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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

90 Minutes

Level of Difficulty


Materials Needed

Pens, Post-its


Design team

Process Phase

Getting the right frame on your design challenge will get you off on the right foot, organize how you think about your solution, and at moments of ambiguity, help clarify where you should push your design. Framing your design challenge is more art than science, but there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, ask yourself: Does my challenge drive toward ultimate impact, allow for a variety of solutions, and take into account context? Dial those in, and then refine it until it’s the challenge you’re excited to tackle.


  1. Start by taking a first stab at writing your design challenge. It should be short and easy to remember, a single sentence that conveys what you want to do. We often phrase these as questions which set you and your team up to be solution-oriented and to generate lots of ideas along the way.
  2. Properly framed design challenges drive toward ultimate impact, allow for a variety of solutions, and take into account constraints and context. Now try articulating it again with those factors in mind.
  3. Another common pitfall when scoping a design challenge is going either too narrow or too broad. A narrowly scoped challenge won’t offer enough room to explore creative solutions. And a broadly scoped challenge won’t give you any idea where to start.
  4. Now that you’ve run your challenge through these filters, do it again. It may seem repetitive, but the right question 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.