Consider your favorite products or services, the ones that give you joy every time, the ones that make you wonder, "why can't everything work this well?" the things that just "get it so right."

The fit between the design of those things and what you want as a user does not happen by accident and it's not the product of genius.

Most good design is the result of disciplined creative problem solving that leverages collaboration among diverse interdisciplinary teams. That's what this course is about.

Whether we are designing a video game, an electric bicycle, an online experience, a protest march, or a customer assistance protocol for the library reference desk, if we generate solutions without listening to the world, we produce objects no one needs, answers to questions nobody asked, and features that frustrate rather than thrill.


Human centred design is an approach to creative problem solving that lets us do better than that by integrating empathy at every stage of the process. Human Centred Design is the practice of solving problems through creative listening.

In a famous design school this sign hangs on the wall:

"You are NOT the user."

What that sign does is remind students that the biggest obstacle to better design is our tendency to project our own experiences and illusions onto other people, to design for ourselves instead of our users.

"Human centred design," as we will use the term in this course, is creative problem solving that foregrounds attention to "user needs." Creative problem solving itself is a variation on rational problem solving that emphasizes newness, innovation, and novelty, the capacity to reframe problems and solutions. Together, these three disciplines form the core of what we will learn.

In addition to learning to "do empathy," we'll add some other skills: a reflexive urge, and the creative confidence, to build rapid prototypes of our ideas; the capacity to fail productively, early and often; the habit of iterating, over and over again; and the cognitive flexibility to alternate between divergent thinking (where the emphasis is on generating lots of options) and convergent thinking (where the focus is evaluating options and making decisions).

And because excellence depends on the disciplined and coordinated creativity of people with complementary talents and perspectives, we'll learn a thing or two about collaboration, how to effectively and enjoyably work on diverse teams.

The course will involve a mix of short lectures and demonstrations, participatory workshops, field work, and team projects. Our primary learning goal is the acquisition of a set of mindsets and concrete skills that you can deploy in the development of innovative solutions to problems that are worth solving.

Problems worth solving. Entrepreneurial skills as well as listening skills. Searching beyond articulated problems to find actual opportunities for leverage. Distinguish symptoms from causes, and ecological realities from manipulatable factors.
In this course you will learn and practice skills and mindsets that enhance YOUR creativity through intense engagement with users, the world, and your colleagues.

the experiences and needs of the people you’re designing for. and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.

If you want to think about it in terms of a checklist:

Ethnographic and careful empirical research and how to draw insights from the data generated by such research.

Enhance our capacity for creative listening and idea generation.

Learn and practice the value of alternating between divergent and convergent thinking.

Learn and practice the art of thinking outside the box.

Borrow from other fields to learn techniques for comparing potential solutions in terms of their promise, practicality, feasibility, desirability, viable

How and why we make rapid prototypes.

Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation

The structure of the course will, in effect, be to run through these steps repeatedly. On the very first day we'll have a workshop that in rapid turns takes us through problem identification, user research, idea generation, prototyping, and testing. Then in the first few weeks of the course we'll delve into each of these in detail, exploring both the theory and the practice in hands-on participatory workshops. Then, in the second half of the course we will put these skills into practice as we work in teams to develop information utilities that make a real difference for users.

After completing the course you will be familiar with the rationales and motivations for human centred design, able to use it in your own projects, and able to be part of a team putting on HCD and DT workshops of your own.

In the absence of empathy, a design process starts with a definition of the problem and research followed by ideation, analysis and implementation.

And then we generate ideas and analysis in order to reach a solution that we then test and modify based on feedback.

You can’t find a solution until you have a clear idea of what the problem is.

2. Collect Information
Collect sketches, take photographs and gather data to start giving you inspiration.

3. Brainstorm and Analyze Ideas
Begin to sketch, make, and study so you can start to understand how all the data and information you’ve collected may impact your design.

4. Develop Solutions
Take your preliminary ideas and form multiple small-scale design solutions.

5. Gather Feedback
Present your ideas to as many people as possible: friends, teachers, professionals, and any others you trust to give insightful comments.

6. Improve (