Human centered design is about removing yourself from the equation. Humans are selfish by nature – even before contemporary society, we have always put our own survival above all other needs and relationships. It’s about unlearning this fundamental part of us and dedicating time to listening, understanding and empathizing with lives that may or may not be like our own.
Another core component of human centered design: ideation. I find it interesting that IDEO has outlined clearly defined steps to reaching a human centered solution when some of my best ideas have come to me when I’m not looking for them. I’m a firm believer in giving yourself the space and time to generate new ideas.
The process in its broader form – inspiration, ideation, and implementation – is critical. Inspiration is everything. Whether or not you belong to the community you’re designing for, feeling drawn to that community and beginning to understand their day-to-day is very necessary in creating a meaningful solution. You have to have a heart for the people you’re designing for – sometimes, this comes naturally.
Other times, you have to do the work. Live in the community, talk to the people. Embrace the community and begin to understand its challenges. I think it’s also important to recognize that a designer can never fully understand a community they are not a part of. Address that – be transparent, move forward.
Diverging and converging is about starting broad and narrowing the scope. This is a process all creative thinkers are familiar with. Much like a research topic, it’s important to “zero in” – whether you’re dealing with a “how might we” question or a set of solutions.
Human centered designers generate good ideas that never come to fruition because they are not desirable, viable or feasible. Desirability is at the heart of human centered design. If a solution is not well-received by its community, then it is not a solution.
To be human is to feel things – to center humans in your practice is to attempt to understand feelings that are not your own. As human centered designers, we use these methods with the understanding that they are not useful to us if we cannot empathize with others.
︎ FIELD GUIDE TO HUMAN CENTERED DESIGN