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  • Writer's pictureTracy

Keeping Design Human-Centered

People ignore design that ignores people.

- F. Chimero

Growing as an artist throughout the last twenty years has been an emotional experience. One day, paintbrush in hand, I will ecstatically proclaim, “I am an artist!” and then proceed to attack canvas, paper, or print with all of the heart I can muster.

A week later, I am walking into my studio ignoring art, and simply going to work.

This comes from the idea that artists must suffer and be unable to complete much of consequence BUT create. Think van Gogh, our token starving soul.

This is not the personality of my soul. I have met many, dated a few (oh, help us all), and realized I am not at all akin to van Gogh’s mental state most of the time.

I create via inspiration, mostly, and have decided that art must be created and I must enjoy it. My studio is full of quotes, inspirational items, paint, paper, canvas, books, and all that one needs to be an artist.

Yet, if we are speaking to the artist type akin to van Gogh, I am not an artist. Yes, I taught art for 20 years, from Prek-12th grade, and I adore every aspect of visual art. My favorite conversations are those where I can meander down a long corridor of aspects of visual arts - particularly art history.

Today, I find myself working in the realm of design - web, content, and graphic design, although that last noun is only in the utmost of moderation. I adore design and find myself contemplating design frequently.

So, what is design? From Merriam-Webster, design is: 1 : an arrangement of parts in a structure or a work of art, 2 : the art or process of planning and creating something, 3 : a sketch, model, or plan of something made or to be made

The world of design literally fell into my lap. I left teaching, got an MBA, and then went to work in an agency that taught me web design. A few years later, I find myself continuing to do web design, graphics, and content design. UX design is the process of taking an idea from start to product finish. However, that is not all. The steps in between are the most valuable. Recently, I discovered some steps of how this is done, and I do believe this has validity to move from the idea stage (where creatives often get stuck) to the final product.

What is most beautiful about these design methods is it takes an artist from waiting for inspiration to strike (perhaps, while one starves) to movement within the realms of creation.

A Caution to UX/UIBootcamps and Design Certificates

At the crux of the realm of web design today is the discussion of UX and UI design. 795 million results return in 0.4 seconds when you do a search of this term. Most of the results involve a ‘certificate’ or a ‘bootcamp’ in UX or UI design.

This is when our information highway becomes a problem instead of a help. I have at least one friend who is working toward her UX design certification and have had two reach out to me about getting involved with a boot camp on the subject matter.

This has been so much the topic of conversation lately, that the UX Collective, a group on Medium, has written an article entitled, The UX Bootcamp Model is Broken. In this article, gratefully, the author, Mikos Phillips, calls out the excessiveness of the upfront cost, the watering down of proper UX training, and the venture capitalists lurking behind the promised education to job ‘easy’ bootcamp training. I highly recommend Phillips’ article, as it dives into how to get started instead of paying for an expensive bootcamp or certificate, which could amount to nothing in the end.

As an educator, I am grateful for this call out and I am bewildered by the appearance of a massive amount of courses promising amazing results offered now online.

The internet is not human-centered, and I urge anyone looking for quick promises and a lot of expensive up-front costs NOT to dive into that bootcamp.

Obviously, we cannot shove the internet aside, so instead, let’s slow down and discuss the humans within this realm and the future prospects of jobs to come.

Steps to Uncovering Human Centered Design - Discover - Define - Develop - Deliver

In a recent lunch and learn with Knoxville Technology Center, one of the lead speakers mentioned just doing UX/UI design. He mentioned just getting started with design. Seek an apprenticeship, or watch videos online. Developing a portfolio is always a fabulous way to get started in any career involving design.

And as you develop your skills, keep it focused on the humans. Human-centered design translates into the field of UX/UI and is not a new concept. This design focuses on a problem-solving process used to create an end result such as a product, service, or system. The approach focuses on developing a framework to deepen solutions to the problems humans are seeing, while involving those very humans in all steps of the process.

Simplified, design follows a linear path - discover the problems, define the problems, develop a solution, deliver the solution. Again, keeping the human involved every step of the way.

Why Human-Centered Design Is Vital Throughout the twenty plus years of being involved in the artwork, I have seen artists bang their heads (sometimes literally) on the wall attempting to convey an idea to a client or customer. The stories that are told of an artist getting angry with a client because they did not like their design are in the hundreds. And yet, this is a conundrum for artists and clients alike.

For starters, the artist/designer has training in areas that perhaps the client does not. This allows for the designer to create solutions and assist the client. However, the client knows her market, audience, and brand voice.

In order to avoid this round and round, and potentially emotional experience, human-design provides a framework for the designer to present to the client. This framework puts user needs, desires and abilities at the center of the development. The framework creates a process that allows decisions to be made which assist the process by dividing goals into tasks. This is different than a designer gleaning a little information about the needs/company, then creating a design, and then preventing the design. It allows for clients to be involved, and designers to learn.

One thing to note, that I can hear running around in some designers' minds: the process from start to finish just got longer. How often do designers work on a project, ask a question, and then a busy client fails to respond in a timely manner.

This is challenging, and does need consideration when working in the longer human-centered design framework.

Keeping Humans Centered in Design It is of utmost importance that designers begin to shift to human-centered design thinking when working through problems. This is the very area of UX-UI design. Creating a framework for a client to understand the process makes it easy for communication and allows for questions to be formulated throughout the design process. This framework will evolve and as a designer, you will truly know if you are meeting your human client’s needs - who is paying for the work you are doing.

At the VWC, we want you to be happy, and we will not stop until you are. Need some help with a project? We’d love to chat. Shoot us an email today.

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