A newbie's view on Human-Centred Design: fresh perspectives

Hindsight is an amazing thing. With the gift of retrospective assessment, we can reconsider our thoughts and actions with new information, ideas and experience.

As a fresh communications design intern at Huddle, I’m fairly new to human-centered design (HCD). I’ve been here for about two months and in this time, I’ve gathered a wholly different concept of what I understand HCD to be. 

Prior to working at Huddle, I hadn’t had much interaction with HCD other than hearing about it around the traps at university, with teachers. I was fresh. Except for knowing a few of the buzzwords, praise, skepticisms…

In hindsight, I had quite a one dimensional perspective of HCD and I was over
complicating it.


Obviously, as the name suggests, I had an idea that the process was centered around humans. I was caught in a place of ‘I think I know what it means’ and ‘I just can’t quite put it into words’. 

I was under the impression that HCD had to do with service and the needs of customers. My pre-existing knowledge led me to believe HCD was a design process operated as a typical designer/client business transaction, i.e. the brief is given; designers go away and design to meet that brief; then return with concepts for the client to choose from. 

Ok… I thought I sorta ‘had it’. But I also kept wondering what on earth do people produce? What are the physical outcomes of the project? Although I was excited and very interested by the idea of HCD, it was hard to wrap my head around the concept of it, it seemed larger than my span of perspective could view at that moment.

So what were my misconceptions? What the heck is HCD after all?

HCD IS ABOUT HUMANS

I was right when I thought HCD is centred around humans. Tick! 

Its core is designing with human values, needs and desires in mind. I have found however, it is not a design process that is set on producing purely service outcomes that fulfil only customer needs. HCD is about the experience and interaction of customers AND managers and employees, customers and stakeholders and all combined. All humans

DESIGN WITH PEOPLE, NOT JUST FANCY DESIGNERS

So with this in mind, is the process like that of a designer/client business transaction? It most definitely isn’t. For HCD to center around humans, then the humans that are part of the service need to be part of the process the whole way. I see this as quite an empowering thing for organisations. They have the platform to express some of their ideas, they are apart of the process of making a very important change that will improve their experience working with or within the organisation. It helps with their understanding of the problem as well, and may just spark a bit of creativity. 

HCD GETS TO THE CORE

HCD is also a really clever way to understand the real issues underneath a service or experience. Without ever assuming the answer, HCD dives in to ask Qs with people who interact with the service and find out what’s really going on. And what’s actually going to help solve the issues. HCD is a tool, mindset, approach to seek out the crux of the problem, wherever it occurs within an organisation, and from this people can design the best possible way to overcome it.

PHYSICAL PRODUCTS AND OUTCOMES

So now, the tricky one. What are the physical outcomes? From the short time I’ve been apart of Huddle, I can see this is a tender spot for organisations. They want to see physical products, practical results. I get it! They want to progress work and they’ve also got the pressure of financial targets, KPIs and promotion goals. 

HCD produces tangible results—often in the form of strategies, designs, prototypes, empathy maps, customer journey maps, personas, service blueprints… all the way to finally rolling out the re-designed service.

MINDSET MATTERS! IN FACT, IT'S HUUUUGE

But beyond the physical products, one very important thing I’ve learnt about is mindset. HCD looks at things in a holistic system. When you’re designing something new, you have to think about how you factor into that system, particularly how you think about things—how open and creative your mind is, how much you experiment with different possibilities, how you communicate and really listen to other people’s needs (whether they’re your colleague, customer or manager). This mindset change cracks open your mind and helps you let go of the unhelpful mindsets that keep projects stifled and ultimately useless.

HCD IMPACTS CULTURE: CREATIVITY, EMPATHY, POSSIBILITY

In this way, I also see how HCD changes work cultures too—it opens people to become more creative, empathetic and open. With curious and creative mindsets, how people are in the work they do and what they actually produce shifts. There’s more questions, possibility, persistence, communication that works, collaboration.

I’ve experienced it first hand! Pretty cool.

In the short time I’ve worked at Huddle, I’ve been amazed to learn what HCD is. And I’m still learning! I see how people underpin what kind of experience you’re designing. I see how transformative it can be for organisations. I see the value of open-minded, curious and most importantly empathetic mindsets.

HCD, it’s been a pleasure to meet you. Looking forward to the next adventures… 

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