Prof.’s Notes


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SBFA supports the Campus service workers from AFSCME 3299 (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) who are striking October 23-25 together with the university’s Professional Healthcare, Research and Technical Workers (UPT-CWA) over concerns about growing racial and gender disparities within UC’s workforce, and the University’s decision to bypass collective bargaining and impose employment terms on patient care workers that would increase healthcare premiums, flatten wages, lift the retirement age, and risk the continued outsourcing of UC jobs.

– On average, Latinos and Latinas earn starting wages 21% lower than white workers, and Blacks earn 20% less than whites.

– In 1996, Blacks comprised 19% of all UC service and patient care workers. By 2015, they comprised just 12%—a 37% decline.

– UC’s own numbers suggest that it outsources work to over 7,000 contract workers—workers doing the same jobs as its lowest-paid career employees but earning as much as $8.50 less per hour.




What Makes a Good Problem Statement?

A problem statement will guide you and your team and provide a focus on the specific needs that you have uncovered yet. It also creates a vision that allows everyone in your team to spark off ideas while staying on track.

A good problem statement should thus have the following traits:

  • Phrased as a question: Problem statement often starts with “How might we…”, or “What can we do to…” type of questions to encourage thinking creatively during brainstorming all the way up to solution generation.
  • User-centered approach: Problem statement should be framed according to specific users that you are providing the solutions for. Therefore, understanding their needs and goals are very important to “empathize” with them. In reality, it could be tough but it’s beneficial to keep it away from the technology, budget constraints and specifications. Focusing on people (users) is key.

“The challenge you choose may be related to adoption of new technologies, behaviors, medicines, products, or services. This might lead to framing a design challenge that is organization-focused, such as “How can we get people in villages to adopt savings accounts?” Instead, to act as a springboard for innovation, the challenge should be re-framed in a more human-centered way, such as “How can we create a financial safety net for people in villages?” — IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit

  • Narrow in scope but broad enough for creativity: Problem statement shouldn’t be too broad because it will likely cause you and the team to feel lost. While it still require sufficient amount of constraints and requirements, it’s also crucial to not focus too narrowly on the specificity of the potential solution. Restricting excessively on freedom will prevent the team from exploring areas that might bring unexpected value and insight to the project.

*Note: Don’t jump into solving the problem or assume ahead.

How to Define and Write a Problem Statement

There are a lot of resources online that you may be able to find. Here are some example ways that may help you get started.

#1 — “How Might We” Questions

“How Might We” questions are questions that have the potential to spark ideation sessions such as brainstorms. They should be broad enough for a wide range of solutions, but narrow enough that specific solutions can be created for them.

For example, you have observed that people tend not to pay attention your Ads in your website, some questions which can guide and spark your ideation session could be:

  • How might we make users pay more attention to the Ads we installed?
  • How might we make Ads more engaging and immersive experience?

The “How Might We” questions open up to Ideation sessions where you explore ideas, which can help you solve your design challenge in an innovative way.

#2 — The 5 ‘W’s — Who, What, Where, When and Why


  • Who does the problem affect? (i.e specific groups, organizations, customers)
  • Who are our primary/secondary users?
  • Who other than our primary/secondary users might we affect?

What —

  • What are the boundaries of the problem? (i.e organizational, work flow, geographic, customer, segments)
  • What is the current issue that require attention?
  • What is the ultimate goal/impact?
  • What are some background information that we need?
  • What does the end goal look like?
  • What would happen if we didn’t solve the problem?

When —

  • When does the issue occur?
  • When does it need to be fixed?
  • When are we looking to plan, organize, ideate, design, prototype and ship?


  • Where is the issue(problem) occurring?
  • Where do we need to focus on the most?

Why —

  • Why is it important that we fix the problem?
  • What impact does it have on the business or customer?
  • What impact does it have on all stakeholders (i.e employees, suppliers, customers, shareholders)

#3 — The 5 ‘Why’s

It’s a strategy where you keep asking yourself “why” so that it helps you to dive deeper into the problem and force you to understand more about the space and motivate to learn. For example, when the vehicle doesn’t start (problem),

  • Why does the vehicle not start? → The battery is dead.
  • Why is the battery dead? → The alternator is not functioning.
  • Why is the alternator not working? → The alternator belt has broken.
  • Why is it broken? → The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced.
  • Why was it not replaced? → The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (Root cause)

And a couple more methods:

  • Affinity Diagrams
  • Empathy Mapping