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Define Your Audience

Consider the broad spectrum of people who will be touched by your design solution.


Suggested Time

120 Minutes

Level of Difficulty


Materials Needed

Pens, paper, Post-its


Design team

Process Phase

As you’re framing your design challenge, it’s critical to know who you’re designing for and what you need to investigate. Having an idea of your target audience’s needs, context, and history will help ensure that you start your research by asking smart questions. Don’t limit your thinking just to the people you’re designing for. You may need to consider the community around them, the services they rely on, or even the government policies that play a role in their lives. Depending on how well your team knows the challenge area you might also need to draw on Secondary Research as you do this activity.


  1. With your team, write down the people or groups that are directly involved in or reached by your challenge. Are you designing for children? For farmers? Whose life are you aiming to improve?
  2. The group(s) you’ve defined above are your users. Now, use the question prompts in the Ecosystem Mapping worksheet to explore the behavior you want your user to adopt, and all of the things happening around them that might enable or inhibit that behavior. You’ll need plenty of post-its and wall space to map out potential influences. Bring in some collaborators who have good experience and knowledge of the challenge or context.
  3. Once you’ve done your mapping stand back and look across your ecosystem. The question prompts will have led you to define possible shifts that your user and others around them might need to experience or achieve. Which of these seem like things we could potentially design for? Which feel like constraints we can’t address? Tag each shift accordingly.
  4. Take a moment next to think about where in this ecosystem your own organization currently has influence or is best equipped to support. This should also inform what is in and out of your scope.
  5. This exercise will have generated rich information that can immediately inform your plan for field research. It should give you an indication of who to talk to and what questions about the context and challenge you need to explore. It will also be helpful later when you Determine What To Prototype or develop your Theory of Change.