Having recently completed my certificate in “Foundations in Design Thinking” from the global design company, IDEO, I am reminded that the human experience is at the heart of good design. Not every client has a clear vision at the start of the creative process, but when they approach Uptown Studios, they come to us with a seedling of an idea that they want to bring to life. We take this seed, and we help clients to grow it.

Unlocking Your Creativity

Everyone has the ability to be creative. As a long time artist, designer, and arts educator, I’ve found there are a lot of assumptions about what creativity is or means. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say, “I’m just not creative. I can’t draw to save my life.” The notion that creativity is limited to drawing skills is unfortunately common and small-minded.

Creativity takes endless forms. In my experience, I find that most people who don’t classify themselves as “creative” usually just need help to unlock their imaginative powers. Others need help seeing familiar scenarios with fresh eyes. A simple change of perspective is powerful. “Ah-ha” moments are a beautiful thing, and a can-do attitude goes a long way.

It has always been an honor to help others find their creative voice. Through my experience in the Design Thinking course, I learned how Human-Centered Design focus groups can be utilized to help clients hone in on their visions. The leaders of these sessions – known as Design Thinkers – aim to spur fresh insight by creating conditions that yield openness and innovative energies.

Discovering Your “Why”

In the Human-Centered Design process, participants are led through various focus group exercises intended to encourage discovery, divergent thinking, and story-telling. The Design Thinkers engage participants in meaningful conversation that clarifies the participating organization’s objectives and project goals. Design Thinkers are steadfast creative guides, who help participants move their ideas into action by helping them to answer big questions like “What’s your Why?” We are here to encourage the curiosity, play, and silliness that spawns originality. When it comes to brainstorming, more is more! No idea is too small or outlandish. A good idea is a good idea, and all ideas can be modified to meet three important lenses: Feasibility (is it do-able?), Desirability (is it needed/wanted?), and Viability (is it economical?).

Learning About Your Target Audience

“Empathy Immersion” is one of IDEO’s coined approaches to discovery. Empathy experiences help us move beyond assumptions (some of which we didn’t even know we had), and engaging in an analogous experience can create understanding. Take this great example which I picked up from my IDEO course: If you want to understand how someone with poor eyesight experiences the world, take a pair of reading glasses, smother them with vaseline, put them on your face, and take a walk around your neighborhood. Creating these types of immersive experiences push us beyond intellect to a visceral sense of others perspective.

By its very nature, Design Thinking requires direct personal involvement. Engaging personally with users might mean observing people and what they care about in their everyday spaces—considering their body language, their histories, their interaction with objects and the people around them. This type of focused attention can shed light on user needs and/or wants; can create motivation that causes users to take action, and can lead to the generation of marketing ideas that stick and are shareable. Personal engagement may take the form of shared conversation, through interviews or story-telling. Keeping a “Let’s find out” or “Let’s ask why” mentality while interacting with others is important for the reason that authentic insights are not always obvious insights. Additionally, asking tough questions and sharing emotional experiences can help us to bond and locate common ground.

Bearing witness, or even participating, in the everyday happenings of the end-users, is invaluable to any design process. If you want to produce worthwhile outcomes and products, consider investing the time into truly learning about the people you are crafting for.

Interested in how you can use Human-Centered Design to learn more about your target audience? Contact us.

Jill Bruschera
By Jill Bruschera