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The Art of Human-Centered Design

I want you to imagine that you are hired to solve a problem for a company. Here is the problem:

How might we track our organisational and individual key performance indicators (KPIs) and make this information accessible to the organisation? The intent being to encourage staff to keep track of their performance, their team’s performance and the organisation’s performance.

Now that you have that information, I want you to brainstorm some potential solutions for this problem. Write these solutions down somewhere so you can refer to them shortly. 

All done?

You are now going to be provided with information in relation to the target audience.

The company that has hired you to solve this problem is Apple, home of the iPhone and iPad. The staff members at Apple possess the following characteristics (please note: these details are fictional and are for the purpose of the learnings in this blog):

- Are very good at using technology.
- Spend a lot of time using technology.
- Are geographically spread across multiple locations.
- Are quite unique from each other in terms of personality.
- Only meet as a large group online once a month.
- Vary in positions (split into frontline and head office staff).

Now that you have this information on your target audience, have another go at brainstorming some solutions and build on what you came up with before.

Once you are done, compare your first list of solutions to your most recent list of solutions.

1. Did the solutions differ?
2. If so, how did the solutions differ?
3. When you look at the first solutions that you came up with (prior to discovering that the company was Apple), would it have worked for them?

This is an example of the impact that Human-Centered Design can have on your solutions.

Human-Centered Design is a creative approach to problem solving and puts the end user at the heart of the solution (Acumen, 2018). Discovering who your target audience is and designing your solution around their needs enables you to provide a solution that works for your user’s context.

There is a great process that you can follow that will enable you to practice Human-Centered Design when creating your solutions. We would highly recommend that you visit and check out their ‘Introduction to Human Centered Design’ course. They share a collection of resources and handouts, including a facilitators guide so that you can do it in your workplace.

For the purpose of this blog, I will share a couple of practical tips for how you can begin to incorporate Human-Centered Design into your solutions. It is important to note that this is just a taste of a much more significant and detailed process.

1. Immerse Yourself in your User’s Environment

Immersing yourself in your user’s environment will enable you to gain a deep understanding of their everyday-life, needs and motivations (Acumen, 2018). It is important that you build rapport with your target audience prior to doing this so that they will feel comfortable and provide you with an accurate representation of their experiences.

Practical tips:

1. Shadow an individual or group from your target audience for a period of time. Pull a chair up at their desk, attend meetings with them or sit in the passenger seat of their truck. Whoever your audience is, discover what it is like to be them.
2. If you are unable to shadow your target audience, interview them. Ask them as many questions as possible about what their day looks like, what their challenges are and what they are inspired by. Bring all of this information together to support you in setting a context for your audience.

2. Organise your Findings

Using the information and data that you have collected from your target audience begin to organise what your findings are into themes.

Practical tip:

A great way to do this is by bringing your project team together. Begin by selecting key themes and put these headings up on a wall. Then have each team member write all of their discoveries and findings onto sticky notes and stick them under their relevant category. The room will begin to replicate a representation of your ‘users world’.

Tip: Why not bring members of your target audience into the room for this process? They will be able to answer context specific questions and provide insight that only a member of that audience could.

3. Brainstorm Solutions

Now that you have your user at the tip of your attention you can begin to brainstorm solutions and develop prototypes.

Tip: Don’t limit your potential solutions to a small amount of quality and well-thought through options. Challenge yourself and your team to think up as many solutions (no matter how wacky or obvious they may be) as possible. Quantity is the key here. Even if a solution isn’t the right one it may spark other ideas that could lead you down a very useful and insightful path.

Let’s have a look at the process we have just explored.

You were given a problem and brainstormed some potential solutions.
2. You were then provided information in relation to the target audience which supported you to refine your solutions.
3. In reality you would endeavour to immerse yourself in your target audiences environment to enable you to gain a deep understanding of their everyday life.
4. You can then organise your target audience findings by bringing together all of the information that you have collected and arranging your insights into themes.
5. Once you have organised your target audience information, you can brainstorm as many potential solutions as possible. Quantity is key!

By applying these tips to your learning solutions you will support yourself to gain a deep understanding of your end user and in turn create a solution that works for them. We hope these tips added value to your craft. If you are interested in this topic and would like to gain a greater understanding of Human-Centered Design, head to and learn to your heart’s desire. If you are using Human-Centered Design processes in your organisation we would love to hear about it. Here at Belvista Studios we will continue to explore this process and commit to put our user at the heart of all of our learning solutions.

If you like this blog, you will like our Human-centred Design Playbook for instructional designers and learning and development practitioners. This will be the toolkit for the rest of your career. It enables you to use the principles of Human-centred Design to create effective learning experiences and solve business problems. Learn more here


Acumen. (2018). Introduction to Human-Centered Design. Retrieved from!/courses/design-kit-2018-1/lecture_pages/869913

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