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Frame Your Design Challenge

Properly framing your design challenge is critical to your success. Here’s how to do it just right.


Suggested Time

1-2 days

Level of Difficulty


Materials Needed

Pens, Post-its


Design team

Process Phase

A design challenge articulates the problem you are trying to solve, and helps you define a scope that is neither too narrow nor too broad. The Frame Your Design Challenge worksheet will guide you through a series of steps to get the right frame on your challenge and get started on the right foot. As you do this you’ll ask yourself: Does my challenge drive toward ultimate impact, take into account context and constraints, and allow for a variety of potential solutions? You’ll dial those in, and then refine your challenge until it’s one you’re excited to tackle. 


  1. Start by taking a first stab at writing your design challenge down. It should be short and easy to remember. Try composing a single sentence that conveys the problem you want to solve. We often phrase these as How Might We questions to set our teams up to be solution-oriented and to generate a lot of ideas along the way.
  2. Now that you have a draft of your design challenge, explore and align on the goal or outcome you hope to achieve. Use the Align On Your Impact Goals activity to ensure that you, your team and any other stakeholders have the same vision of success in mind.
  3. Next you’ll want to think about the audience you’re aiming to serve and the context, constraints, and influences in their lives. Use the Define Your Audience activity to map the ecosystem around your user and the shifts or changes that you might need to influence through your design. This step will help you see how broad or narrow your challenge scope needs to be.
  4. Now that you’ve gathered and organized more information, review your design question and see if it still feels right. Refine your question and capture this, and the information you used to get there, in your Frame Your Design Challenge worksheet.
  5. Framing the right design challenge is key to arriving at a good solution. A quick test we often run on a design challenge is to see if we can come up with five possible solutions in just a few minutes. If so, you’re likely on the right track. Try this, and make tweaks as needed to get to the right framing and scope.