A 2 day course on Human centred design at the Design Museum

I recently enrolled in a 2-day course at London’s Design Museum about Human Centred Design. The classes were led by a number of people who taught us about the idea of Human Centred Design, how companies Practiced it and made us practice it ourselves during the 2 days.

Below are some photos of my notes from the 2 days, and some of the key things we learned about during the course.

There was a big emphasis on play. In between each section of the course, we had creative ice-breaker activities to get us to play and open up our minds. One activity involved us making tea stains on pieces of paper. When the stain dried we then gave the sheet of paper to someone else and they had to draw over it and make it into an image. It’s an incredibly simple task but when participating in it, it is always surprising as the other person usually draws something you never imagined. In another activity, everybody was given a sheet of foil and had to make it into a shape that represented themselves. It was interesting to see how differently everyone’s minds worked.

There were some very in-depth presentations about different human centred design practices such as the double diamond process created by the Design Council. After learning about the double diamond, we were asked to sketch a pair of headphones. Everyone’s headphones looked very similar, and the task was relatively straightforward and uninspiring. We then had to partner up and interview our partner about their music listening habits. We were taught to rapidly ask lots of questions to get a complete understanding of how they listen to music, where they are, what they like and what issues they may have. We then had to design a music listening device based on what we learned in the interviews. Everyone’s sketches were vastly different but all catered to the needs of their partner and were much better than the original sketches of headphones. By getting us to practice the double diamond process, we all got an excellent understanding of it from first-hand experience. 

The Design Council's Double Diamond.

The Design Council's Double Diamond.

In another task, we were taught about empathy and design and how the two go hand in hand. We were asked to go out and observe people. Go to stores, coffee shops, train stations and just spend 20 minutes watching people and writing down their actions and behaviours. It sounds like an easy task but 20 minutes feels like a really long time when you are watching people intensely. By really understanding how someone does something, you can mimic them, step into their shoes and really appreciate their design problems. Back in the design museum we then had to act out the situation we say and experience any design problems first hand. 

In another task, we had to imagine the Design Museum of the future. In small groups of 5, we had to use random items such as pasta, pipe cleaners, lolly sticks and play-doh to make ‘fantasy’ models. What was really crucial was that in our imaginations, these models were realistic and we could really imagine how it would work. By using random objects we had the flexibility to move walls around, add in a new feature or take something out as we weren’t heavily invested with the materials. Our model looked strange and awful to outsiders, but to everyone in our team, we understood it exactly and were able to test out crazy ideas as it took seconds to make them in play-doh and pasta. 


After that session, we tried a designs sprint section were everyone split their page into 8 and came up with 8 quick ideas for crazy new museum designs. For example one of my designs was a museum where guests travel around a Ferris wheel to go between floors. As guests move around, they learn about a new period of movement in design. By the end, they have a complete overview. We also had a range of presentations where we learned about companies such as Apple, IDEO and Amazon that heavily use the human centred approach.

I found the course really interesting and learnt a lot about what Human Centred Design actually is and how to practice it. I also discovered the importance of it and why it matters more than ever.