Operational models of design expertise

In the following, two operating models of design expertise are presented: design thinking and human-centered design. Other models are e.g. Value-Sensitive Design, Design for Wellbeing, Systems Intelligence Tactics, Responsible Design – Life-Cycle Analysis and Experience Design.



Design thinking is a human-centered innovation process focused on collaboration, iterative problem-solving, rapid learning, prototyping and simultaneous business analysis. According to Brown (2008) design thinking is “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” It is characterized by creativity and innovation, user-centeredness and user involvement, problem solving, iteration and experimentation, interdisciplinary collaboration, visualization, but also acceptance to tolerance of ambiguity and failure. It is also closely linked to approaches such as human-centered design, participatory design, co-design, empathic design. Design thinking is widely spread in academia, industry, governmental organizations, education and within and beyond design communities. The benefits of design thinking are related to both outcome such as innovations and their quality, improved user experience and customer satisfaction and process such as performance improvements and improvements in innovation culture, empowerment of people to decision making, practical tools and business benefits. Design thinking creates a strong base for designing for desirable futures, but there is a space to extended in towards sustainability thinking.

Typical parts of design thinking processes are:
• empathizing and understanding users
• defining focus
• creating ideas
• generating prototypes
• testing with users

Further reading and tools:
An Introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide, Institute of Design at Stanford
Design Thinking Bootcamp Bootleg, Institute of Design at Stanford
DesignkitEnterprise Design Thinking
The Design Thinking Toolkit: 100+ Method Cards to Create Innovative Products

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Human-centered design (HCD) is about facilitating communication and cooperation, jointly learning, and creating new technical solutions. It covers a broad range of approaches such as user-centered design, participatory design, design for user experience, the lead user approach, co-design, ethnography, contextual design, and empathic design. In HCD, ISO 9241-210 (2019) standard has been widely spread in academia, industry, governmental organizations within and beyond digital design communities.

According to standard (ISO 9241-210), HCD is an approach to systems design and development that aims to make interactive systems more usable by focusing on the use of the system and applying human factors/ergonomics and usability knowledge and techniques. HCD is an iterative process containing an active user involvement in the whole development activities from design to development as well as multidisciplinary approaches, skills, and perspectives. In addition, design is based on an explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments and it is refined by user-centred evaluation.

In HCD, typical design phases are:
• understanding and specifying the context of use
• specifying the user requirements
• producing design solutions
• evaluating the design

The benefits of HCD are better user satisfaction, acceptance of products to use, improved quality of product and efficiency in development, productivity, and increased participation in decision-making within the organization. HCD, and especially ISO 9241-210, has been criticized by its narrow focus for nowadays’ needs. For example, meaning, hedonic aspects of user experience, security and sustainability are not addressed in depth.

ISO 9241-210: Ergonomics of Human-System Interaction – Part 210: Human-Centered Design for Interactive Systems. 2019.

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