The Human-Centered Design Process

When you’re making anything, from chairs to robots, you need to ask yourself what are you making this for and for whom? Is it for relaxing or is it for when you’re thinking about something? Is it for a college student or is it for your grandmother?

Sometimes we lose sight of this, and end up designing chairs that are too artistic and forget what a chair is supposed to be (unless it’s a piece of art).

That’s why we have to engage in something called the human centered design process.

The human centered design process is practiced by leading design agencies all over the world, including Yes and Co., Bruce Mau Design, and Hello Design (all design agencies we work with at Coral). These agencies used this design process to help brands like Sonos, Nike, and Netflix develop products and also their brand message.

It’s a process that helps designers focus on who they are designing products for: people.

1. Observe.

Pick an industry. Pick a group of people. And get creepy! Record people’s behavior performing certain tasks and try to find patterns. Identify the pain points and empathize with what they are going through.

2. Ideate.

Based on what you just witnessed, come up with a bunch of ideas to address those pain points with your team. Also listen to what those people want and wish they could have. At this stage, no idea is a bad idea (unless it’s like the shake weight. Maybe don’t include that).

3. Rapid Prototyping

Without getting too fancy with materials, make low cost prototypes that can help demonstrate your ideas. How low budget? IDEO’s prototype of the Swiffer was an old mop with a paper towel taped to it.

4. Get Feedback

This is probably the most important part of the process. Find a bunch of people to show your prototype and make sure you get people across the spectrum. For example, if you’re making a robot vacuum, interview people from the college slob to the OCD person vacuuming everyday. You could even interview people that are horrified of robots. Watch how they use your prototype, and ask them what they like and don’t like.

5. Iterate.

With the blunt feedback you receive, modify the prototypes that worked best until it addresses all the problems your users pointed out.

6. Implement.

After all that work, make your first official product and repeat steps 1-6 until you’re satisfied to move on and people are happy. And that’s it!

7. Celebrate.

You worked hard. Have a beer!

8. Rinse and repeat!

The HCD process is about learning every aspect of your design. That also means that there’s no such thing as the “perfect” design. You are always learning and improving products from one generation to the next.


Source: This steps were inspired by IDEO’s Field Guide to Human-Centered Design.