How to use Human-Centered Design


By Aaron Britt, senior editor for

Covers-03Discovery. There’s no better way to understand the people you’re designing for than by immersing yourself in their lives and communities. Start with hearing the voices and understanding the lives of the people you’re designing for. Talk to them in person, where they live, work, and lead their lives. Once you’re there, observe as much as you can. Record exactly what you see and hear, but also pay attention to your impressions.

Conversation Starters.
Get a reaction and spark dialogue by coming up with a bunch of ideas around a central theme. If you’re working in sanitation, you could ask, what is the toilet of the future, the toilet of the past, a super toilet, the president’s toilet? As the person you’re designing for shares her take, be open to however she interprets the concepts. You can learn a lot about how she thinks.

Observe a handful of rules when you brainstorm, the goal of which is to promote openness, to generate lots of ideas, and to prize creativity and innovation over immediate feasibility. Brainstorms work best when the group is positive, optimistic, and focused on dreaming up as many ideas as possible.
d Prototyping. Prototypes are tangible expressions of your ideas, and they can take an array of forms from models to storyboards to skits to physical mockups. Build your idea in just enough resolution to test it, get feedback, and understand how to push things forward. Prototypes are meant only to convey an idea — not to be perfect. So build them so that you can quickly move through a variety of iterations, each time incorporating what you’ve learned from the people you’re designing for.


For more, check out Design Kit,’s suite of teaching tools,