Design: Investigating solutions

Having generated a number of ideas – whether by using brainstorming, mind mapping or by some other technique – you will need to narrow down your potential solutions to those that are most likely to provide you with the optimum solution. Each of those that you select for further investigation can be referred to as a candidate solution.

Each candidate solution should be investigated and the successful candidate solution can then be identified by evaluating each against a set of criteria, such as physical properties, (e.g. size and weight), cost of materials, ease of manufacture, reliability, and so on.

When selecting the final design solution from the set of candidate solutions you need to ask yourself a number of questions, including:

  • What does the product or service do? Does the proposed solution solve the problem described in the brief?
  • What materials or resources are required to manufacture the proposed solution or provide the proposed service? What tools, equipment and people are required?
  • What must the product or service look like? How easily can this be achieved using the proposed solution? Are there any other aesthetic factors that need to be taken into account?
  • What physical properties (i.e. size, weight, strength, etc) are required?  Can these requirements be met using the proposed solution? Does the solution meet all the physical requirements?
  • Are there any problems or particular considerations that need to be borne in mind in relation to Health and Safety? Are there any environmental issues that need to be considered?
  • How easy will it be for the client, customer, or end-user, to use the proposed solution? Are there any ergonomic factors that need to be taken into account?


The term ergonomics comes from two Greek words “ergo” meaning “a task” and “nomos” meaning “a law or a rule”. Ergonomics (sometimes also known as human engineering) is the study of how the human body relates to its environment. When considering design solutions we need to give some thought as to how human beings (i.e. end-users) will interact with what it is that we are designing!

Evaluation matrix:

One good way of comparing a set of candidate solutions is the use of an evaluation matrix. This is simply a table that lists the design criteria (in rows) and each of the candidate solutions (in columns). When you construct an evaluation matrix you put a mark or a score in the cells corresponding to your assessment of each candidate solution against each criterion.

The example below is a simple evaluation matrix used for selecting the material used for the body panels of a high-performance racing motorcyle. The ticks indicate that a particular criterion is satisfied whilst the crosses indicate that it is not satisfied. The question marks are used where some doubts might exist or where the criterion can be satisfied with some difficulty (for example, aluminium and steel panels would need to be formed into the required aerodynamic shape).




















  Copyright © 2002 Mike Tooley - All rights reserved.