What is human-centered design — and why does it matter?

By Julie Espinosa, Helen Morgan, Carine Umuhumuza 18 November 2016

Is human-centered design a game changer in global development, or just another buzzword?

Human-centered design is relatively new to our community, and applying the method takes a shift in mindset.

Also known as “design thinking” and “user-centered design,” human-centered design is about designing “with” not just “for” the end user, aiming to truly meet the needs of the beneficiary, customer or client. While it has its origins in the private sector, in fields such as user-interface design, the development community has long recognized the need for more participatory approaches. But the sector still receives criticism for designing for problems instead of designing for people.

So is human-centered design just another buzzword?

Click on the above video to find out what human-centered design is, what steps it includes and why it could help organizations to work more efficiently.

Are you using human-centered design in your work? Share your experiences — good or bad — with us below or on social media using #Global2Local and visit Global to Local for more insight.

Over three weeks, Devex and its partner Chemonics will explore how the development sector can work together to promote inclusive local, and sustainable approaches to development. Global to Local will reimagine how to work together to address a myriad of interrelated challenges, pivoting toward more connected and crosscutting approaches to solving global problems. Join the conversation, tagging @Devex and #Global2Local.

About the authors

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Julie Espinosa

Julie Espinosa is Devex's video producer, covering humanitarian aid, sustainable development and global health. Prior to joining Devex, Julie worked in documentary film production in Austin, Texas. She holds a master's degree in communications and cultural studies from Georgetown University and a bachelor's in visual arts from Harvard University.


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Helen Morgan

Helen Morgan is an editorial associate at Devex. She has a background in human rights, radio and journalism, and has written for a variety of international publications while living and working in Buenos Aires, New York and Shanghai. She is now based in Barcelona and supports editorial content on campaigns and media partnerships at Devex. She is currently studying a master's degree in contemporary migration.


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Carine Umuhumuza@CarineUmu

Carine is the senior digital communications associate for Devex. In this role, she leads online and digital engagement for Devex and interacts daily with Devex members via social media.


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