Pause 2017 will explore human-centered design and the importance of understanding the customer

From buildings to buses, from apps to the smartphones we are using them on, every single thing we interact with – and the way we interact with it – has been shaped by a designer.

Over the last few years however, the way designers themselves approach their work and their customers has changed. In the past, the consumer essentially came last: products were developed and then the business thought about how to market it to their customers.

In today’s world, with consumers savvier than ever and the competition fierce, there is a great need to connect with customers more deeply to understand their needs, desires, and what drives them, and put them at the heart of what a business does to capture their attention.

This is human-centered design, and it’s shaping the way we now interact with the world.

To help innovators understand their customers and how they’re wired, Pause 2017 will be hosting a workshop on human-centered design, looking at how the convergence of human need, technology, and business viability can lead to the creation of innovative solutions.

Featuring experts from Marketing Entourage, champions of design and human-centered strategic thinking; Rubix, creators of business architecture that utilises emerging technologies; and startup innovation studio BlueChilli, the Tech Day workshop will explore why an understanding the world and how people work is fundamental to great design, the commercial and societal impacts of human-centered design, and why a design mindset should be solution-focused, rather than problem-focused.

So what exactly is human-centered design?

Samantha Hurley, cofounder of Marketing Entourage, explained human-centered design as a framework that incorporates a creative approach to solving problems, considering people and their perspectives throughout the whole design and production process.

The framework has been developed through the evolution of previous go-tos in the design space. Hurley explained that in the past, systems design was the default, which then led to the use of participatory design. While involving people in the development phase of a project, participatory design largely ignored the emotional response to testing a product.

“In some cases, when the tester’s responses conflicted with the designer’s, testing ended,” she said.

The introduction of service design then saw an evolution from user testing, to user experience, to the key element of the user journey; service design learned and adapted methodology from anthropology and marketing to form a more holistic approach to the development of products and services.

This then allowed for the redefinition of human-centered design.

“Human-centered transformed from a method to a mindset and re-introduced design thinking as a methodology for humanising the problems we face as a world. It is also now a popular methodology for businesses to use to increase creativity and innovation when developing their products and services for their market,” Hurley said.

An interesting example of human-centered design was much of Apple’s old work: in its marketing the company aimed itself at the creators and innovators, and its products backed it up, seeing the brand become the go-to for the creative industry.

As consumers increasingly long for and gravitate to brands that they feel speak to them, the value of embracing and implementing human-centered design is there for businesses large and small: individuals who wake up every day with passion to unlock a new idea, intrapreneurs crafting a strategic roadmap for their legacy corporation, CEOs who are looking to future-proof their business, and everyone in between.

With the three day Pause festival exploring the convergence of creative, tech, and business, Hurley believes the successful application of human-centered design itself requires all three. Here creative is ‘desirability’, technology is ‘feasibility’, and business is ‘viability’.

Hurley said, “If we consider that everything that we interact with has been designed in some way, then everything impacts design.”

Despite the relevance of human-centered design in today’s world, however, Hurley admitted letting go of old mindsets and methodologies can be difficult for older businesses and newer, tech-focused startups alike.

“One of the problems we see regularly within the startup world is the development of great ideas and digital platforms that have no user or customer base because of a lack of market awareness and market research,” Hurley said.

“A human-centred approach would ensure that even before they have reached prototype stage, the people that will see value have been involved in the process. This will result in a more meaningful and valuable outcome for the customer, and it may also ensure that entrepreneurs don’t get ‘stuck’ on the one outcome.”

To walk participants through the process, the workshop will see Marketing Entourage discuss the tools used to help determine the desirability of a startup, business, or idea, and how to develop a more human-centered mindset.

Helping its customers to be the pioneers of change through the inventive use of digital technology, at the workshop Rubix will discuss the methodology that sits within determining the feasibility of an idea, while BlueChilli, experts in accelerating a startup’s path to the world, will address the viability of an idea, product, or service by discussing the frameworks and tools it uses to launch.

The goal of the workshop, Hurley said, is to help participants understand the potential of human-centered design to create innovations and businesses that make a difference.

“Should they have observed, empathised, collected data, and involved people in a design process of their product or service, they may just create something that is going to greatly enhance people’s lives,” she said.

As human-centered design challenges the status quo, Hurley believes Pause is exactly the perfect host for a workshop on the methodology and its potential to change the world.

“Human-centered design challenges the way some people think, it makes some people uncomfortable, and challenges the traditional way of product and service development that was always taught in MBAs,” she said.

With Pause calling all free thinking creators and innovators, Hurley hopes that participants go on to drive further innovation within the Melbourne startup community.

“I get so excited by Pause; the energy of the people and their collective minds all in the same space is electric.  The speakers are always world class and are paving the way to a beautifully designed future.”

Pause Fest 2017 will take place at Federation Square on the 8th-10th of February 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.