I think it’s important for all designers to realize that we are all human-centered designers… I mean who are designs intended for? Humans, people, right? So, I found that IDEO’s The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, is a great asset to any designer’s tool box. In The Field Guide, they explain the seven parts that make up the state of mind and process of a human-centered designer, which are: Empathy, Optimism, Iteration, Creative Confidence, Making, Embracing Ambiguity, and Learning from Failure.
As we are all different and have different strengths, some of these ideals will come easier for us to embrace while others, we’ll have a love-hate relationship with. Currently I accept and appreciate all as parts of the design process. Though if I am honest with myself, I might say that my love-hate relationship would be with ‘embracing ambiguity’. Only because I love the idea of not having the pressure to know the answer to a problem right away, but then that means that the routes to finding the solution can be endless (which does make my anxiety flare up a bit).
Delving in a little deeper about what it means to be a human-centered designer for me, is to look closer at empathy. To some it may be the latest buzz word, but I believe empathy is perhaps the greatest advantage in a designer’s toolbox. Emi Kolawole, Editor-in-Residence at Stanford University d.school said, “In order to get to new solutions, you have to get to know different people, different scenarios, different places”. This is what happens when you truly empathize with someone, when you sit down and talk to them, get to know them, get to know what their problems are. You can truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes, making it an incentive to bring a creative solution to fruition. Then when ready to test an idea, it gives you another chance to bring it back to them, get to know them all over again and become more familiar with their problem and what doesn’t work. Once empathy is truly achieved, that strength can then flow into all other parts of the human-centered design philosophy.
I once had someone tell me that they didn’t believe or understand the need of having representation from every group at the table. But I now know why. After all, people who know what it’s like to live in the trenches of whatever problem you are tackling, they’ll have inside information and insight that can help lead someone with little-to-no experience to the answer.
To learn more about IDEO and their approach visit ideo.org/approach