What the heck is Human-Centered Design?

What the heck is Human-Centered Design?

// By Jacqueline Brennan

Have you ever come across a product or service that made you say, “Wow! That really works for me?”

The reason why we feel this excitement when we encounter a well-designed product or service is because it was probably made with the end user in mind. This design method is known as Human-Centered Design—or HCD—and Independent Sector is using it to plan Upswell and create a new experience for changemakers.

At its core, HCD puts users—humans—at the center of the design process. While the idea behind human-centered design is simple, it requires focus and dedication to create a well-designed product or service. Fortunately, our friends at Civilla, a design studio dedicated to changework, follow some basic steps that you also can use to keep humans at the center of your design process:

HCD Cycle

  • Empathize: Start with understanding what users need and want. This can happen by observing users or immersing yourself in their world. No matter how you do it, the goal is to gain insight.
  • Define: Albert Einstein once said that if he had 60 minutes to solve a problem he would spend 55 minutes making sure he had the right question. Asking the right question is essential to the design process because it influences the answers you will generate. Be sure to spend time getting the question right.
  • Ideate: Once you have a design question and insights into what users need and want, it’s time to start developing some ideas. Be sure to challenge yourself to develop bold, creative ideas—and lots of them—but also remember that you will need to find a way to identify which ideas are the best.
  • Prototype: Create a model to test your ideas and the underlying assumptions about your product or service. A prototype can be a sketch, role play, or an artifact made of Styrofoam. The key to a great prototype is to not make it overly complicated or expensive.
  • Test: You must test those great ideas in the real world because that’s the only way to see whether they work, and to make them better. The goal is to take your prototype into the real world to learn and refine the idea behind it.

Remember: HCD is a process. It’s not always linear; you can move back and forth between steps. Use a small team of people when you implement the process, because that makes it work even better!

Have thoughts on what the heck HCD is, or about using the design steps? Feel free to share them in the reply section below.

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