January 27, 2017
December 18, 2015

Framework for Human Centered Design

Using Human Centered Design methodologies for social impact has been on my mind for months.  So, naturally, I was super excited when I heard about ID's BarnRaise event which , focused on using HCD practices to prototype solutions for social challenges here in Chicago.

The event was one part conference, one part workshop, one part make-a-ton and all parts awesome. My team, hosted by HERE (a Nokia owned mapping company) and Design Concepts (a Madison-based product design firm) was charged with exploring social challenges forecasted to develop with the innovation and acceptance of the automated vehicle.  

Though no one on the team had ever even ridden in an automated vehicle, were able to use a Human Centered Design Framework and tools to break down the problem and ideate around potential solutions.   I've curated a basic 3-step framework that could be applied generally across industries......

1) Frame the problem: Basic preliminary research and brainstorming around the concept helped get us all on the same page about what self driving cars might look like and how they might effect city life here in Chicago. This was especially important because the subject matter was unrealized.  In this case, projecting future situations helped us determine a potential problem of interaction between pedestrians/bikers and automated vehicles.

Tool:   To guide the brainstorming, we used prompts such as "What good might Self Driving Cars bring to the city" or "What challenges might arise with Self Driving Cars in the city".  Each team member used post-its to document their thoughts and we culled like ideas into thought groups.

2) Access current behaviors: HCD utilizes ethnographic research and user-based behavior insights to inform product strategy.  Since we didn't have automated cars to study direct interaction, we chose to monitor current behaviors on the streets, where this transportation would someday occur, to see how driverless vehicles might best assimilate into the city environment and even add to the social good of the area.

Tool:  We used the "AEIOU Framework" to structure our observations, deliberately noting Actions (what was happening), Environment (insights on the location), Interactions (person to person or person to object), Objects (what else was in the space) and Users (can you define user groups).

3) Build potential solutions:  Using the insights from the environment and current behaviors around transportation, we began ideation for developing potential solutions.  

Tool: Our tools for this were paper, hot glue guns and markers.  Yup, physical prototyping was the focus. What could we MAKE that could help inform us of a potential solution.  This was exciting because it brought us out of a land of ideas and spreadsheets and into the physical world of products.  One prototype led to creating an automated bus that would aid bikers and walkers with lighting, a weather shield and protection from streets.

This three step framework -  framing a problem, accessing current behaviors and prototyping potential solutions - led all the BarnRaise teams to very interesting solutions throughout the workshop.  Check out more on the BarnRaise Blog. And next time you are facing a strategy challenge or problem solving need, try one of these Human Centered Design tools for a new perspective!