For Impact


The Difference Between Design Problems and Engineering Problems

Story | | Nick Fellers

The difference between design problems and engineering problems.

I’m reading Designing your Life and this nugget is powerful + applicable in so many ways.

“There’s a difference between design problems and engineering problems… engineering is a good approach to solving a problem when you can get a great deal of data and you’re sure there is one best solution…

[For design problems] there is no precedent to design toward, there is no fixed or predetermined outcome; there are plenty of ideas floating around…

When you have a desired outcome (a truly portable laptop computer, a sexy-looking sports car, or a well-designed life) but no clear solution in sight, that’s when you brainstorm, try crazy stuff, improvise, and keep “building your way forward” until you come up with something that works. You know it when you see it…”

Designing your STORY, MESSAGING, TEAM!!!! These are all DESIGN problems, not engineering problems. As such, they require that we try things to see what works.

There’s more to it, though… it means we also need to be communicating that these are design problems and not engineering problems. This language helps other participants in the process understand there is no clear solution in sight… that we’ll be ‘trying crazy stuff’… and we’ll keep ‘building our way forward’ until we come up with something that works!