# Engineering vs design problems

Before trying to solve a problem, it’s essential to understand the nature of the problem. Is it an engineering or design problem? Depending on the answer, a very different approach to solving it is needed.

**Engineering Problem: **An engineering problem usually has a well-defined problem statement with a clear goal, which can be solved through analysis and optimization. There can be a single best solution, as solutions are comparable based on objective criteria. Examples:

Designing a bridge that can carry a certain weight

Designing the hinge of the MacBook

Building the engine of a car

Optimizing warehouse utilization

**Design Problem: **A design problem, on the other hand, can have an ambiguous problem statement without clear criteria or a fixed goal but a desire to improve the existing situation. A design problem has many possible solutions with different tradeoffs around aesthetics, usability, etc. Usually, emotions are involved in a design problem. Examples:

Create an intuitive user interface for an app

Design an office space that promotes collaboration

Design a better mousepad for a laptop

Create food packaging designs

Once we understand what kind of problem we’re dealing with, we can choose the right strategy to solve it. It can be very frustrating when trying to solve a design problem with an engineering mindset. Many problems, including designing our lives, are design problems that don’t have clearly defined parameters, deal with emotions and feelings, and don’t have a right or wrong solution. A few strategies to solve a design problem:

Talk to the user to understand unmet needs

Brainstorm (or rather brainwrite) as many solutions as possible

Test risky assumptions by building small prototypes

Get early feedback for those prototypes

Iterate