John Ellison

Day 52: Detectives of Human-Centered Design

3 min read

Project Recap

The concepts that have arisen out of the Training Project have surpassed anything I imagined when we first set off to explore opportunities for Clearleft to provide training. When we first envisioned the outputs of the project we thought it would look like a series of workshops that we could provide to clients.

While this original idea still exists within the product and service concepts that have arisen out of our design process, the idea exists in a very different form.

I think what has happened is that we have gotten to the essense of the idea. We have taken a human-centered approach to our design process and have started with the needs of real people. We've explored their worlds and their experience and have begun to collectively identify opportunities for helping them meet their needs and reach their goals.

We used story as a vehicle for our process. In analyzing the opportunities we identified through the stories that reflected our research, we started recognizing interesting patterns.

Some of the biggest patterns were about connecting people. There were opportunities directly centered around providing design education and there was also a theme of coaching and mentoring—tailoring directly to the needs of the person and designing a custom solution just for their needs.

All of these trends and patterns seemed closely related to one another. In our exploration of how these opportunities might take form as solutions, we diverged again and explored hundreds of opportunities.

Because there were far too many opportunities for my mind to comprehend, I designed a small exercise that would allow me to visualize combinations of the different components that made up the opportunities:

  • people
  • problems
  • solutions
  • differentiators
  • alternatives
  • contexts

When looking at all of these separate elements, our divergence seemed to grow. In converging onto specific expressions of these opportunities in the form of an elevator pitch or a value proposition, we seemed to approach the concept, but still, something wasn't quite right.

Something was missing.

Following The Senses

The feeling that there was potential living in these ideas but the potential wasn't being fully expressed was a feeling that I experienced and I think many others who have contributed to the project have experienced as well.

It seemed like we were detectives looking for clues to help solve a complex mystery. We were drawn by the mysterious nature of the clues and the feeling of great potential that lay hidden in the negative space between all of the possibilities.

Playing Detective

In digging further to understand the clues and piece together the solution for the mystery, strange things started happening. Ideas began connecting and what was previously unknown started to become known. Things that weren't making sense were starting to make sense.

Suddenly we were staring at a complex system and beginning to see inklings of elegant simplicity. Through conversation, sketching and ideation we approached the solution to the mystery ever closer...

These sketches illustrate our journey as detectives trying to find the missing clues and make sense of the unknown. They represent our desire to help real people solve real problems. They represent our human-centered process that begins in human needs, emerges with empathy, designs in collaboration and tells the story like our lives depend on it.

I'll leave these as clues. Join us in the mystery.

design school ecosystem diagram

student needs mind map diagram

mentor needs design school ecosystem

consumer needs

contributor needs

entrepreneur need design school ecosystem

investor needs design school ecosystem

open source design curriculum concept

open source curriculum germinated seed concept user story 1

open source curriculum germinated seed concept user story 2