A Design Brief


The objective of this Design Brief is to provide the “inspiration,” and commence the “ideation” as part of Browne’s (2009) three phases for design thinking for the identified space known as Alex and Michelle’s Coffee Shop, Kooringal Mall, Wagga Wagga, NSW Australia.

With the understanding that it is best to continually make observations (Brown & Katz, 2011), this Design Brief was developed after two observations which took place on during the week commencing Monday 4 August. This immersion in the problem space allowed me to develop a deep understanding of the challenges associated with the space in alignment with the ‘Empathise Stage’ as per the Design Thinking Framework developed by Stanford Institute of Design.

Stanford Design Process http://www.blendmylearning.com/2014/05/28/using-design-thinking-to-develop-personalized-learning-pilots/

Defining the Problem From the observations, the following problems were identified:

  • over-crowding which can occur when take away customers are waiting for their coffees.
  • cramped conditions for employees working behind the counter.
  • the ‘disconnect’ between the indoor space and the outdoor space, further emphasized by extremes of weather.

Therefore, the problem I want to solve is framed as a question….. “How can Alex and Michelle’s Café be designed so that it is not crowded for patrons nor cramped for employees?”

Constraints “The introduction of constraints effectively pushed the solutions groups generated outside of the box” (Eden, Elliot et al. 2012). Therefore, with that in mind, I offer the following constraints:

  • Extensions of the space are not possible due to common space restrictions
  • Connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces is not permissible under the community space restrictions  as per shopping centre

Known Considerations:

  • cannot expand or extend the space due to restrictions of shopping precinct shared community space.
  • entrance to the café gets crowded during the early morning rush.

Unknown Considerations:

  • unclear budget
  • what has already been tried to address
    • the over-crowing for take away customers
    • the cramped conditions for employees

With the understanding that the user experience is crucial to resolving the identified problem (Pilloton 2010; Eden, Elliot et al. 2012) the following actions are required:

  1. Conduct surveys of patrons to obtain feedback regarding their ‘experience’ of the café space.
  2. Conduct Interviews with employees of the café
  3. Interview the owner/manager of the shopping precinct to establish clarify the parameters for possible refurbishment options.
  4. Introduce the problem to experts not familiar with the problem space and engage them in conversations about possible solutions.

Future Considerations

From these actions, there could be the use of  the How Might We (HWE) approach (D.School, Stanford) adopted by the Alpha Schools Project (Eden, Elliot et al. 2012) to prompt the “ideate” phase some alternative thinking: How Might We?????

  • create a more inviting space for people to wait for their coffee?
  • more effectively connect the indoor and outdoor spaces of the café?
  • reconfigure current or new furniture to create more space for customers and employees?
  • create a café experience which is for “local community purpose” (Pilloton 2010)?



Brown, T, & Katz, B. (2011). Change by design . Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28(3), 381-383. doi:10.1111

D.school, Stanford University, How might we?… Method Card:http://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HMW-METHODCARD.pdf Accessed 13 August, 2014.

Eden, W., Elliot, A., et al. (2012). School Design with Design Thinking. San Jose, California.

Pilloton, E. (2010). Teaching Design for Change www.ted.com, Youtube. http://www.ted.com/talks/emily_pilloton_teaching_design_for_change



I have commented on the following blogs…..

Rochelle’s Blog at….. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/rmasaoka/2014/08/16/c-k-theory/#comment-21

Deb’s Blog at…… http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/galloised/2014/08/15/175/#comment-27

Heather’s Blog at…. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/jesoods5/2014/08/14/design-brief-blog-task-3/#comment-21

6 thoughts on “A Design Brief

  1. This presents as a well structured design brief. I find these posts difficult to comment on as we are all going through the same phase of learning. I have not posted my brief yet but I did question if I was indeed asking the right questions or setting the correct goals. You have made excellent use of published resources, which is to be applauded. This is not something that is seen in a traditional brief, as far as I can work out.

  2. Hi Greg,

    Like Simon says, a well-structured and referenced brief. I was just wondering about your “unknown considerations” part. They seem to be, and correct me if I’m wrong I’m still trying to work this stuff out, ‘known unknowns’. You know the budget is unknown, you know you don’t know about the cramped conditions for employees etc. I was just wondering if your brief considers the ‘unknown unknowns’ to allow for that hint of magic, of imagination. I like to think of these as the “I wonder if…” or “What if…” questions.

    Hope that is useful! I could totally be paddling up the wrong river though, so take the comments with a grain of salt 😛

  3. Hi Matt,

    Yes, the ‘Unknown Unknowns’ are very much that for me. In fact, I have NO IDEA when it comes to ‘Unknown Unknowns’. I suppose using the term ‘Unknown Considerations’ for me, can be translated to ‘Known Unknowns’. Then again, maybe I just don’t know.

    As for your thoughts Simon, I agree. We have all been introduced to a very different way of thinking. Ewan is definitely pulling us away from the traditional approach to design and reminding us of authentic design thinking.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  4. Hi Greg,

    I liked reading this brief as I have been to that cafe and could personally identify with the over-crowding problem. It is a problem I find in many cafes- especially when waiting for takeaway coffee. I like how you identified what has already been tried, like Ewan said in the meeting the other night- this often gets forgotten in design briefs but seems to play a crucial element in where to go next if we identify what we already know and what has been tried.

    Your ‘how might we’ questions focus on making small changes to improve the space as it is currently. If I was the designer (and by no means am I even close) I would feel I need more scope for creativity. Instead of calling for small improvements or developing current ideas…how about aiming for a total transformation (even with the given constraints), with new and creative ideas that will better meet the needs of the consumer (Brown, 2008). As the author of the brief- we don’t have to have the answers, but with more scope- I would assume the designer could come up with more creative ideas.

    Bec 🙂

    Brown, T. (2008). Design thinking, Harvard Business Review, 86(6), 84-92. Retrieved from:http://hbr.org/2008/06/design-thinking/

  5. Hello Bec,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. It is much appreciated.

    I take your point about transformation and ‘creativity’ is not a strong point of mine. I actions such as….
    surveying customers and introducing the problem to objective experts, as well as asking How Might We (HME) reconfigure current or new furniture and create a café for “local community purpose” might get the creative juices flowing.

    I will definitely have tho think more about brief being more open transformation; the ‘unknown unknowns’.


  6. Some more thinking… You have defined the problem well and put in constraints for valid reasons. However, you did then go into “fix it mode” which I am learning is not the job of the Design Brief. The Design Thinking Framework that you have highlighted above will lead onto finding innovative solutions to the problems given. I wonder if the framed question could have been more provocative rather than focussing on the overcrowding. A side note…some people love that busy crowded feeling of some cafes. Walk down DeGraves St in Melbourne and it is people sitting shoulder to shoulder…but that is the ambience of that cafe culture. A cafe in my neighbourhood suffered overcrowding from it’s take away service so they opened a new outlet across the road under a different business name. A very smart solution for a thriving business.
    Back to the design brief. Our course notes state “…. the brief takes us as far as an initial framing of the problem to be solved – it does not necessarily test that problem for validity or worthiness to be solved in the first place, and it does not provide the process for solving it.”

    With regard to unknown-unknowns. They are exactly…. unknown. As stated by Hatchuel (2004) “Design is obviously a process by which something unknown can intentionally emerge from what is known.”

    Food for thought… enough for us all to ponder more deeply.

    Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., & Weil, B. (2004). CK theory in practice: lessons from industrial applications. In DS 32: Proceedings of DESIGN 2004, the 8th International Design Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

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