Human-Centered Design: How Creating Physical Projects Has Influenced My Approach to Digital Design

Are you looking for a way to re-energize your approach to design and creative problem solving? I highly recommend learning about skills and projects outside of your everyday focus.

It’s not hard to get stuck in a rut and repeatedly come up with the same approach to solutions, and trying something new can open up whole new perspectives and channels for ideas.

If you work in software, web, or product development then you’re probably familiar with, or have at least heard of, human-centered design (HCD). By its definition, the concept seems like it should be fairly obvious:

A design framework that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process

However, I’m sure you’ve all experienced products or systems that you found so difficult to use that you just gave up on them. Why does this happen? I know from experience, it could be a few different reasons. Sometimes the focus of design is purely on the function and result, rather than on how people will actually use and interact with the product. Or, designers only take into consideration their own point of view, or the views of their team, rather than including people who will be using the product. These approaches don’t always result in poor solutions, but by engaging with intended users up front and throughout the design process, you have a better opportunity to develop something that they will actually like to use.

My primary design experience is in digital – UX/UI design for websites and interactive presentations – but I take it offline too, in the form woodworking and sewing. Designing and constructing physical objects, particularly those that people will be wearing or using on a regular basis, has provided invaluable experience that influences how I approach design in all mediums.

It starts by getting out from behind the screen and meeting with people in person to ask questions, observe, and understand their needs and any challenges they’re facing. It’s a much more intimate experience than analysing data and even using focus groups because you’re in they’re environment. You get to learn about other things they engage with, how they use and interact with them, and other external factors that can influence the approach to developing solutions.

This information feeds directly into the design process, and in some cases can even be checked against to see if/how solutions actually address specific requirements. The design process between physical and digital projects is fairly similar, iterating through various prototypes to test different solutions and collect feedback. The opportunity to work with clients on crafting physical products has contributed greatly to how I approach design overall, as well as the development and marketing of services we offer. It’s about creating solutions that resonate more deeply from a more thorough understanding of what users people need and want. Ultimately, the result will be something that is useful and successful for all.



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