How to Identify the Best Design Problems

“How to Identify the Best Design Problems” is a part of a 52 weeks discourse on user interface design by Joshua Porter. Porter (2010) states that the most practical approach in user interface design is to solve the existing problems which people are already struggling with. This saves you the trouble of explaining the value and appropriateness of the design. The best approach to identify an existing problem is to listen to complaints and understand the frustrations of the people around us. Observe the people around us and try to find if they are already trying to solve the problem or doing something to solve it. Their actions will help you to design an effective solution for the problem. If people action to solve a problem, means that it is a core problem. But taking action does not mean that the problem is great enough to be solved, check out if people are spending money to solve it. In short, frustrations, actions and spending money habits will help us to identify and prioritise the core problem and in turn, help us to give a valuable design to the community.

A very simple article but tells you the basic steps for creating a design that is problem solving for the community or the people around us. A design that will make a difference in their every day life.


Porter, J. (2010, December 8). How to Identify the Best Design Problems  [Blog post]. Retrieved from


Design is Problem Solving

“Design is Problem Solving” is a short and informative blog by Anthony on the basic necessities of design project handling. Like most of the practitioners of interface design, he asserts that a good design solves a problem. According to him, a design that looks good might not be good as if it does not solve a problem, it is just a decoration.

A designer is hired to solve a client’s problem. It is the designer’s responsibility to clearly identify and define the client’s specific problem. The process of problem solving through design involves a high-level of thinking such as analysis, synthesis, reflection, discretion, abstraction, concentration, curiosity, experimentation, judgement and economy. There is never a one-size-fits-all solution or approach. Similarly, there are rarely more than one solutions to a solution, as there is always one solution that is more appropriate than all the possible solutions. I completely agree with Anthony’s statement “True design excellence has no room for egocentric or self-indulgent clients or designers. A proper understanding of the problem involving all functional and non-functional aspects will lead to a good design.


Anthony (2010, April 17). Design is Problem Solving  [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Power Aware Cord

The power aware cord too is an intelligent design. This power cord tells you how much energy an appliance is consuming through a visual system of blinking or streaming lights that speed up or slow down depending on the amount of energy being used. When the current of electricity isn’t hidden, users can see how a coffee maker, for example, still sucks energy as long as it’s plugged in, even when it’s not brewing. It’s a different approach to sustainable design, one that’s not rooted in materials but in changing behaviour.

The general notion is that is the appliance is not in use and still plugged in, it does not use any electricity but that is not the case in reality. The appliance still uses electricity as long as it is plugged in to the power. This intelligent design makes the user aware of the fact that electricity is still being used even if the appliance is not actually working. This encourages the user to switch off the power  or just remove the power cord from the outlet so that some electricity is saved and not wasted. A practical and educative design solution.


Drumm, P(2010, June 7) Power aware cord [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Good design examples

The Relogik site is a showcase of all the design solutions provided by Damjan Stanković. It is a collection of very good and functional designs for everyday objects like wall electric socket with multiple outlets, ecological and economical traffic lights, paper towel holder, spaghetti server and many more. Each object was designed such that it is very easy to use, completely functional and aesthetically pleasing. These objects make the everyday chore fun.

Take for example, the wall electric socket. It is a very design that keeps the electric outlets organised and safe. Just press the outlet and other additional outlets are visible. Press it again and the extra outlets are hidden in the wall socket. Saves the problem of finding for additional outlets and safe to use.Visually a very simple design but smooth curves, does not give any out of context feeling, you feel an attraction towards it and want to possess it.

Another good example is of the ecological and economical traffic lights concept. Eko light is a simple yet, highly practical concept for traffic lights that not only helps preserve the environment by reducing pollution but promotes safer driving as well. Eko can be easily installed onto existing traffic light systems without much effort. It clearly shows how much time is left for the light to change, thus, helps the drivers to turn off engines and reduce pollution and in turn, save fuel. Moreover, the driver knows about the time to get ready to go and can relax and also reduce potential traffic accidents. Once again a simple design but it solves the purpose of traffic light giving proper situational awareness to drivers and saving fuel, reducing pollution and stress and eliminating potential accidents.


