What is Human Centered Design




The Cooper Hewitt Museum

The Cooper Hewitt Museum is a museum focused on providing the public with a fundamental knowledge of design. It explores the ways in which design exists: as a way to track the values of our society, as a method to solve problems, and a unique way to experience a museum. 

Inclusivity in Design:

My favorite part of the museum was an exhibit that presented various objects that had been designed for people with disabilities. The idea of the exhibit was to question the very notion of "designing for disabilities" as inherently non-inclusive, instead of simply thinking of design as a way to improve peoples lives. The solutions ranged from a simplified radio for Alzheimer patients (one in which the user simply lift a handle instead of mess with buttons to turn it on). Others included a walker decked out with herbs to be used in a nursing home kitchen (including the residents in the meal prep process) and a dog made out of soap that could be washed while simultaneously helping the elderly (with dementia) wash themselves. 

My grandmother currently suffers from Alzheimers and I found this.....

The Pen:

One of the most unique aspects of the museum is the way that it strives to design new ways for visitors to interact with the material. The ideal visitor experience includes a statement along the lines of "wow, this is nothing like any other museum I have been too before." 

The pen is like an in person pinterest board, it allows the visitor to collect every icon or idea that they find interesting in the museum by simply pressing the pen to the item. The pen also created a way for the museum to display the part of their collection not currently on display. Using large touch screen tables visitors could explore the collection as well as edit and design objects from scratch (using 3D rendering). 

The Seven Sins:

One of the most thought provoking exhibits of the 


Interview with Joe Zinter

I had a chance to talk with Joe Zinter who is the associate director of Center of Innovation Engineering and Design at Yale. He teaches classes that use the design process to solve real world problems.

What would you call your occupation?

Primarily an Educator, but in some ways I have two jobs, I am assistant director of the CEID but also a facilitator. In the classes I teach the students quickly learn more about their topic than I know, and as a result I really act as a choreographer who points them in teh right directions and connects them to important resources. As Assistant Director I work in a much more fluid environment. My goal is to try and provide tools and resources for students, courses and clubs so that they can realize their designs. 

How did you get involved with design?

Most of my childhood I was surrounded by tools, my father was a machinest and handy-man. He taught me to look at every piece of raw material as though it had something embedded inside of it already. I gained a high appreciation for the built world which led me to study physics and applied physics in college. This gave me a deeper understanding of how the built world follows the rules of nature. 

After college I moved to a job in the medical device field and for the first time gained an appreciation for the first time gained an appreciation for how technology could make a difference in someones life. Someone who received a chest implant could go from not being able to walk around the house without getting fatigued to running around a playing with their grand children the next day.

After that I went back to school to get a PHD in designing mechanical systems and as a graduate student was exposed to education as a TF. That experience helped me find my passion, I got so much joy out of working with the students. Now I have the privileged to work with and be surrounded by some of the finest students in the world. 

What is your design process?

There are two ways that I could answer that. First is what the actual process is, and what is teh mindset of that process. The other is in terms of tools and techniques, this is what I would consider the structured design processes you can look up online. But mindset is equally or more important, the process has to be recognized as a guide. Only with a proper mindset can you effectively navigate the "design process". 

The three mindsets that I think are really important are:

1) That good design sits at the intersection of Desirability, Viability and Feasibility. Viability is the hardest to describe and understand, is it a sustainable idea? Viability distinguishes invention from innovation. The transistor is an incredible invention but not until it became economical and scale-able (by a reduction in size) did it transform the world. 

2) The second mindset comes from a former mentor who said "you don't get to chose not to have problems, but you get to choose what problems you have." Design is a series of decisions with its own consequences, and we get to chose which consequences we want to tackle or face. 

3) The third mindset is striking the balance between self confidence and self awareness. Something I try to do in the classroom is instilling a student with enough confidence to share the idea, get feedback and iterate. But I also want them to have the self awareness to truly asses whether the designs are solving the problem.

Design is not about selling people on what the best idea is, when you present ideas you are trying to show what is possible. 

How do you think your design process is different than those used in other fields? What is the same?

I struggle to answer that because the whole idea of different types of processes doesn't sit well with me, it over perscribes a single process to every discipline. We all have realitively the same process, we start with collecting data in the real world, then we synthesize to find and target rich design opportunities, we iterate and then evaluate the ideas through a series of lenses. This is what allows us to pull the idea back to the real world, if the idea works they are implemented. This idea of following an idea from concrete to abstract back to concrete is simple and robust, the duration may be different in different fields and the activities different, but the general arc is the same. 

What is the hardest part and easiest part about teaching design thinking?

The easiest part is getting people interested. A lot of really smart and ambitious students who are excited about working on real-world open ended problems in the structure of a classroom. The hardest part is for students to recognize how challenging the process actually is.

What do you think is the best example of good design?

A design I find very inspiring is the key ring. When I give lecture or workshops 

Designing the Student Job Board: An On-going Project

At the beginning of this internship I attempted to identify a project that could address a fundamental need in the student population. 

-the "self employment board"

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-the skills board

-the first prototype

-the second prototype

-testing the sinage






The Design of Everyday Things: A Book Review





The Museum of Art and Design

MAD was a great opportunity to explore a museum established to celebrate the intersection between art and design. 

