Human Centered Design

What makes a “good design”?  Is it pretty, cool, trendy? Some claim to know good design when they see it. Others think that as long as it gets the concept and details across, it’s doing the job.

Throughout my career I’ve seen some companies balk at the price of design, while others knowingly and willingly pay the necessary fees because they know that it’s not just about the time spent but the years of expertise, the thinking behind design, and the artistry that can’t be taught. One additional concept that isn’t taken into account often enough, is the research and analysis that shapes the design.

At Vine Collective, we preach meaningful brand experiences. The core of its effectiveness is human-centered design.

What is human centered design?

Wikipedia defines “human centered design an approach to problem solving, design and management frameworks that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.” Read that again – it doesn’t mention photoshop or any other Abobe program. It refers to solutions, human perspective, and problem-solving. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

IDEO is an agency known world-wide for its use of human centered design. They’ve perfected their approach and strategy to such a degree that their expertise has been tapped for visual, environmental, product, civic, city, and other challenges.

IDEO makes things people love to interact with because they have a creative approach to problem-solving that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs – the needs of the user. Here are the seven steps they take.

  1. Observation
  2. Ideation
  3. Rapid prototyping
  4. User feedback
  5. Iteration
  6. Implementation
  7. Repeat

We’ve been following this model for years and apply it in varying degrees to all our work.

Observation:

Watch and hear. How are users, customers, vendors, etc. interacting with the current process or product? What do they love, hate, where do they pause, twitch, smile, smell? Look and listen between and beyond the feedback. The worlds’ greatest inventions may never have come to fruition if they waited for specific instruction from their users. Instead, the inventors watched behavior and solved problems.

Ideation:

Based on what you learned during your observation, start brainstorming. Don’t hold back. Throw up all the ideas you come up with, then throw out (or put aside) anything that doesn’t align with the needs and desires of the user.

Order and re-order, combine and connect. Eventually you will determine the solution.

Rapid Prototyping:

Once the proposed solution is defined, build the simplest version possible. Pay enough attention to the details that matter – the ones that were determined to be the most important during the observation phase, but don’t worry about making it perfect. 

User Feedback:

Take your prototype to your users. It’s fun to expand your user group at this point, if you can. See if your early users interact with this prototype differently than new users. This will give you insight into areas of pain and purpose that you may have missed early on. 

Remember – user feedback is the most critical phase of the human centered design process. Without this feedback, you will not know how successful your prototype really is. Assuming you know what the user will think is a common and dangerous mistake. YOU ARE NOT THE USER!

Iteration:

Keep iterating and testing your prototype until you land on the solution that fits the needs of the users. This can often be a frustrating phase. Be willing to scrap your original prototype and provide yourself with the time to tweak, tweak, and tweak some more. Remember, the goal is to delight and deliver.

Implementation:

Now it’s time to build the real deal and share your baby with the world. 

Repeat:

To truly delight your customers, create meaningful relationships, and memorable brand experiences this process is never complete. Continually observe your customers and users, ask them for feedback, update your software, tweak your packaging, amend your messaging, and refresh your product.