User-Centered design(UCD) v/s Human-Centered design(HCD) v/s Design Thinking

Yesterday night one of my friends asked me very interesting question. She asked me to explain what are- User-Centered design(UCD), Human-Centered design(HCD) and Design Thinking. I was stuck for a while because I also was not very clear on how they differ. This awoke my curiosity and I started working on understanding how they are different. With my minor reading, I came to understand the following

User-centered design, as wikipedia mentions is framework of processes (not restricted to interfaces or technologies) in which the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of a product, service or process are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process. That was too much blah blah blah for me. So I just started unleashing my superpower (to google effciently) and was stuck with this W3C link about User-Centered Design. Although this post explicitly mentioned UCD is HCD and both of them work on 4 I’s (I do not know whether any text mention this so I am creating these 4 I’s)

The 4 I’s for UCD or HCD are:
1. Inspiration: The design phase where you analyse what problem the user is facing

2. Ideation: The design phase where you come up with potential solutions.

3. Implementation: The design phase where you actually prototype/implement your ideas.

4. Iteration: This indicates the last 3 phases are continuously rerun in form of sprints or iteration for refining the prototype or the implementation of a product.

The purpose of UCD/HCD where you start from the people who are need of a solution, and end when you have the suitable solution. It is an empathetic style of design. This video from IDEO will be a great explanation for you.

So till now we realized that HCD and UCD are the same. Now let us talk about design thinking. According to my understanding of design thinking it is a creative way of problem solving. UCD and HCD are ways to come up with a design more or less, while Design Thinking is a generic way of problem solving. To a designer they both look similar, but Design Thinking can be used by any problem solver. It is a five point generic solution framework. The five points being

  1. Create empathy(for the user/human/group you are solving problem for): talk with the user, understand them better
  2. Find the problem of the user (from the data, not from your biases).
  3. Find solutions:(Think Crazy, Brainstorm)
  4. Make solution: (and don’t fall in love with any solution)
  5. Test solution: (and keep on improving, go to step 3 if necessary).

This was my understanding of User-Centered design(UCD), Human-Centered design(HCD) and Design Thinking. Please let me know what your feedback is.

(reproduced on our course website on KTH as well).