The Exhibit (Femmenage)

____ used her work to explore the ways in which "crafting" isnt considered art. These more traditional femminine art forms use the same processes that formal aratists use. These decorative arts are often ways to design everyday products, either in decorative or in 

The Experience and the Building

One of the coolest parts of the MAD is the fellowship program that funds artists and houses them on teh top floor. Visitors are encouraged to start on the top floor, and watch the artists work. These artists have open doors and we were invited to listen to them 

Final Thoughts

As I walked away from the museum I couldn't help but think about the definition of "design" which has evolved as I have embarked on this internship. I had alway though of design as an active ......


What I learned from Becky Slogeris

Becky is a Professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art where see teaches classes in their Social Design Program. She came to visit CITY and I had the opportunity to sit down with her and talk about Design Thinking, Human Centered Design, and how to pursue a career in Social Design. 

Becky graduated from college with a degree in graphic design and was struggling to find a way to use her skills to help people. She felt that graphic design/designers often made beautiful work that never solved a problem, while volunteering for Teach America or another organization wouldn't let her use the skills she was best at to improve the lives of others. This seems to be a common trend with designers. There are many opportunities that allow students and professionals to help others, but few that allow us to use our skills and training to do so (instead of pushing papers). 

Through the MICA masters degree program Becky found a way to practice Social Design and hone her skills. Now she teaches both at the masters program as well as at a local highschool. 

How would you define design?

Hmm...thats difficult....If I was trying to identify what all types of design have in common I would have to say "creating something with a user and a purpose in mind"

With that in mind, how would you describe social design or human centered design. 

I often describe social design as "social" because it is collaborative and more importantly grounded in social issues and injustice. 

I would describe design thinking as an isolated process, one that doesn't necessarily need an end user. 

I understand that, like you can use design thinking to explore a problem, whether this is only a excercise on paper or if it will end with a physical solution.

Yes exactly, where HCD ensures is a process that ensures that design thinking has a user. That being said Social Design is the Umbrella that includes it all. 

Artists create their own problems to solve while designers solve other peopls problems

If you were going to suggest how students could continue practicing design after college how would you suggest they do that?

I would encourage them to try and teach their co-workers about it. To start with workshops, and ways you can introduce the process even as an entry level position. Outside of the office you could always find meet-ups with people have similar ideas and are passonite about the same problems, and use whatever portfolio you have to start a conversation about new projects. 

If you were going to suggest a couple of resources for students new to graphic design or who want to learn more about social design what would you suggest?

Thinking with Type (Ellen Luctan)

Graphic Design the new basics (Ellen Luctan)

IDEO courses are well done and provide lots of new resources


Interview With Alexander Fellson:


Architect and Ecological Designer

What would you call your occupation?

I would call myself a landscape architect and ecologist. 

What got you interested in the design process and HCD?

I have always been interested in this bridge between humans and nature. I like learning about how people modify and influence nature and how [nature] becomes a part of society. As an undergrad I was searching for where to study that. I started with botany but that was very plant focused....I wanted to find the human element. I worked in a Native American reservation in Wisconsin where I worked on how their culture used and celebrated the natural plants. 

One day I met this guy, who literally had a warehouse filled with a huge map of the state of Wisconsin. They were using this to test different places for recreational sites  in Wisconsin, this sent me on a path towards understanding how landscape architecture and ecology intersected.

What is your design process?

Design is a methodology that you learn over time and through making lots of assumptions and then breaking them down and deconstructing them. As you rebuild your knowledge base, your building a scaffolding in your mind. 

I noticed that you use a roll of trace paper when you take notes...

There is a link between the hand and mind, and the way you express it is different for each person. I like the way the roll of paper represents time, as I write down my thoughts they naturally get recorded in a linear format, its like a conveyor belt. You also learn a lot from looking at other people's design process. There is also an aesthetic to the way you work, and it starts to get caught up in your design thinking and the way you solve problems. 

Is going to school for design necessary?

I wasn't really a designer before graduate school, I did arts and crafts and I think everyone uses a type of latent design thinking. Design school expands your aesthetic and what your process is.

In your class Ecological and Urban Design you talk a lot about Designed Experiments, what are they and how do they bring design thinking into ecology?

Well researchers have a very different mind-set, a different process, researchers like that have more structure and less open ended. They are much more comfortable studying within a system in order to understand how it works. On the other hand architects like to study a system in order to understand how they can influence and/or form a new system. There has always been a one way street of knowledge from ecologists to designers. I don't think its the personalities of the people so much as the trainning that reinforces this structure. Designed experiments are ways in which architects can propose changes/designs that simultaneoulsly improve the environment for humans and also evaluate the way the environment is affected by them. 

(I will interject here to explain this concept more. Fellson has detailed a set of guidelines that help architects propose designs to ecologists in a way that convinces them to participate in development projects that they would otherwise find problematic. For example, a storm water drainage system can be implemented into a community with the dual purpose of re-directing the water but also testing the water quality in order to get the sense of the river's health).

What do you think is the best example of good design?

Bridges are really interesting, the quality of engineering and aesthetic quality necessary are really interesting. In general things that require heavy engineering and specific construction practices. I also am really interested in design strategies that evolve and adapt overtime such as bryant park, the flexibility is an interesting model, so is the emerald necklace in Boston.

But a pencil is also a nice design, it is essentially a holder for graphite but also improves the functionality by being able to be sharpened. 

What is something you always wanted to fix or re-design?

Transportation systems in cities!

What books or resources would you give to a student interested in learning more about design?

To take design seriously its essential to take classes and find mentors. Also, a lot of real world design processes are less about the "design" and more about what happens in terms of communication and translation between different stakeholders in the project. 


Interview with Dr. David Rosenthal

How To Learn More: A collection of Resources from various Profesionals