One of the questions we set of to answer was whether everyone can be a designer? Does everyone have the ability to come up with his or her own solutions or do you need training, an education or talent for this? Is the process of design not just to important to keep to trained designers? And if everyone is a designer, what would that mean for the process of Human Centered Design (HCD) and the HCD toolkit? Do we need to democratize the Human Centered Design process in order for it to become really Human Centered? And how do we do this?
We (AmIadesigner) are definitely going to continue with our research but last month our trip around the world has ended, we arrived back in the Netherlands and therefore we think it is time to formulate an answer to these questions and we would like to share this with you and ask your reflection. We talked previously about design being a trade, a process, an attitude or an end product. When we talk about designers as professionals that master a trade they do need training and experience and when we talk about design as an attitude I think it is safe to conclude that although you can introduce everyone to an attitude, some will have more natural abilities to use this attitude then others. This leaves us with design as a process, which currently seems to be the most dominant definition of design. Can everyone use a design process?
In one of the first interviews we held with Mark Stickdorn he said: “design is no rocket science: it is just the process of creating something new, which everyone has in them”. A recent study by Chris Stringer even showed that it is the ability to come up with new solutions and social relationships, which made us current humans, survive the Neanderthals. But when we further investigate descriptions of design processes and related toolkits and literature we find then when people talk about design processes it is still almost always about a trained designer that, sometimes in very close collaboration with the target group, designs a solution for this target group. A good example of this is this very interesting and recently published article of the Technical University of Eindhoven called; Designing for, with or within: 1st, 2nd and 3rd person points of view on designing for systems, which discusses Designing for, Designing with and Designing within your target group but never assumes that the target group themselves might be in a possibility to come up with their own solution. Why don’t we place greater value on the voices of those we seek to help? Why don’t we let them come up with their own solutions instead of coming up with solutions for them?
It isn’t that we don’t care about our target group. They are why those of us who work to solve problems are inspired to work hard each day. Is it that perhaps we don’t really trust the target groups’ point of view? Maybe we’re fearful of what they might say or design—that without the benefit of “expertise” they might be misinformed or wrong. Perhaps we’re scared that we will learn something that calls our own approach into question? Or maybe we don’t know how to facilitate the target groups own design process routinely in a way that is reliable, rigorous, and useful?
Can everyone use the Design process? I think after travelling the world for 5 months and giving many workshops in which we facilitated ordinary people to come up with their own solutions, our answer is YES! We facilitated youngsters in Indonesia, high-school students in the Netherlands, elderly in Adelaide and teachers in Lima to come up with new solutions for their own problems. All of them were in our eyes very capable in coming up with new solutions themselves and we found out it wasn’t them struggling with coming up with sufficient solutions, it was us struggling with facilitating the design process and resisting the temptation to judge their solutions or even resisting the temptation to interfere in their process to include our own solutions in the process as well.
The target group, when designing their own solutions, might need some help of a specialist to work-out the specific technology, finances etc. And in that sense the designer as a trade is still very needed within the process, especially when it the solution is a physical product. Or the target group might need help in facilitating or learning the process, especially when it is the first time people work which such design processes. But to us, this seems less time-consuming or less risky then flying in foreign design teams, which is the most common strategy for finding solutions for these problems right now. Might it be that current day designers, teachers, entrepreneurs and NGO employees struggle with the concept of self-design by their target groups more then the target group themselves?
So how do we make teachers, designer, entrepreneurs, NGO employees etc. more comfortable with the process of Human Centered Design by the target group themselves? We tend to refer to it now as self-design, but any suggestions on terminology here are more then welcome. Do we even need someone this teacher, designer, entrepreneur or NGO employee to facilitate the process or can someone within the target group also facilitate the process?
During the workshops we facilitated in Africa, we came up with the idea of a facilitator tool, which we designed to guide you through the whole HCD process. The HCD canvasses can be used by the target group self, by facilitators that want a little help or by teachers that want to teach their students how to use the HCD process. We tested the idea of the HCD canvasses at our next destination Indonesia, improved the canvasses after feedback of the Indonesian students and teachers and adapted the canvasses again after our own revision of the sequence of the HCD steps and tools, and now we added the facilitator texts, which are mend to guide you through the HCD process but also needs to provide the users of the HCD text with the confidence that they can be as creative and crazy as possible. The canvasses and facilitator text are designed to ensure that you will get to a solid end result.
The idea is that the HCD canvasses including the facilitator text can be printed out on one A1 each or on individual A4′s which them can be glued/taped together. This is how the current HCD canvasses look:
So what’s next? Time to prototype again! We are going to test the canvasses with the facilitator text ourselves in our education programs in the Netherlands and the AASD also agreed to prototype them in their training program with American students this summer.
What can you do? If you are interested in providing us feedback on the canvasses, the facilitator text or would like to collaborate with us to test the use of the HCD canvasses in your university/organization, please send us an email at: email@example.com. And please give input on what would be a good name to refer to this type of design, because self-design might not be the best terminology!