Hierarchy of Purpose

Hierarchy of Purpose.png

What is Hierarchy of Purpose?

Hierarchy of Purpose is an approach to help in scoping a design opportunity statement by re-writing the opportunity statement. It is part of the reframing and insight development process as part of the define phase.


Why Hierarchy of Purpose?

Hierarchy of Purpose is useful to develop insights and foresights, to discover various causes and effects in an opportunity and helps to quantify the metric of success.

Process Phase.png

Process Phase



15-30 mins



Paper and Coloured Pens, Hierarchy of Purpose Template

Hierarchy of Purpose Template_Page_1.png
Method card.png

Method Card Reference

DI Method Cards_Compiled Deck_Version 2.
DI Method Cards_Compiled Deck_Version 2.



Problem Statement

  • Write down your problem in the following format:

"To Increase or Decrease the metric from baseline to desired level"


List more

  • List 4 or more general problem statements from step 1


Specific Problem

  • List 4 or more specific problem statements from step 1


The Right Complexity

  • Review the list, ensure problem with the appropriate level of complexity is chosen

Best Practices



Use the template found in the 'Materials' section to try out 3 different ways to rewrite the original opportunity statement


Use the following diagram to help you to review the opportunity statement in step 4

Ask questions such as:

"What will the original opportunity impact?" (Why?) or,

"How do we satisfy the original opportunity?" (How?)


Demo Video

This video gives you a walk-through on using Hierarchy of Purpose, through a worked example of a Autonomous Vehicle Design Challenge.


Here are 2 examples of using Hierarchy of Purpose method. Click on each of the images to view them.



  1. Teo, K., Wee, Y., Swee, A., Altybayeva, A., Gopal, M., Kamiso, N., Foo, D., Lauff, C., Wood, K.L., “Design Innovation (DI) Learning Modules,” SUTD-MIT International Design Centre (IDC), SUTD, Singapore, idc.sutd.edu.sg, 2018.