What is Human-Centred Design?
The term ‘Design’ is thrown around a lot these days, and means different things in different contexts and to different people.
We define ‘Design’ as a deliberate and intentional act of creating or making something to achieve a desired outcome — usually to solve a problem or meet an opportunity.
‘Human-Centred Design’ (HCD) refers to the thinking and practice of putting the people involved in the understanding, making, delivery, and use of the solution in the middle of the design process to better understand how to create something that provides a valuable outcome for everyone involved. It is rooted in building deep empathy and uncovering insights about the people involved, and embracing creativity and iteration to come up with a new solution.
HCD methods are used to help develop new services and products by understanding the people that are being designed-for. It has become a driver for innovation and strategy by providing a framework for how we:
- Understand people, problems and opportunities
- Identify new or unarticulated problems and needs
- Find new ways to solve for existing, unmet needs
- Help improve existing solutions for known problems
- Experiment, collaborate and iterate to solve problems
How do we ‘think’ about what we Design
HCD is sometimes-often also referred to as ‘Design Thinking’, which provides an alternate view by applying different lenses on what is going to be created so that it provides value to everyone. It has three main perspectives:
- Desirability — what the people ultimately using it want and need (do they want it, and will they use it?)
- Viability — does this make commercial and economic sense for us to provide (will it make us money?)
- Feasibility — can we actually make and deliver this given possible given existing resources and capabilities (is this realistic?)
“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
— Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO
Who is HCD for?
There are three main questions here:
- Who is it for?
It’s for everyone involved in the making, provision, and use of a solution.
- Who does it?
It’s a collaborate sport, and should involve those that it is for, but it’s often led or facilitated by those championing meaningful, effective change and brighter futures.
- Where can it be applied?
It can be applied to a broad spectrum of industries, but is most effective in complex and wicked (e.g. unsolvable) problems. It’s used across organisations, departments and teams of all types and sizes, from large institutions, government departments, not-for-profits, and technology companies to local, grass-roots organisations and small businesses.
In this playbook, you’ll find some tactical tools and methods that will help guide your thinking to reach new outcomes. As described in this guide, HCD covers Getting to know people, Sensemaking and pattern-finding, Making and tinkering, and Measuring for success.
- Human-Centred Design is about understanding ‘people’ to provide solutions that create meaning and value
- Design Thinking applies three different lenses to what we Design — Desirability, Viability, and Feasibility
- HCD is for everyone — from people the delivering solutions to people consuming them, and is led by people wanting to create meaningful, effective change in complex and/or ‘wicked’ problem-spaces.