connected

This statement is just right. You know you’re working in space where youths are being connected – narrowing the focus to several devices. Making the challenge as “help youth be conscious” can span from controlling them to educating them. 

Final Thoughts

As simple as these two statements might be in the Develop phase of the Design Thinking process, they give you a focus, a unique understanding of the problem and the room to generate ideas. 

Last month…

Last month’s Monthly Dose of Design introduced the topic of Design Thinking. There’s still time to familiarize yourself before...

Next month...

In next month’s Monthly Dose of Design, we will explore the next phase of the double diamond, Develop, and discuss critical tips for idea generation.

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