Stanković, D. (2009). “Relogik: Showcase of Damjan Stanković.” Retrieved from

Good design isn’t decoration. Good design is problem solving.

Cornett in her blog InspireUX quotes Jeffrey Veen as “I’ve been amazed at how often those outside the discipline of design assume that what designers do is decoration—likely because so much bad design simply is decoration. Good design isn’t. Good design is problem solving.”

This is very true, most of the people feel that designing is just making things pretty or enhancing the beauty or aesthetics of a product. Earlier, I too, thought of design completely an aesthetic concept where products were created to look pretty, beautiful or awesome. But reading the articles posted in the weekly readings for this unit, I realised that design is not just making products pretty but it is about making the product more usable and loveable. I realised that design is entirely objective. It is a solution that stands aside and performs a function. Everything we interact with every single day has been designed with careful consideration of each curve, contour, colour, texture, etc.

Cornett, C.(2009). Good design isn’t decoration. Good design is problem solving [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Lecture – Introduction to the Unit

Reflective learning portfolio

(Reflective learning portfolio, 2011)


The lecture introduced us to the interface design and interaction design. The main themes involved from a design principles perspective were interaction design, human-product relationships, experience design, exploratory design and conceptual development. The basic concepts involved in interface and interaction design such as definition of design, creativity, interaction design were discussed. The iterative development process is to be followed during the course of this unit. We are to work on developing a product as individual assignment for the completion of this unit.

This year we have two industry clients – Transmin and Better hearing WA.

Transmin has two project – one to redesign the existing joystick console to provide a portable, ergonomic device that is suitable for industrial office environment and the other one is to redesign an existing HMI to provide improved Rockbreaker situational awareness compatible with HTML5 canvas technology.

Better hearing WA project involved the production and distribution of 3 educational DVD resources to rural, remote and indigenous communities, inclusive of supplying 1 of each DVD to the 232 West Australian libraries. These resources currently do not exist in West Australia and would be educational for Deaf and Hearing Impaired people targeting the areas of:

  • Fire Safety for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
  • Everyday First Aid for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

The third option was to identify a design problem/opportunity affecting the first year Edith Cowan university students’ experience.

Adrian from Transmin gave us an overview of the Rockbreaker processes for the Transmin project. This overview helped me to get to understand the way Rockbreaker Automation process works and the actual physical processes taking place in the mining environment. I was impressed by the way this works and thought it an excellent opportunity to design the Transmin HMI for the assignment. I believe this will give me some hands-on experience in designing for the mining industry.

So What is Design?

So What is Design? – A Chapter for the Design Key of the Ecovillage Design Education by E.Christopher Mare – Village Design Institute – 24 June 2009.

This is really good article explaining what is meant by design in real sense. E.Christopher Mare expresses design as “design is the imagining and bringing forth of new worlds“. Initially, he defines design as human activity and then goes on to say that it is the function of human activity. Design and design decisions are a combination of personal creativity, knowledge base and experience and immeasurable attributes like worldview, values, and even the perceived meaning of life.

The article explains what Ecovillage Design is and what is involved in Ecovillage Design. Ecovillage Design is a holistic design approach that involves the ecological, social, economic and worldview dimensions for designing sustainable human settlements. Mare (2009) in the context of Ecovillage Design, very well explains design to be a holistic approach wherein not only the visible parts are involved but the non-visible parts like the social and cultural, economical, ecological and international aspects are involved. Ecovillage Design Education is multi- and trans-disciplinary and multidimensional enterprise that involves tactile, contextual, experiential and community-based learning.

Although the Mare (2009) has explained design in the Ecovillage Design context, but this can be applied to other disciplines of design too. The basic understanding of design is involving all the functional and non-functional, materialistic and non-materialistic, social, intellectual, behavioural aspects of users’ requirements and expectations. It is creating a holistic experience for the user that provides solutions that entice the emotional, intellectual, ecological, visual and functional senses.