Aspects of Wicked Problems

Topics: Design, Designer, Problem solving Pages: 8 (2867 words) Published: April 26, 2013
Aspects of wicked problems

When facing a design problem, designers need to consider a wide range of factors to ensure that it is as successful as possible. When a design problem is ill-defined a wicked problem arises, which complicated the process more. Sustainability is a very important consideration when designing. It's also important that designers understand the role they are playing, and exactly what their task is. I've looked at these things and related them to my own design experiences when possible. Wicked Problems


Wicked designs can be summarised as problems that are difficult to solve, where there is no real obvious solution that will fully resolve the initial problem. This can be due to unclear, unspecific or changing requirements that can make it hard for the designer to know exactly the situation they are designing for. Furthermore, as one aspect within the product is solved, other problems may be unveiled leading to more problems. A typical example of a wicked problem outside the area of design is politics - whatever is done there are still problems and not everyone is happy, additionally as politicians solve issues more emerge. The term wicked design has been defined by ten characteristics compiled by Rittel and Webber (1973) shown below. Number Characteristic

There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem
Wicked problems have no stopping rule
Solutions to wicked problems are not true or false, but better or worse There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one shot operation" because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error every attempt counts significantly Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan Every wicked problem is essentially unique

Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problems resolution The planner has no right to be wrong (planners are liable for the consequences of the actions the generate)

Explaining the Characteristics
There is no definite formulation of a wicked problem

Model3When faced with a wicked problem, it is often difficult to state exactly what this problem is, and what you are aiming to do. This can therefore lead to confusion as to whether or not the issue has been resolved, it is a continuous problem. In my design experiences, I have picked up on things that I didn't initially think about whilst doing research and consulting users. For example whilst doing my product study on Speedo fast skin swimsuits, when I gave a questionnaire to a user it highlighted issues that I didn't initially consider such the users experience whilst using it, such as feeling claustrophobic. This led me to look further into the research Speedo had done regarding comfort. The whole design process ends up being a learning experience because you have to thoroughly look into all aspects necessary in order to try and solve the wicked problem. Figure 1 below shows that the design process is continuous - it is a never ending circle. Wicked problems have no stopping point

A wicked problem can arise when you are designing and there is no clear or obvious place to stop at - they don't have an exhaustive end point. You can go on and on developing and altering the design but the end point will never be clear because of the nature of the problem being solved. In my previous design experiences, the stopping point has always been when I have met all the identified required needs stated in the specification, when the time limit prevents me from going any further, and when I have received positive...
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