People often want multiple things at a time. Because of this, we face many dilemmas in everyday life: we may want to eat whatever we desire, and at the same time, wish to remain slim. Or, we may want to pursue a promotion, yet fear that it might limit the time we spend with loved ones. Can design help us deal with personal dilemmas?

The answer is yes.


Dilemma-driven design is an approach that considers personal dilemmas as fruitful starting points for user-centered design activities. What makes dilemmas interesting to work with? Here are four main promises of designing with dilemmas:

Dilemmas are engaging phenomena because everybody experiences them in everyday life. More often than not, giving a couple of dilemma examples, such as health vs. indulgence or career vs. family, is enough to communicate the main idea behind this phenomenon.

designing with dilemmas is engaging.

Dilemmas involve conflicting personal concerns, such as the conflict between health and indulgence. These conflicts are known to trigger creative thinking. You can try this with your own team: select a particular dilemma (e.g., health vs. indulgence), and ask your team ‘can you think of something that is both healthy and indulgent?’. You will see that they will almost immediately start discussing design solutions.

designing with dilemmas stimulates creativity.

Dilemmas enable perspective taking. When gathering and analyzing user data, identifying dilemmas necessitates reflecting on competing alternatives and being mindful about potential compromises that might otherwise remain unnoticed in design decisions.

designing with dilemmas enhances design reflection.

Dilemma-driven design can be a means to design for positive experiences and happiness. Dilemma-inspired products can draw users’ attention to their personal dilemmas and support them in productively managing dilemma experiences.

dilemma-inspired products have a positive contribution to user experience and happiness.


To further explore these characteristics, stop by the design cases section.