How Human-Centered Design Works

Much like how a suit is tailored to fit the individual, the Human-Centered Design approach yields solutions specifically for those experiencing the problem. The application of this method is limitless considering everyone is a designer in their own right. If you have ever been told to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, then you already have a jumpstart on Human-Centered Design, which requires empathy from the designers. 

Human-Centered Design addresses complex issues and uncovers desirable solutions in 3 steps: (IDEO)

  1. Gathering Inspiration (Inspiration Phase)

  2. Generating (many) Ideas (Ideation Phase)

  3. Sharing the Story (Implementation Phase)

Let’s look at how this process was used in a real-world setting to improve financial literacy of high schoolers in Chicago public schools: 

Moneythink Mobile Case Study by Moneythink, IDEO, and CauseLabs

  1. Inspiration Phase: During the Inspiration phase, the designers stepped into their subjects’ natural environment to observe, listen, and report on students. They capitalized on interviews with students to further understand their spending habits and mobile interactions.

  2. Ideation Phase: During the Ideation phase, they drew from student responses on needs, interests and preferences. Many different forms of an interactive app arose as the solution to get students engaged in how they save or spend. From a Human-Centered Design perspective, they are not trying to get the “right” solution as quickly as possible, but instead they are brainstorming as many ideas as they can with the focus on the people whom they are designing for.

  3. Implementation Phase: During the Implementation phase, prototypes were used in a number of Chicago public schools where they continued to integrate feedback into iteration after iteration. The experience that resulted allowed students to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to their lives outside of that through social interactions that had real-world value and impact. No matter how many iterations emerged from their findings, the designers never lost sight the students’ perspective.

It’s messy and it’s malleable— and it’s supposed to be! Changes constantly take place, but when human-centered designers keep the needs of the end-user at the core of their work, true impact will follow.  


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