Unpacking Human-Centered Design
“Understanding what the customer needs, should not be assumed. There is so much we can learn by engaging with customers that exceeds everything assumed.” Stuart McDougall, MD Tenaka
Most things in the world today are designed with humans in mind. Across every industry, user experience is touted as critical to the success of a product, where a negative experience will likely drive users away. So how then does the concept of ‘human-centered design’, which is rapidly gaining traction in corporations around the world, bring something new to the table?
The short answer is this: it puts a complete emphasis on the consumer’s needs and desires. Whereas most brainstorming sessions involve one set of people trying to figure out what a different set of people want in a product, human-centered design drives immersion through experience – that is, it encourages research based on the human experiences that consumers deal with every day and implements those insights directly into the design of any product.
Fighting in the trenches
The core idea behind human-centered design is to engage with your target market or key demographics by participating in their problems in order to develop solutions that will help them solve those problems. Whether you’re designing a new dish soap or a luxury SUV, understanding what the consumer needs, directly from their point-of-view, will allow companies to design products that address these needs.
Fighting in the trenches doesn’t mean you’re fighting a battle, rather it means you’re going down to ground level and immersing yourself in the world of your consumers, recognising the problems they face, understanding them, and using that information to develop solutions to address them.
The ultimate goal is to provide yourself with the tools to design and implement usable systems, or systems that prioritise user experience over all else. Often products that are designed this way are successful in that their ease-of-use ingratiates that product to its consumers and builds brand loyalty (a high-priority goal for any brand) that would see consumers “pay a premium for well-designed products and systems.”
The Tenaka approach
There are many different concepts within human-centered design that are utilised around the world, each with their own processes. A driving force behind the introduction of human-centered design are IDEO, a world-class design company that has worked on some of the biggest brands across multiple industries including film, consumer products, electronics, and many more.
Tenaka has adopted the fundamentals of the IDEO three phase system as a way to make the concept more accessible and understandable in an effort to drive adoption of human-centered design. Their idea was simple: break human-centered design into three phases consisting of: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation. Tenaka has used this as the platform in the establishment of an African centric system that can serve corporates investing in the continent.
Find out (Inspiration) is about immersion, getting to know your consumers on a more human level, understanding their needs, desires, and problems they face, and finding the inspiration that will become the main idea your research and experience evolves into.
Get Ideas (Ideation) focuses on the creative process that follows the insights. The goal here is to integrate everything you learned during the Get Ideas Phase and coming up with crazy ideas, whether they work or not, in order to uncover your way towards a solution that is viable.
Finally, Make it Real (Implementation) is the ultimate phase in the process of human-centered design. This is where everything comes to life and you get to see the impact that your solution has on the humans you had so deeply ingrained in your mind throughout the thought process. Here you’ll be forging partnerships, shoring up your business model, and, most importantly, getting your idea out into the world.