A professional resource for the design curious

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

Quantifying human-centered design: Cliff Ho from The Commons

Cliff Ho, CEO and co-founder of co-working group The Commons, pens a think piece that looks at the world of design thinking and how designers can use their talents for better design outcomes.

Quantifying human-centered design: Cliff Ho from The Commons
Cliff Ho, co-founder and CEO of co-working company The Commons.

Cliff Ho, co-founder and CEO of co-working company The Commons.

In today’s world, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to constantly adapt and innovate how they approach strategy. Business professionals and entrepreneurs, including architecture and design practices, must break away from conventional ways of problem-solving in order to stay competitive and succeed.

By no means a new concept, Design Thinking was first coined by IDEO in the early nineties. But the methodology has continued to rise in prevalence over the past few years, having been adopted by some of the world’s most successful companies who see its value from both a financial and cultural perspective. 

If we explore the concept further, it is undoubtedly those who underpin their business strategy with Design Thinking that will flourish.

Defining ‘Design Thinking’

The saying ‘everything is by design’ could not be truer when you think about how Design Thinking principles can be applied to your business.

Design Thinking is a systematic, human-centred and design-led approach to decision-making. It addresses the needs of people and utilises the possibilities of technology. The approach considers requirements for business success and identifies future opportunities.

What is the key to Design Thinking? It might not be what you expect – empathy. Essentially, using ethnography to determine how what you are creating will be received by the other person and how it will make their lives easier. This way of thinking is moving away from traditional brand and consumer hierarchies and to a model of brand co-creation.

‘Human-centred design’

‘Customer-centric’ has been a buzzword lately, but doesn’t ‘human-centred’ resonate more and add a layer of empathy? Human-centred design is the approach to problem-solving that looks to develop products, services, systems and experiences that address the core needs of those who experience a problem. This technique is based on the emotional connection and experience people have with products and can bring co-creation into play.


The design-led approach builds on the customer-centric or human-centric idea to create a customer-centric journey. This holistic approach encapsulates the touch, feel, emotions, interpretation, intuition, logic and creativity associated with the design. It’s important to remember that design must consider much more than what a product physically looks like.

Standing out from the crowd

You might be wondering whether this approach is right for your business, but the reality is that in order to remain competitive, Design Thinking is paramount.

According to an assessment by the Design Management Institute, design-led companies have outperformed the S&P 500 (widely regarded as the best single gauge equities, the index includes 500 leading companies with indexed assets of approximately USD 3.4 trillion) of large-cap US over the past decade by a staggering 219 per cent.

As mentioned earlier, many companies have begun to adopt the design-led approach; most notably Apple, Spotify, Google and Virgin. The most important takeaway from these companies is that Design Thinking can be a market disruptor.

Disruption is normally viewed as creating a new market that didn’t exist before. However, it is more about identifying a new product or service that offers consumers a solution to a problem or need. Apple is one of the leading companies in Design Thinking transforming into a market disruptor by creating the most user-friendly products in the market. Spotify’s approach to new product development which is both human-centric and design-led also landed them a title as a market disruptor.

“Human-centred design is the approach to problem-solving that [addresses] the core needs of those who experience a problem.”

Who stands to benefit from Design Thinking?

Design Thinking stands to benefit company decision-makers and influencers who are looking to open up new possibilities and ways of thinking for their teams – but it goes beyond that. Design Thinking looks to provide solutions for industries, global economies, products and services and ultimately – each and every one of us.

How can you as a designer utilise the value you bring to your clients and expand it out? How can you make sure your clients understand that good design goes much deeper? 

Want more design thinking? Read through our archive here. Keep your finger on the pulse, sign up for our newsletter.

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed

INDE.Awards 2022 winners announced!

INDE.Awards 2022 winners announced!

The auditorium was full, the vibe electric and the winners truly outstanding last night at the INDE.Awards Gala. Scroll the Indo Pacific’s most outstanding projects and people, here.

Aman – A unique Fifth Avenue fixture

Aman – A unique Fifth Avenue fixture

Unmistakably New York but with a nature-inflected interior that is unmistakably Aman, the recently opened Aman New York is already a Fifth Avenue fixture.

Reimagining the classic terrace with Smart Design Studio

Reimagining the classic terrace with Smart Design Studio

Smart Design Studio has explored the classic terraced house as a convenient and comfortable luxury staple for Mirvac’s latest development. Read on for a sneak peek of the Portman Terraces, due for completion in 2023.

Something old, something new: fjmtstudio and Built reimagine two historic buildings in Sydney’s CBD

Something old, something new: fjmtstudio and Built reimagine two historic buildings in Sydney’s CBD

Sub Station No. 164 marries original industrial elements with a strikingly sculptural glass architectural statement. This new vision of the workplace celebrates wellbeing and sustainability – from Milliken’s high-performance carpet to circadian rhythm lighting.

A design double header! Kōri Ice Cream and Architects EAT

A design double header! Kōri Ice Cream and Architects EAT

Kōri Ice Cream is here! A new ice cream parlour has opened in Melbourne that features retail interior design at its very best. With summer on its way, this new destination will wow both young and old and is certain to be the place to meet and gather. With outstanding icy products, and an interior design that is more than impressive, Kōri Ice Cream is a stand out on every level.