Do you wonder why we are in a fundamental shift from ‘human’ to ‘humanity’ centric design? And how are these two similar sounding words so different from each other? What are the reasons this move has become essential for the design community?
Human centric design
When we analyze the context of Human centric design, it essentially means a deep focus on the individuals for whom the design is intended for. A dominant approach in design for a few decades now, this approach is based on the philosophy that helps to empower an individual/ team to design products, services, systems and other things that are addressing the core needs of people/ individuals who have experienced a problem.
One can say that this approach has an obsessive focus on understanding the full perspective of the person who is experiencing a problem, their needs and aiming to find a solution that truly helps to solve the problem effectively. The most effective solution in this approach is when the person experiencing the issue is usually an integral part of the design process.
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Humanity centric design
Over the past 4 decades while there has been a strong focus on human centric design, the world has also been growing an increased concern for the environment, its impact on people along with other societal issues. Enter the phrase, Humanity centric design, a design that focuses on and emphasizes the rights of all of humanity, a design that addresses the entire ecosystem of earth into consideration.
It can be explained as a challenge for the designer where he/she can help improve the lives of people. It expands the human centric notion of one person/ one team to an entire society who collectively face highly complex and interrelated issues. These issues are often tangled up in a large scale, sophisticated and human caused system.
To have a better understanding of human to humanity centric design, we can understand their principles and how the shift has been essential,
a.Empathy: Human Centric design has focused deeply on solving the issue at hand, understanding the core issue first and addressing the problem. Humanity centric however focuses on not just the problem, but considers the problem as only a symptom, not the main cause. It involves deeper research into the society as a whole to solve the larger issue benefiting all.
This stage is about asking questions, adopting a learners mindset and staying open when approaching the issue at hand.
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b.Focus: Human centric design will focus on people, i.e. an individual or a team while humanity centric design will bring into focus the entire ecosystem of people and the physical environment. It will take into consideration the impact on the overall society.
This stage is also crucial as it sets the tone for the rest of the process. Defining the problem is key, this is where one can learn where their focus should go to, what are the core focus areas, what are the symptoms of these and if there is a mix of problems. Like a corporate may define their focus as ‘we need more sales’ while the humanity centric approach may involve how it can also aid in developing the community around it, how its services can enhance environmental protection and eventually build a brand that sells more due to its environmental approach and design of products/ services.
c.Systematic point of view: Ideation and prototype
Where human centric design focuses on a systems point of view where working with a realization that most problems and complications may be a result of their interdependency on other parts. While the premise stays the same in Humanity centric design, the approach also involves understanding the damaging implication on society, the physical environment around us.. Some of these implications may only reveal themselves in a few years or decades later, however the core essence in humanity centric ideation process is to make sure we plan, ideate and build from a sustainable viewpoint that lasts for decades to come.
This stage involves designers’ work to come up with as many solutions to the problem as possible. These ideas are put into action by building low cost experiments to test their viability with a focus group, via technology or a testing via a section of a small/ large number of people.
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d.Testing and Iteration:
Human centric design involves a continuous process to test and refine the design that is proposed to ensure that it meets the needs of the person/ group for whom they are intended, while humanity centric design also has the same process it has an added point to design for the community. The approach here is for the professional design community to work as a collective and serve as an enabler, facilitator and a resource aiding each other to meet the rising concerns of the society. We should remember here that core of humanity centric design is to design for humanity at large and just individual humans.
This stage, designers will test their prototypes and identity where the design has flaws, weaknesses, gaps and improve the design with each testing. This also acts as a learning process to better the design, iterate it and produce solutions for the overall society betterment.
To understand the shift better, we can put it in simple terms:
– New perspective is about ‘At what cost?’, rather than simply asking ‘How can we?’
– New timelines involve disregarding the short termism, focusing on long term problems of the society.
– New methodology builds on adopting best practices while capturing the goal (societal).
This shift in design makes us understand that when we design for humanity at large, we cannot stop at just people, we must consider all living things, preserve and work to enhance the quality of water, air and our surrounding land. Humanity centric design understands that change in one component can impact every other component and that we are an integral part of the overarching system of Earth and we must act in a way to preserve its essence.
When you join Strate School of Design , humanity centric design is the core focus of the learning process. The pedagogy is deep rooted in making you a designer that works on a solution oriented approach while keeping in mind the planet and its limited resources. Strate encourages teamwork, and helps you to network with your peers, alumni and industry professionals. Learn more on the course offered in design here.