SAY section. Write down here all the quotes from the interview that catch your attention as you review
your notes. Be as literal as possible (as opposed to rephrasing what they said in your own words). The
number of quotes you have here will depend on how rich the interview was, but think about 10-20.
The interviewee Joanna (Jo) responded to questions about her role in the office during a
recent downturn in project volume and intensity.
“..it’s good to have this bit of downtime to catch up on filing my projects
but…sometimes its frustrating to have to seek meaningful work because I’m used to
more intense workload and deadlines like we had in architecture school.”
“ I’m enjoying having a bit of a breather but the thing I like most is that we’re encouraged
to take courses and do some research to improve during the work hiatus. I find this pretty
…”Also I have been working on improving our existing systems like project tracking,
space standards and standardizing our furniture and materials palette… which will be
very helpful down the road.”
We have the time now to consider best practices in our projects and shop for better
pricing instead of having to make snap decisions under deadline pressure.
Good not to do everything on the fly to a ‘good enough’ standard,…not the best decision
matrix/context when you’re rushing. Can be frustrating. Good to have time to do a better
When asked for a concrete example of a rushed decision Jo replied:
Well…I guess the recent asbestos issue that was missed on our last renovation was a
good example of getting burned by not being careful and trusting the landlord’s
report…which turned out to be wrong. This cost us 150k in abatement fees on a project
that was aiming for LEED Gold. It worked out OK in the end but not without a lot of
fear and pain.”
When asked about the typical pace and environment at the office was acceptable or
healthy Jo said: No…not really…it seems to go from to much to too little and not much
in between. We go from heavy deadline pressure to almost nothing. Both extremes wear
you down in different ways?
Asked her if Architecture school prepared her for this? “Yeah I guess it was better
training than I realized at the time. But we were all in it together and it was more fun in a
weird sort of way. Work…work is more individual and can be isolating and exhausting.”
“ I’d like to see more teamwork and collaboration at the office. Our open office would be
perfect for that. As it is now I always feel like I am bothering someone or they’re
bothering me. We could be brainstorming, and…OK..socializng but that’s a good thing
sometimes right?..at least some of the time.
When asked what else she’d like to change at the office and why she said”
Uh….good question,…the office is pretty boring so I would like to see more colours,
better, cooler furniture and maybe some art would liven up the place. Just seems very
Sometimes I would like the privacy of a separate office but I’d miss the friendly crazy
active moments that can happen. I’d like more of that! Some of those cappuccino
Starbuckian spaces you see in Arch mags would be cool too.
DO section (optional). If you observed the person in action, describe here behaviors you saw. You can
also combine interview and observation, by asking the person to walk you through what they are doing.
**Note that you may not have anything in this section if you did not have the chance to do observations**
Jo was quite animated when describing her work and especially her ideal workspace. She
was visibly more ‘down’ when talking about the current lull and her difficulties in
making it feel meaningful.
THINK and FEEL sections. Here is where you will make inferences (educated guesses) about the
meaning of what the person said. You need to write down here what you infer the person thinks and feels
(from their point of view) based on what they said and did.
My guess is the Jo is struggling with boredom and anomie in her day to day office work.
She seems almost resentful about her ‘lot’ and appears on the verge of blaming her
employer for letting her down. …. But she’s also optimistic about a turnaround and about
the more collaborative (hipper) future office. That ‘s when she really became fully
engaged in the discussion and showed the most interest and life.
What if you are wrong? You may very well be, but if you don’t take a leap and make inferences, you won’t
get at deep unexpected needs. At later stages in the process you will get more data that will allow you to
refine your understanding and definition of the problem.
III. Guidelines for the Problem Statement
With the problem statement, you encapsulate concrete problems related to the challenge for the person you
interviewed. In the next stage (IDEATE - next week), you will creatively solve them.
Since the person you are designing for might not articulate any needs/problems related to the challenge
(these would be implicit needs), it’s your job to make educated guesses about those needs, based on the
stories and data you gathered in the interview.
Write Problem Statements in this form:
Jo needs a way to stay connected and engaged to her work(place) because the
conventional project structure and office layout is dull and predictable. A more
collaborative work style and space would really help her connect with and enjoy her
STAKEHOLDER needs a way to ________(PROBLEM/NEED)____ Because ____(INSIGHT)_____
STAKEHOLDER: Here you should describe the person you are designing for (one you interviewed). Use
at least 5 adjectives to describe that person. Make sure you add enough information to paint a picture of the
person to someone who has not met him/her (“A detailed-oriented, reliable, degree-holding accountant,
who is curious and able to work in teams, as well as collaborative and creative”).
Jo is an intelligent ‘quick study’ who needs a high level of stimulation to stay interested.
She is committed to doing a good job but expects the job to be good to her as well.
Jo is proud of her skills and wants a chance to show what she can do. She wants to feel
good about what she does and is not satisfied with simply filling in for the day.
PROBLEM/NEED: Use VERBS instead of NOUNS to define the problem/need. Nouns are often
already solutions: as an example, contrast “Joe needs a better pencil” with “Joe needs a better way to write”
or “Joe needs a better way to capture data.” In the first case the solution is already implied in the problem
statement, so there is only opportunity for incremental innovation. In the latter frames, there is an
opportunity to come up with innovative solutions that may go beyond an improved pencil.
Jo (weird name coincidence) needs a more stimulating and responsive workplace that
puts intellectual demands on her towards a meaningful goal.
INSIGHT: Here you provide a justification for the need you stated. The insight often comes from
connecting the dots between different elements on the empathy map.
Jo would thrive in a more open collaborative work environment that looks at her as more
than a resource or an asset and more as a person. She seems to blur the boundaries of
work and social life and the space should support that need by being more fun and less
In order to get a good Problem Statement, craft more than one and then select one that is not too narrow
(eg, Joe needs to get a job as accountant) nor too broad (Joe needs a way to improve his career) to
continue the process.
Here is a template that contains and Empathy Map and Problem Statement:
1. PDF (Slideshare): http://www.slideshare.net/EpicenterUSA/dtal-template-empathy-map-and-problem-