Elva Mankin

CLICK HERE FOR INDEX PAGE PDF FILE – CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE DESIGN PROBLEM AND BRIEF   DESIGN PROBLEM AND BRIEF V. Ryan © 2001-2010 The Problem and Design Brief are sometimes viewed as two different sections of the design process. However, they are very closely related. Before you can […]




V. Ryan
© 2001-2010

The Problem and Design Brief are sometimes viewed as two
different sections of the design process. However, they are very closely
related. Before you can can start a design project you must find a ‘problem’
to solve. Sometimes this may be given to you as a question set by the
teacher or the Examinations Board and is usually a paragraph of writing. The
‘design brief’ follows the ‘problem’ and states clearly how you intend to
solve the design problem.

Below is an example of a design problem and brief.
Remember, the presentation is important especially if you are taking the
Graphic Products course. Above all the problem and brief must be easy to
read and follow, clearly saying what the problem is and how you intend to
solve it.


A number of houses have been broken into on my street. It
has been noticed that the number of strangers walking down our street has
increased lately and house holders are becoming concerned about the security
of their houses. The police have advised people to make their houses look as
if they are occupied when they go away for a holiday or even out for the
evening. This may deter a potential thief from breaking into either the
house or garage.

The Neighbourhood Watch scheme has also been introduced
recently and this has helped people feel more secure. However, even though
neighbours will keep an eye on your property if you decide to go out and
leave the house empty, they cannot watch twenty four hours a day.

Often even the police ignore house alarms when they are
activated because of the high number of false alarms.


I am going to design and make a security device that will
make my house look occupied when, in fact, it is empty. Police statistics
clearly show that houses are much more likely to be broken into when they
are empty. Consequently, if the house looks occupied it is likely to be

The device will be mobile so that it can be moved from
room to room, easy to set up and control and also cheap to make. It must not
be powered by mains voltage and in this way it will be completely safe to be
left ‘on’ for a long time and will not be affected by power cuts. It will be
activated by anyone approaching the hose from the front or back.

It must deter even profession crooks from taking an
interest in our house and even convince people in the street that the house
is occupied.




The brief and problem shown below has been produced for a
project based on an educational toy.

The brief and problem is mainly text (writing) that is
printed in a clear style so that it can be read and understood easily.
2. The problem is a paragraph or more in
length. It describes the problem you are aiming to solve. Do not say how you
intend to solve the problem, only what the problem is. If you have been
given a examination question as your design project, add more detail. The
example opposite is based on the following examination question:
“Design and make an educational device for young children. It must improve
hand and eye coordination”.
The problem written opposite is a more detailed and imaginative way of
writing the examination question. A pedestrian crossing simulator has been
selected by the pupil as the educational device.
3. The first sentence should state the
problem, adding more detail with the following sentences.
4. If the examination question does not
name the product that has to be designed and made (such as an educational
device) – you can mention an area that you are interested in. This could
include, jigsaws, puzzles or something that could be adapted as an
educational device.

1. Always start the design brief with “I
am going to design and make …..”. This is followed by a general
description of the type of device you feel will answer the design problem.
2. Do not be too specific. The brief
should be a general description that allows you flexibility regarding the
type of product you intend to make. For example, if your are designing an
automatic animal feeder it may be a good idea not to say the type of animal
it is for, at least not at this stage in the project.
3. Do not be specific about materials.
It may be wise to avoid stating the exact materials it will be manufactured
from (eg. pine, steel, perspex etc…). Instead describe the materials to be
used as strong, tough, flexible, natural, manmade, recycled, water-proof or
similar general descriptions.
4. Mention points such as; safety,
general size, what it will do (it’s functions), general properties of the
materials needed, who it is for (eg children), basic cost of manufacture or
a lower and upper cost limits, circuit requirements and other points you
feel are important.




A. Is there a product that you could
improve for a hobby or interest?
B. Is there an item that you use every
day that could be improved? Is there an item that could be adapted for
disabled people or young children or the elderly? or another group of
C. Ask your friends and relatives. They
may have a few suggestions about design problems you can solve that will
help them.
D. Do not be over ambitious. Do not
select a design problem that is too complex.
E. Ask the teacher for advice and look
at completed projects for inspiration.
F. Complete your homework on time. Do
not fall behind as you may find it impossible to catch up.





  1. A sample design problem is seen
below. Read this problem carefully.  

A local company has found that
sales of its educational toy range are falling. This is due to competition
from other companies, especially from abroad.
The company sells a range of toys all aimed at helping young children learn.
Some are number games and others help children learn the alphabet and to
read simple words. Other toys help children develop hand / eye coordination.
However, in recent years more imaginative and interesting games/toys are
been manufactured by other companies. If our local company does not design
and manufacture more interesting games/toys it will slowly reduce its
workforce and eventually shut down.

  2. In order to fully analyse the design
problem to be solved list the key words / phrases..  


  3. Take the most important key words /
phrases and explain what each one means.  

A company usually employs people. They may work in a
factory or shop. A company is a business but also an organisation of people
who work together in order to be successful. A company pays wages and has
other cost but always aims to make a profit.


Most companies aim to make sales of their products. If
they do not sell their products they will not make enough money to pay wages
and to invest in new equipment and machinery. A company that is not making
money is said to be ‘in the red’. A company that makes money is said to be’
in the black’. All companies need customers as these are the people who buy
the final product.



Most companies have to compete against other companies
making the same product. Usually the customer decides which product is the
best by deciding to buy it, or not. To be successful a company must have
efficient, up to date equipment/machinery. It must have well trained staff
and manufacture a quality product. Customers must be satisfied that the
product they are buying is value for money.

As a child grows up his / her coordination skills
develop. He/she becomes better at using their hands and fingers and ensuring
that their hands and fingers do what they want them to do. Very young
children have poor hand/eye coordination – they have difficulty picking
items up. Encouraging children to develop good hand/eye coordination skills
is important.

All companies have markets for their products. A market
is usually composed of customers of a particular age range or particular
types of people. For example, some products may be designed for young
children whilst other products may be designed for old age pensioners.
Sometimes a company may target certain people to encourage them to buy their
product. This is usually done through advertising. A company may sell its
products at home and abroad.

Young children learn in many ways. Usually a child will
learn quickly if what they are doing is fun or exciting. Many games and toys
involve the use of numbers, letters or words. Sometimes shape and movement
is integrated into a learning toy/device. Sound, even if is caused by
mechanisms rather than electronics encourages a child to learn.

  4. When you have fully analysed a
problem you will be ready to write a meaningful Design Brief.    

Write a problem and brief for a project of your choice.
Try identifying a design problem that you have experienced yourself.


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