The Top 8 Human-Centered Design Tactics You Can Use Today

Future Practice_Mau_Diagram

Do you see a problem? Is there something lacking in your neighborhood? Do you see people doing the same unproductive, harmful action over and over again? Do you want to find a way to implement positive change that isn’t about force but more inherent and natural?

Those were the questions on the minds of the six of us that joined together for IDEO/+Acumen’s Human-Centered Design Course–a diverse bunch representing different backgrounds and experiences.

It’s been a good eight weeks since I first wrote about what we were going to do, and as of this past Sunday, we officially completed the course.

But we still have so much more to do.

Here is my condensed version of what the past 8 weeks, 10 meetups, 63 hours, 9 stacks of post-it notes, 28 beers, and 6 minds have entailed.

1. Define Your Challenge

In the Discover phase, IDEO presented three challenges to pursue–financial, food, and business related. Our group chose “How might we encourage low-income families to save a little more each week?” This was my lowest ranked out of the three options, and overall the lowest ranked for our group. But we chose it because it was unfamiliar and challenging. That’s the purpose of a ‘challenge’, right?

What’s a challenge that you see? Can you frame it as “How Might We…”?

2. Share Your Knowledge & Assumptions

We then wrote down what we knew about low-income families and saving money, and most of what we wrote were assumptions. Sharing our experiences lead us into preparing a plan of action for who to talk to, where and when. From this action plan and our list of knowledge and assumptions, we generated a question guide that revealed what we needed to find out.

What are your assumptions? What do you already know? What do you want to find out?

3. Get Out There!

Four of us ventured out one Sunday to Hackney and approached people on the street. We were rejected multiple times. Some people seemed rushed so we cut back our questions. Other people opened up more than we imagined. At the end of six hours on the street, we hadn’t talked to as many people as we wanted but we had gathered enough information to bring back to the group.

Who are the experts, citizens, and analogous locations that you can visit, interview, observe, and collect data? Now go do it.

4. Find Themes & Create Statements

We had split up our research amongst the six of us so that we were able to gather information from experts (economists, government programs,) analogous locations (car repair workshop, hospital emergency care unit,) and the ideal users (low-income families.) For the Ideation phase, the post-it notes were in full force for sharing our insights and observations, covering my flat’s blank white walls with pink, yellow, and blue squares with drawings and notes. We then clustered these to inform insight statements based on what we had seen and heard–and not our assumptions.

What did you see? Hear? Where are the overlaps? How can you use this to formulate insight statements?

5. Refine “How Might We” & Brainstorm Ideas

This was a tricky part for our group. The guide states to not make it too narrow or too broad but rather ‘just right’ (like Goldilocks.) We came up with: HMW encourage people to see the community as a resource for financial well being?

Then we used this HMW to brainstorm ideas. And that’s when more post-it notes were being thrown on the walls. Discussion was flowing. Frantic notes and drawings were being created. And the beers were quickly being downed.

We came up with 40+ ideas that could be solutions to our HMW. To select the final idea, we each voted for an idea that was the most innovative and the most likely to succeed.

Using your insight statements, what is your refined HMW? What are ideas for programs, processes, and projects that could answer this HMW?

6. Gut Check

We decided to go with the most innovative idea–a local fund for unexpected expenses that brings together people who have a little bit of money but need help with people who have a bit of time but need access to money. Before moving forward, we revisited the idea to hear what each of us perceived. Do this, please, because we all had different descriptions of how it worked even though we had just discussed it.

How does each team member describe the idea? What are the commonalities? What is the consensus?

7. Create an Experience Map

Another critical action. We went through every step for each role in the program and drew a picture on a post-it to represent it. We moved them around, redrew a couple, and found steps that we forgot. Then we determined what were important steps and where we had questions. Our first step was the most important–WHO is introducing the idea. We need trusted community leaders and advocates to share the program.

What does your experience map look like? What are the most important steps? Did you miss anything?

8. Prototype

With all that, we reached the final stage (but really the beginning!) We created an advertisement that we can share with community leaders and participants to get feedback. I went out to speak with a rector in Hackney and another team member talked to potential participants. The feedback was invaluable and we know that having these people part of the creation is essential.

Test, refine, test, refine, and (maybe) launch!

We have a TON more poking, prodding, and massaging to do with our concept, and we know it’s far from finished. We may return to some previous phases–revisiting our knowledge and assumptions, interviewing more people, creating new insight statements.

The HCD methodology has made us take on a difficult challenge, develop a program, and potentially make a positive change for low-income families–all while working with the people who want this change. And it has made us want to continue.

How do you think HCD can help your idea, project, or process? Are there steps that you think are essential that I missed? Share your comments below!

Did you enjoy this article? We’d love to have you as a regular reader. Just enter your email below and click “Get Updates!”



You can also connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and RSS to make sure you don’t miss what we else we’re talking about.

Image source: ‘From the world of design, to the design of the world’, Bruce Mau in Future Practice: Conversations from the Edge of Architecture by Rory Hyde

Don't Miss Out!

Join hundreds of designers who get tips, stories and more delivered straight to their inboxes, once per month.

Powered by ConvertKit

5 Responses to The Top 8 Human-Centered Design Tactics You Can Use Today

  1. Jeff Nagata says:

    I love this article, thanks so much for sharing your insights. I started my first HCD design project a few weeks ago with friends after being inspired by the work that IDEO is doing, and it’s been very difficult, but an amazing experience at the same time!

    We’re meeting later today, and we’re at Step 2 of your article – sharing knowledge and assumptions. The questions that you pose after each step really helped focus what I need to find out, and what we need to answer during the meeting.

    • katie says:

      Thanks, Jeff, for your comments and congrats on your first HCD project! Are you using the HCD Toolkit or IDEO.org/+Acumen HCD course material? These are both very helpful for outlining the process.

      I’m sure the experience will be very rewarding. Keep us updated on how the project progresses!

  2. Prae says:

    Hi Katie,

    I really appreciate your work. I would like ask if I could use your image on 17 Sept 2013 (design, nature, business diagram)? Also, did you draw that or does it happen to be Bruce Mau’s (I noticed ‘Mau’ in the url)?

    Thank you so much

    • Katie says:

      Hi Prae,

      Thanks for visiting & reading! The drawing is by Bruce Mau, which you can find in Future Practice by Rory Hyde. It’s a great book by the way!

Leave a reply