Putting People First with Human-Centered Design

Venn diagram with "Design" in left circle, "Empathy" in right circle, and "People" in the intersection.

Creating a visual presence that is both beautiful and simple enough for anyone to utilize can be an elusive concept. However, it’s not impossible—forward-thinking design studios and brands are putting people back at the center of what they do. They’re making their products more useful, usable, and more attractive too.

Consider the websites you genuinely enjoy browsing. Often enough, the reason these websites are so enticing from a user’s perspective is that they are functional, usable, and solutions-oriented, and aesthetically pleasing. Award-winning design firm IDEO has been driving this practice for years, uniting observations of user behaviour with great design based on providing sustainable solutions.

As a design studio, they’ve taken on creative projects geared to tackle large-scale, international challenges like creating a tactile method of kids to learn coding and assisting in the redesign of the breast pump experience. But from web design to disruptive product design, IDEO integrates the concept of human-centered design in every project they take on, and as such, create design solutions that put people first.

What Is Human-Centered Design?

Although aspects of human-centred design can be implemented in basically any problem-solving practice, let’s dial in our focus on its implications in branding and design.

Human-centered design is a three-pronged, solutions-oriented approach to design that—as its name might tell you—puts people at the center of all design processes. Strategic human-centered design is focused on overcoming challenges faced by a user or a community as a whole, and when applied to branding and design, looks a little something like this.

1. Identification

Solution-based design cannot begin without a comprehensive understanding of the problem or challenge at hand. When it comes to design, this process cannot be completed without an honest conversation with all stakeholders and an exploration of the existing obstacles.

Striving for understanding allows designers to weigh perspectives of the business and the end user equitably, which is the base for all well-rounded design.

2. Brainstorming

Now, it’s time to build up that base using thoughtful techniques and switch your imagination into high gear (for all the cyclists out there). Nielsen Norman Group recently shared an immensely interesting article titled Sympathy vs. Empathy in UX, discussing how user experience (UX) developers and designers can be better advocates for users.

Although there is a tangible difference between UX and human-centered design (we’ll touch base on this in a later post, we promise), utilizing an empathetic—or better yet, compassionate—approach is central to the human-centered design ideation process.

During the brainstorming period, it’s critical to think empathetically about how a person may interact with branding or a website. Realistically, the act of brainstorming can be seemingly unending, but reviewing a thorough list of ideas and taking time to prioritize pragmatic solutions generates space for creativity and revealing the best—and perhaps previously overlooked—possibilities.

Once you’ve jotted down your ideas and landed on some realistic ones, sketching, prototyping, and testing can begin. Ideally, tests will be completed by a typical end user of the branding or website. For remote design studios, designers can consider implementing a user experience testing checklist to ensure the final product will be functional for the people using the product or service.

3. Implementation

The final step of human-centered design is delivering and implementing a functional, accessible, and intuitive product. Whether it’s a website or branding, all aspects of the design should be refined to the needs of the target user.

While we were developing our human-centered rebrand (or the identification phase of our human-centred design process, if we’re being pedantic), we came across The Human-Centered Design Toolkit from IDEO. If you’re interested in learning more about the implications of human-centered design as an inclusive and expansive process, we definitely recommend checking it out. This guide was immensely helpful as we worked to establish our guiding values, with the goal of delivering functional, friendly, and accessible products coming up time and time again.

Since then, we’ve taken a deep-dive into human-centered design, and have only begun to scratch the surface of how we can implement the practice throughout our branding and website design services.

Have you considered integrating human-centered design into your processes, designs, or content? We’d love to hear your approach.