What is Design?

Design is the steps you take to shape something into existence out of nothing.

Human-Centred Design and Design Thinking

Today, there is are two methodologies which overlap and complement each other: Human-Centred Design and Design Thinking.

How it works

  1. Do user research to discover user needs and pain points
  2. Analyse the findings and synthesise them to pinpoint a problem area to solve for. Define what “successfully solved” will look like, and list 5 ways to measure this.
  3. Come up with many many ideas on how it could be solved
  4. Evaluate the ideas on how close to the ideal state they get us, and pick a few to prototype enough so their respective impact can be evaluated.

Then repeat steps 1 to 4, with usability testing (a form of discovery where people interact with a prototype) being the main form of discovery activity.

The key to both is Empathy with the users, co-creation, and PROTOTYPING before building the real solution. Learn the lessons cheaply and quickly.

For Human-Centred design, you also need to include users in the creation of the ideas, visit them in their own context to full empathise with them, and work in a multi-disciplinary team to solve the problems you discover.

For Design Thinking, the same things apply, but the methodology is not formalised in an ISO document like HCD is.

Design process diagram with activities and artefacts for each phase listed below

What about “UX”?

There is also the field of “UX” (User Experience), which encompasses the experience of the human interacting with your product or service.

Someone who shapes this experience is a UX Architect if the level is zoomed out and more about structure and flow, or a UX (or interaction) Designer if the level is zoomed in and more about the presentational details and actual content.

The first User Experience Architect was Donald Norman who coined the phrase when he invented his job title at Apple in 1992.

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design graphics, the interface, the physical interaction and the manual.”

All these titles!

Today, my job title refers to “Strategic Design”, to differentiate from Experience Design. It is the same difference between architecture and design. Strategic Designers spend time in the structural conceptual world empathising with users and coming up with ideas that could solve the problem. Experience Designers are less fluent in that part, and more fluent in making ideas concrete to the right level of resolution to be able to evaluate them.

If you know what you’re making and you need to iron out the details, you need someone more on the “Experience” side. If you don’t know what you should make, you need someone more on the “Strategic” side to help you discover this and give it some shape.