Problem Identification for Design

  • Robin Jaques University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology
  • Reg Talbot University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology


Differing motivations for design activity are discussed as a basis for examining the relationship between problem identification and problem solving. Active rejection of solution concepts in the early stages of problem identification is advocated, and any exhaustive formulation of complex problems is considered impossible. The case for a formal problem identification activity is presented, supported by observations on the human tendencies towards unjustified assumptions, inappropriate transfer of experience, and diverse perceptions of the world. It is concluded that since no single universally correct definition of a complex situation can exist, the task of policy makers is to find an enabling basis for action. In part 2 the nature of design problems is discussed and it is suggested that the resolution of discrepancy between 'what is' and 'what ought-to-be' is a predominantly technical task following the more fundamental processes of problem identification and policy making, which define 'what is' and 'what ought-to-be'. The basis of an approach to problem identification is described which encompasses the purposes of intervention in situations perceived as unsatisfactory. It appears that arbitrary constraints help to maintain the humanity of the man-made world.

How to Cite
JAQUES, Robin; TALBOT, Reg. Problem Identification for Design. Studies in Design Education Craft & Technology, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 2, aug. 2009. ISSN 0305 766. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 08 june 2023.