When a product works well, the user will be satisfied. But if something is wrong, you can expect some creative interventions. Or, if you’re the designer at fault, an earful of user complaints.
“We do not live in a perfectly designed world. We try to make the world fit our lives,” said presenter Reggie Murphy in his introduction to human-centered design at the Feb. 22 AdaptNY climate resilience workshop.
To illustrate his point, he showed slides of creative hacks with binder clips, post-it notes and signage. In each instance, the user had to intervene to make the product work.
Human-centered design offers a way to avoid these problems. Murphy, the principal consultant of research and strategy at Electronic Ink, tailored his introduction to human-centered design to the AdaptNY audience.
Murphy put the journalists in the designer role and asked them to think about the needs of readers and viewers. How could the audience’s needs guide the journalistic product? Or, more specifically for the day’s challenge, how might we inspire our community to get more involved in climate resilience solutions?
And the key to successful human-centered design? Teamwork. As Murphy put it, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
First off, Murphy said, there are basic ground rules to foster creativity and teamwork. Be present and minimize distractions like cell phones and computers. Take risks. Have fun. Celebrate big ideas.
Murphy went deeper and identified six core behaviors to help the teams work well together and keep their users in mind.
Empathize: Compassion for others unlocks the ability to identify with them and their experiences.
Be Transparent: Be frank with each other about setbacks and problems.
Build-to-Think: Prototyping isn’t a one-step process. Repeat the steps until you get the right fit.
Radically Collaborate: Leave your role at the door and work with colleagues across organizational boundaries.
Be Non-judgmental: Keep your disagreements in check to understand the reality of others.
Be Optimistic: Shift your thinking toward the positive. Ask “What if?” and “How might we?” instead of “What’s wrong?” or “Why should we?”
Murphy said that last step is usually the biggest hurdle. “It’s really easy sometimes to want play the devil’s advocate or talk about what can’t work. This process is about having an abundance attitude.”
The human-centered design process, like design thinking, has a series of steps that designer teams work through to get closer to the ideal end product. Murphy’s version broke down the steps into “Four I’s”: Inform, Inspire, Iterate and Implement.
Collect as much information and conduct as many interviews as possible. Get a deeper understanding of your community of readers and viewers.
Study the material you collected and start the collective brainstorming process with your team.
Start getting your hands dirty by sketching, testing and playing out interesting ideas. Keep going until you start to see a potential best fit.
Implement: Building and Scaling
Bring your idea to life by sharing it with your community. Ask for feedback and thoughts so that you can refine the product and get it closer to the ideal.
At the end of his 20-minute presentation Murphy applauded the participants for getting right into the human-centered design process. As soon as they got into teams and started working together, the still-abstract concepts would come to life.