Human-Centered Design

Recap: 9/11/2014

September’s meeting was held at Linda Pulik’s home in Printer’s Row. Throughout the evening, Linda spoke about her work combining design research and social justice at her non-profit organization, BaoDesignLab. Thank you, Linda, for opening your home and sharing your work.

  • Human-Centered Design (HCD)
    • working definition: “an approach to design with people at the center”
    • David Kelley and IDEO identified as the chief codifier and champion of a human-centered design process that begins with the question “how might we…”
    • HCD discussed as an outgrowth of participatory design, and related – but not equivalent to – design for social good
    • HCD discussed as a “design label” similar to “Social Design” or currently trending label “Service Design”
    • HCD discussed as part of the trend towards the increasing application of design thinking to other fields and world issues
    • HCD described as an iterative design process and set of methodological tools involving user-centered research at the outset of defining the design problem and social scientific methods throughout
      • needs-based assessment discussed as a connection between social work and HCD
      • HCD research understanding of communities still “thin” when compared to academic ethnographies
    • HCD-type design thinking proposed as a type of design approach that may be more natural to collectivist societies than to individualistic societies

Because of its social content, discussing HCD inevitably led to discussion about the general industry of design.

  • Public-private conundrum — the difference between working for the social sector vs. industry and oftentimes in between
    • members expressed difficulty with negotiating between the public and private sectors financially and priority-wise
    • designers both have to make a living but desire to have a social impact
  • frustration with the Industry of design — quick product cycles, strong drive towards profit generation, yet contradictorily limited perception of value and hence financial compensation for designers
  • Anti-bigness — a general sense of frustration towards large companies who have codified principles and established markets (IDEO, Apple)

Part of the evening was also devoted to a discussion about member Maria Boustead’s bicycle bag line in a collective workshop / brainstorming session we hope to repeat at future meetings. General discussion themes included:

  • integration of technology and wearable products (iWatch, Hovding, etc)
  • integration of user research in the design and marketing of a product
  • creation and support of a community through a product’s design
  • app design — resources for coding support

The evening ended with a viewing of BaoDesignLab’s Project Dose Video (link included below), which led to a discussion about the need to project confidence and ownership for one’s contribution to a design project — i.e. “owning the idea.” Although modesty was identified as an admirable quality for designers, project ownership is an issue that is particularly tricky when working on projects with a social component.

  • “male” vs “female” approaches — in certain cases, women may want to emulate a more “masculine” approach of assertiveness veering into cockiness
  • the “I” / “We” tension — while designers often tackle problems in teams, confidence and ownership is particularly necessary when pitching to investors or clients

Relevant Links:


BaoDesign Lab’s Project Dose Video

Human-Centered Design Toolkit

Coding Resources for app design