Human-Centric Design: Fall in Love with the Problem and Not the Solution

Human-centric design allows design engineers to focus on the challenges they want their products to solve and not be distracted by trends.

Susan Shepard

May 14, 2024

3 Min Read
Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

At a Glance

  • IME South includes Design & Manufacturing South, ATX South, MD&M South, SouthPack, Plastic South, & Powder/Bulk Solids South.
  • Human-centric design employs empathy and connecting with users and those around them to create a successful product.
  • These principles can be followed across the product life cycle, even for engineering devices, software, & processes

Human-centric design allows companies to focus on the challenges they want their products to solve and not be swayed by hot new technologies, just because they are trending, says Andy Busam, principal consultant at Method. Busam and Michael Ifkovits, Method’s director of business strategy, will explore human-centric design and how this process can help companies design effective products, in the IME South presentation, “Human Centric Design in Modern Health Technology.

“All too often what we see happen is that companies fall in love with a solution and not the problem,” Busam tells Design News. “The flavor of the year might be generative AI, so they might say, ‘Oh we’ve got to do something with AI,’ but it’s a solution to what is often a poorly defined problem.”

What Is Human-Centric Design?

As Ifkovits emphasized, human-centric design employs empathy and connecting with the actual experience of the user and those around them to create a successful product. “A sense of community, as well as the context in which things are happening, all that makes up human-centered design,” he explains. “It isn’t one thing, and it doesn't mean it always has a technical solution.”

Ifkovits adds that human-centric design also de-risks some parts of the development process because the outcomes are prioritized from the outset. “You get an early view into the world in which your device or your solution is going to be embedded,” he says. “It insists the right things go to the people using the tools.”

Another reason that human-centric design is so effective is that there are shorter feedback and validation cycles, Busam says, noting that the whole design process starts by talking to the people who are most closely affected by the solution and, in some cases, codesigning with them.

“I've been in plenty of situations where you’re literally sketching diagrams or ideas on a notepad with a patient or a clinician and you're working out,” Busam says. 

“I think it validates the ideas much faster, so that you're not just in your own head or working internally or even with other people who think like you,” he continues, “and getting too far down the road, spending months on design or engineering before you put it in front of a real person who's going to use that product or service.”

Busam and Ifkovits will present these concepts and more in “Human-Centric Design in Modern Health Technology,” at IME South. They encourage all to attend, not just designers. 

“At the end of the day, it's open for people in the medtech and healthcare space who are trying to solve problems where software has a role to play,” Busam says.

Ifkovits agrees. “You can apply these principles in the process to any number of issues that companies face,” he said. “It doesn't have to be device-specific—it could be software, it could be processes, it could be a lot of things.”

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As for what they would like their attendees to take away from their session, Ifkovits says, “I hope that they walk out and have an example of something to apply this thinking to. Maybe they're stuck on something, and this is a new way to approach it and get them unblocked.”

Adds Busam: “One of our mantras is ‘falling in love with the problem and not a solution. I think people could walk away with an understanding of how they or their teams could do human-centric design across the product life cycle. That it's not just an activity that you do when you kick off a project but that this is really about keeping people at the center of your design process from start to finish and as they iterate in the future.” 

Busam and Ifkovits will present “Human Centric Design in Modern Health Technology,” on Wednesday, June 5, from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m. in Room E217, at IME South.

IME South features six different co-located shows: Design & Manufacturing South,ATX South, MD&M South, SouthPack, Plastic South, and Powder/Bulk Solids South.

About the Author(s)

Susan Shepard

Susan Shepard is a freelance contributor to Design News and MD+DI.

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