Stanford University

Project 2: Needfinding

Part I

Form a team

Form a team of four from your studio. We suggest that you seek out teammates who bring together complementary skills and who have compatible schedules and priorities.

Write a needfinding plan

You are welcome to choose any direction that fits within the studio theme. Your studio instructor will provide suggested activities to observe and people to talk to.

Decide on an initial needfinding plan, focusing on with whom and where you want to do your needfinding. Produce a short list of your stakeholders: for example, if you are interested in elder care, potential stakeholders include the elderly being cared for, family members, and health care professionals. How or where you might find them, interview them, and observe them? What do you hope to learn? What will you be sketching? This should be at least two solid paragraphs.

Next, put together a discussion guide of questions and topics to cover when you go out on your interviews. The discussion guide should record verbatim your introduction, the questions you are going to ask, what activities (if any) you are planning on doing with the participants, and (if any) survey questions you will be distributing over the web. The verbatim part is key because if you ask leading questions, the needfinding will be useless. The Asking Questions section in Patnaik should help.

Before going out, post your needfinding plan to your studio staff on Piazza for feedback.


Execute on your needfinding plan and gather your observations. Capture a mix of sketches, text, and when appropriate, photo and video. Record audio (or video) from your interviews, with permission. This should take at least a couple of hours of dedicated observation, capturing, and sketching.

Studio-specific requirements (your studio instructor will communicate if these steps are required):

  • The staff will be giving you feedback on your interview technique as part of this milestone. To do so, we need you to transcribe a ~3 minute clip of one of your interviews. Pick a 3-minute slice where you would like help digging deeper, and transcribe it out into a document. If you prefer to experience a quick paid option instead of transcribing it yourself, it would cost about $5 and require a 24-hour turnaround with Rev.
  • Generate three people profiles to capture different stakeholders. (See a template here that you can copy and edit for your submission.) People profiles ensure that you have enough depth on a perspective from your conversations to tell a story. They help your results become more emotionally resonant.


It's time to synthesize your needfinding results. Grab a whiteboard, and start by putting all your observations onto Post-It notes. Start grouping them, turning your raw observations into interpretations (recall lecture for details), and then regrouping as necessary. Aim to produce needs. Remember, needs are verbs (activities or desires that your user could use some help). They are not nouns (solutions). Don't restrict your focus to just what people say and do, reflect also on what they think and feel. Aim for around ten needs or more, as well as a selection of your top three needs.

Finally, translate your needs into "How Might We...?" questions. Aim for at least ten How Might We questions.

Submit and Present

On Canvas

Do not submit a raw dump of materials; rather, organize a subset of your most salient, insightful or inspiring observations and interpretations. Make sure to back up each interpretation and need with an observation, a quote or a picture.

Pull everything together into your submission for P2.I on Canvas. This includes:

  • A text file with your team members' names and SUNet IDs.
  • A document detailing your topic of interest, your needfinding plan, and your discussion guide.
  • Your selected observations with explanations
  • Your selected interpretations with explanations
  • Your How Might We questions
  • Any studio-specific requirements

In Studio

Your team will have four minutes to present a summary of what you did, as well as your most salient observations, interpretations, and How Might We questions. For this milestone, you may present these informally or using slides.

Grading rubric

Each milestone is worth five points. You will receive five points for completing the assignment satisfactorily, submitting it, and your whole team bringing your deliverables to class for feedback.