Human Centered Design puts humans in the center of the design process.


IDEO, an award-winning global design firm, and Acumen, a company that addresses worldwide social challenges in a variety of cultures, sponsors a five-week class on Human Centered Design methodology.  I am a human and I design, so wasn’t I already doing that? I took the opportunity to find out.

Human Centered Design is a process that focuses on community interaction, local input and contextual immersion into the culture as part of the design process.  IDEO offers a Human Centered Design class to groups, nonprofits and NGOs worldwide who are looking for solutions to social problems, many of which involve health issues in impoverished communities.

* The HEAR phase of HCD involves an immersion into the culture of the target user.  This Discovery phase involves gathering stories, interviews, observations; viewing the world from the user’s shoes.
* The CREATE phase turns the storytelling into a purpose. Extracting empathetic insights, the Ideate phase brainstorms, diagrams, collaborates, and storyboards to build on ideas to generate solutions that address the challenge.
* The DELIVER phase takes the top solution(s) and moves them toward implementation.  Prototypes are tested in the culture and with users of the target community.  Ideas are refined, timeline is implemented and outcomes are evaluated.

Our group in Davis, California focused on obtaining better access to nutritious fruits and vegetables for low-income and homeless populations.  Our HEAR research (interviews with homeless, farmers, state Food Link reps, food banks and shelter managers) indicated that Northern California has an abundance of farmers’ markets, food banks and a Food Link distribution system in place.  Many in this demographic are challenged by transportation to and from the food venues, and to the local Veterans Administration and Cal Fresh (state food stamp program).

In the CREATE process, a flow chart was created to test the Idea.  As a way to distribute bus vouchers, an event surrounding the painting of the bus stop benches would be sponsored by an organization – Cal Fresh, farmers market, local food bank or shelter.  The benches would be painted with ripe fruits and vegetables, promoting the city as agriculturally rich.  Each bench would feature a written Fun Fact about the fruit/vegetable, and the name and address of the sponsoring organization.  The painting project would be executed by homeless people who would receive bus vouchers, a food basket and/or food vouchers for their participation.  The project would be managed by two University of California – Davis students – one art student and one community organizer – who would receive school credits for the project management.

Our DELIVERY of prototype benches were created and tested.  The scope was later expanded to include signage in the metal bus stop enclosure if the bench itself was not suited for painting.


Update ~

Mayo Clinic, second-to-none in reputation for innovation, is partnering with IDEO and using the Human Centered Design process to focus on Aging.  Gathering input from a wide variety of social, economic and cultural contexts, Mayo and IDEO are exploring the process by which we make informed decisions on “everything senior” – from living options, family connections, health and just plain thriving as we age.

After attending the Mayo’s 2013 Transform Symposium, Sept. 8-10, 2013, an event that annually brings together world health leaders, I have been invited to be a panel speaker on a 2014 podcast for Mayo’s Center for Innovation topic of Design Thinking.  More details coming soon.