Creative problem solving approach
Human-centered design (HCD) is a creative approach to problem-solving that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are purpose-built to suit their needs and aspirations. It is based on putting all your assumptions aside, and truly listen and observe about people’s pain points or aspirations. You go beyond just noting what people say. You also try to dig deeper and understand how people feel, what they think and observe what they do.
HCD involves people in all stages of the design process to cultivate deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating new ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually, putting your innovative new solution out in the world for testing and evaluating of the effectiveness of the outcome.
What HCD looks like in practice
Observe how users interact with their environment. Empathise with what they think, see, feel, hear, say and do, without judging.
Engage users directly—interact with and interview them. Engaging users reveals deeper insights into their beliefs & values.
Find ways to immerse yourself in specific environments to understand and experience first hand who you’re designing for.
With a clear design challenge developed, you'll now aim to come up with as many ideas and potential solutions as possible.
Celebrate quantity and diversity of ideas. Then prioritise the most promising ideas and start shaping concepts.
To simplify, HCD is depicted as a linear process below. However, in practice, the process is carried out in a more flexible and non-linear fashion.
Tell me more!
The define mode is when you unpack your findings from the empathise phase and translate them into user/stakeholder insights. These user insights are analysed to identify various patterns (behavioural, contextual, etc.) and to plot opportunity hotspots from which solution directions can be derived.
Based on your understanding about the users/user segments and their contexts, you can now refine the initial problem hypothesis by reframing it into an actionable statement known as ‘Design Challenge’.
The design challenge statement is a unique design vision that is framed from the perspective of a specific user/user segment. It clearly defines the specific problem of the target user/user segment that you will be addressing in the project. It will guide the entire project team from here on out, by providing a specific goal to focus on and by firmly placing the user/user segment at the center of the design process. Hence, a good design challenge statement will always be human-centric, broad enough to encourage creativity and yet specific enough to provide guidance and direction.