For the airport security service design project and for my current service design project, my team has defined design principles to shape the final solution and ensure a benchmark of success. For airport security example, saying goodbye was a design principle. In order for our solution to be considered a success, had to address providing a place for people to say goodbye.

But how do you come up with design principles?

First, you need to do research. The way I view design principles are a reflection of the needs and values that were witnessed during the research. My current service design team had a recent meeting where we began defining design principles and we talked about how the principles are similar to need and values, but not quite the same. Perhaps it can be articulated in terms of “our solution must address design principle X in order to fulfill need Y.” And it may be that a design principle addresses many needs.

Even with good research, coming up with the principles isn’t easy. It took us a couple weeks to come up with the design principles for the Charmr this summer at Adaptive Path. And starting out can be intimidating because your developing powerful statements that drive the product.

For the airport security project, my team found it helpful to phrase the principles in the voice of the primary stakeholders. We asked ourselves, if this person were to describe what the end thing should be, what would she say? We found ourselves beginning the phrase with “Help me…” For example, “Help me communicate to passengers,” and “Help me say goodbye.”

For my current service design project, we used this same technique, and it really helped get the ideas flowing. It seemed to be easier for team members to put themselves in the shoes of the stakeholders and say, “Help me…” than to ask people to shout out design principles. One is concrete, the other abstract, and hence more difficult to do. It also provides the sense that you already have something started, you just need to complete it, which can help overcome the blank slate.

So in your next attempt to begin synthesizing your research and develop design principles, consider using the “Help me…” statement. It may just help you.