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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.



BY

March 15th, 2019


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.

‘Design-led’

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.

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

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