Human-Centered Design: Core Principals for Research


Human-Centered Design (HCD) continues to create interest and intrigue among professionals from researchers to innovation specialists. And with good reason: it offers powerful new ways of understanding human behaviors, preferences, and challenges from a uniquely customer-centric perspective.

However, there is also a fair amount of confusion about what Human-Centered Design is—and how to best employ it. That is, to inspire and empower innovation. If you’ve had questions about the basics of Human-Centered Design, this blog will inform and inspire you about this burgeoning discipline.

What is Human-Centered Design?

At its core, Human-Centered Design is a mindset anchored in creating deep understanding and empathy for customers as the unifying force—from concept to completion. Rather than simply gathering the customer’s voice as an initial input for the traditional product development process, HCD places human beings as the North Star throughout all phases of design and innovation initiatives.

While this may seem like a matter of semantics, this empathy-oriented mindset is, in practice, a radically different way of ensuring that a product or experience is carefully crafted with the end customer in mind. It creates an antidote for the insular and internally-focused groupthink that can often steer, and even derail, innovation efforts. But more than that, HCD ultimately seeks to create new kinds of value in customers’ lives.

When is it best to apply Human-Centered Design?

While powerful in the right situations, Human-Centered Design isn’t a silver bullet to be used indiscriminately. Therefore, finding the right challenges to employ HCD is critical to maximizing its effectiveness. Fortunately, however, the kinds of problems that Human-Centered Design shines a light on are increasingly common.

Human-centered design is best suited when:

As an example, finding ways to better serve elderly Danish citizens who receive in-home meals is a challenge perfectly suited for Human-Centered Design since it meets all the criteria cited above. The classic case study of The Good Kitchen is a great way to see how this is the kind of challenge that thrives with the lens of HCD applied to it.

Human-Centered Design principals

While Human-Centered Design isn’t a process—and certainly isn’t linear—it does have several distinct lenses you can use to apply the overall HCD mindset:

Moving forward with Human-Centered Design

“Modern problems require modern solutions,” or so says a popular internet saying. But it’s more than a meme: it’s a great way of thinking about why Human-Centered Design is so powerful—and so popular. As our world and the lives of customers grow increasingly complex, new ways of meeting these challenges are needed. Hopefully this brief overview of Human-Centered Design inspires you to explore the possibilities it offers to drive new kinds of innovation for your organization.