The changing role of the Designer: Practical Human-Centred Design

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“An artist designs for himself but a designer designs for others.”

My professor often used to say

I didn’t quite understand that statement until I came across the concept of Human-centred design. Now you might think, wait a minute I have heard of design thinking but what is Human-centred Design?

Evolving human needs in our dynamic environment cannot be satisfied with old products or offerings. New products, services and experiences need to be created regularly to bring value to the user and a perceivable change for the better. Human-centred design is a creative approach to problem-solving and is the backbone of innovation. It’s a process that starts with the problem recognition of people you’re designing for and ends with solutions that fulfil their needs.

Human-centred Design

Human-centred design is all about understanding

Human-centred design is all about understanding, being aware of, and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experience of the people you’re designing for, basically putting yourself in their shoes. It is about generating tons of ideas by letting go of preconceived notions and judgement so you can think outside the box.

Then building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for, processing the feedback and making changes and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.

Four basic principles of User Experience

According to the father of user experience Don Norman, human-centred design has four basic principles:

  1. Focus on the people; put your users at the centre of your work
  2. We solve the real underlying problem; quite often we are asked to solve the symptom of the problem and if we dig deep and ask why the symptom is there, we can get to the root of the problem.
  3. Everything is a system; fixing one problem might cause another. Things are related and we have to think of the interlocking, interacting components.
  4. Always be iterating and improving; build a mock-up to see how users interact with it and what the problems are and continuously test it and learn to improve the solution. This process of learning through the Loop will allow us to “fail” early and quickly, by observing what works and what doesn’t.

But how do we do this? Well, there are three stages of doing this :

  • Inspiration Phase
  • Ideation Phase
  • Implementation Phase

In the Inspiration Phase, we learn directly from the people we’re designing for. We can’t improve the user’s as-is experience if we don’t understand it clearly. We need to learn what our user struggles with today so we can envision the to-be future experience.

In the Ideation Phase, we’ll make sense of what we have learned, brainstorm for as many ideas as possible and build on each other’s idea. We will be able to identify opportunities for design and evaluate alternatives. Prototype possible solutions; we need to test our assumptions with real information because we all make assumptions to have ideas and make decisions.

 Finally, in the Implementation Phase we’ll bring our solution to life, and eventually, to market. But this doesn’t stop here because people’s needs are ever-changing and no solution is perfect.

Sounds simple right?

But ask yourself this “In the real world with time and money constraints how will you go ahead with these stages?” In a world wherein the blink of an eye new products, services and processes are coming up can we follow through such a detailed process?

Well don’t worry, Dan Norman has answered that as well.

If we observe designers this is not how they do things, the first thing they do is build something.

Don Normon

I know what you’re thinking, isn’t that the last stage? But it turns out if we build something rapidly and give it to people, we will learn a lot from how they interact with it.

This is a way of asking questions and figuring out their problems. They will show us the use of it and tell us what’s good or where we can improve. This way we get direct insights into the users’ interests, desires, needs and capabilities.

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5 replies on “ The changing role of the Designer: Practical Human-Centred Design ”
  1. Great ! Easy to grasp also very concise while being a holistic view to a topic related to designing !!

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