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How to come up with ideas for your design or engineering project – some helpful tips

Monday March 2, 2020 at 10:37am

We know coming up with an interesting and creative design or engineering project can be a difficult and daunting task. In this short blog post, we will show you an ideation process that can help you be more creative!

Key Steps

  • Defining the problem
  • Writing a Problem Statement
  • Ideation
  • Brainstorming
  • Selecting ideas
 

Define the design problem

Firstly, take a step back and make sure you have a clear understanding of the problem. You need to be able to empathise with whatever target user you choose. It's important to put yourself in their shoes and understand what their day-to-day looks like. When you do this, you can then begin to identify what problems they may face, and therefore, better understand the design problem.

Using an Empathy Map

One way to summarise what the user may experience, is to create an Empathy Map. This is a table divided into quadrants, with each section labelled based on what the user may think and feel, see, hear, say and do. This can then be referred back to, keeping the project focused around the user and their issue being solved.

Writing a Problem Statement

Using your Empathy Map, create a short Problem Statement of the exact issue you're trying to solve, clearly establishing a brief.

A good Problem Statement should include:

  • What the existing problem is
  • The negatives of the current problem
  • Why the problem matters
  • How the problem affects the target user

Ideation

The ideation stage is all about taking what you have produced so far and creating possible solutions. Using your problem statement as a guide, you will come up with a wide variety of ideas before finding the best possible solution for the user.

Brainstorming

Write your problem statement in the middle of the page and start recording ideas for possible solutions. Remember, when brainstorming always go for quantity. Don't be afraid to write down outlandish and bizarre ideas, as the goal of this brainstorming session is to generate as many ideas as possible to choose from.

Doing this effectively can result in a huge amount of different solutions, so remember to set a time limit for this activity, making sure you remain focused on the task.

Selecting ideas

There's a variety of different methods for filtering out bad ideas, but we will be going over the Four Categories method. As the name suggests, you sort your ideas into 4 categories; Most rational, Most delightful (to your user), Darling (most innovative) and Long shot (most unrealistic).

Using the ideas you generated on your mind map, begin sorting them into each category (you can place an idea in more than one section). Using this, you can clearly see which ideas are innovative, but still realistic enough to fit your brief.

Take away

Selecting a project can seem daunting, but pick something that you find interesting and innovative, whilst still being realistic and able to fulfil the brief.


Sources

 https://trainingindustry.com/articles/content-development/engaging-the-learner-with-design-thinking-stage-1-empathize/
https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/stage-2-in-the-design-thinking-process-define-the-problem-and-interpret-the-results
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/empathy-mapping/
https://science-fair.org/students-parents/winning-engineering-projects/
https://my.pblworks.org/resource/blog/how_do_you_come_up_with_these_project_ideas
https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/how-to-select-the-best-idea-by-the-end-of-an-ideation-session

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