Human Centred Design: it Starts with You

Series 3/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.

Mini Series 3/3: Human Centred Design – The following series covers the concepts and ideas behind Human Centred Design?

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My wife is an artist, she is driven by the creativity design process. Everything she does is led by a passion to explore research and understand different ideas and concepts. Before I met my wife I could distinctly separate the idea of art and design. To me art was about expression and communicating your identity through a creative process, design contrary to art was about working for the end user and building up a solution to solve a challenge they are facing. With this definition of design don’t we lose the idea of ownership and responsibility? Is the challenge of designing with the community, first about understanding who you are as a designer? When I first met my wife I started to understand more about the design process, I started to work on my engineering designs as an artist would; taking ownership of the design and crafting the details. The more I understand who I was the more I enjoyed the process of design. I was less driven by the result; instead I saw the process as an opportunity to grow and learn and discover my own identity as a designer. Is the journey to achieving Human Centred Design therefore a journey of self-leadership?

This idea of self-leadership is central to the design process. It is required in order to understand and relate to the problem, it enables us to dig deeper and find the route cause developing a design which empowers the community. This part of the creative process is the empathy stage and in order to develop empathy you must know yourself and use emotional intelligence to relate to and understand the problem. Emotional intelligence enables us to connect with people and develop a genuine understanding of the impact of our designs. This was where my week in South East Asia started, it wasn’t in the excitement of discovering a different culture but in the reflection of understanding who I am as a designer. This first workshop was led by May Sripatanaskul founder of the Asian Leadership Academy. We started to learn more about empathy and how it fits within the design process. The workshop was a great insight into how empathy can build up the creative process and bring identity into design. How does defining your identity as a designer empower you in the design process?

May enabled us to understand the connected nature of the design process, how each piece of the puzzle fits together to create an innovative solution. The process of empathizing built up the understanding and passion to ideate; developing different potential solution. The more unrestrained the process was the more innovative we were in our approach. This was a central lesson in the Human Centred Design process; there is a time to be creative and a time to narrow down on the idea. The creative stage is about building up on ideas, using creativity to create. In order to achieve this we need to create a safe place for innovative thinking in which we can openly discuss different ideas. Understanding the creative process and the importance of following through the stages of the design is the first step to designing with impact. Human Centred Design starts with each one of us, it starts with understanding the way we relate to each other and how we can encourage and build each other up. Is the basis of sustainable development about building up relationships and working together to create a better future?

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