We are Human

Unlocking Empathy and Creativity: Understanding Human Centered Design

We are Human advocate for Human Centred Design. Our focus is on supporting the design of products to improve lives by truly understanding the user. We were invited by Imperial College London to deliver a Human Centred Design course to a group of PhD students at the Institute of Chemical Biology.

Our 4 day course combined theory, group activities and daily presentations from our Healthcare partners. The students practiced user research and human factors research methods, from empathising with individuals living with diabetes to generating human centred design solutions for an existing blood glucose meter.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Day 1 - What is Human Centred Design?

"Human Centred Design is an approach to problem-solving, involving the human perspective in all steps of the process."

Human Centred Design approaches are used in the design of products, medical devices, software, apps, services and systems. Neglecting human-related factors in design increases the likelihood of creating a product that fails to meet genuine user needs, encounters regulatory obstacles, or conflicts with stakeholder requirements.  

Students were tasked with generating user-oriented design recommendations for a Blood Glucose Meter (BGM), based on human centred research insights. To begin, they immersed themselves in extensive research on diabetes, specifically concentrating on understanding the experiences of individuals living with diabetes. They observed real stories of individuals to gain an insight into patients day-to-day life,  which was used to construct meaningful User Personas.

We were then joined by guest speaker; Tiia Meuronen from Béa Fertility. Tiia shared her journey to success in designing Béa, an at-home fertility treatment alternative to IVF, providing an affordable and convenient solution.

Day 2 - Stepping into the users shoes

"Translating User Insights into User Needs."

We began day 2 by exploring Human Centred Research methods and when to use them; from Market Surveilance, Diary studies, Focus Groups, to Empathetic Testing and Usability Testing.

The research into diabetes patients was revisited to identify any pain points and potential opportunities for innovation. Together, we created an Empathy map and a User Journey Map. The Empathy map visualised learnings about a particular type of user. The User Journey map captured the positive and negative actions, experiences and feelings of the user as well as highlighting any opportunities. 

The students then designed and conducted a usability test of a BGM to evaluate the usability and user experience of the BGM’s user interface including packaging, instructions, device and strips. The Usability test was role played with our team taking on the role of the patient and the students as the researchers. One student in the group moderated and the remaining members took notes while observing. 

The guest speaker for Day 2 was Dr Chris Ross from Thyia. Chris shared the story about the development of Thyia’s at-home cervical screening solution, and how the convenient and safe alternative aims to encourage women to test themselves for HPV.

Day 3 - Human Factors and Usability Engineering

"There is no such thing as a 'user error', only designs that have allowed a user to make an error"

One of the most important goals in medical device development is to minimise use-related risks and ensure that users can use devices safely and effectively. It is crucial to know key requirements from the standards and notified bodies who assess if the device is safe to be released to market and receive regulatory clearance (e.g., FDA for US or UKCA for UK).

Including Human Factors Engineering in Medical Device design reduces user reliance on user manuals, the need for user training, and the risk of use error, adverse events and product recalls.

The students were asked to create a Use Related Risk Assessment for the Blood Glucose Meter. Within the assessment, they identified Hazardous Situations; conducted a Perception Cognition and Action (PCA) Analysis. They also researched known use problems with current Blood Glucose Meters and sought out opportunities for improvement to implement into their designs. 

Day 3’s Guest Speaker was Stephnie Kennedy from MicroBioSensor. MicroBioSensor are a Rapid diagnostic specialists, they streamline traditional laboratory-grade microbiology and cytology, packaging it into affordable, point-of-care in vitro diagnostic devices (IVDs).

Day 4 - Creative solutions for user problems

"Even the most outrageous of ideas can lead to other lightbulb moments from other people"

Once the opportunities for solutions had been realised, it was time to get creative and design improvements to the Blood Glucose meters.

Encouraging imaginative ideas, collaborating and discouraging critical thinking are all part of the creative process. Visualising ideas through brainstorming, sketching and prototyping helps bring them to life. These ideas can then be refined until the final concept is complete.

To close the week, the designs for the Blood Glucose Meters were presented to a panel in a role-play pitch scenario. The students presented their findings from the Usability test and how this affected the solution and recommendations for the manufacturer.

The final guest speaker was Anna Ward from Muna. Muna is a FemTech start-up that offers non-invasive, natural, labour pain relief through Tens Technology and a tracking app.

We were really impressed with the solutions the students created which included:

  • a personalised BG meter case,
  • a BG meter strip dispenser,
  • a new lancing device design,
  • a BG meter App,
  • an Instructions for Use (IFU) redesign.

It was an engaging and energising week and we can’t wait to return to deliver the course again next year!

How could Human Centred Design improve your product development process? Our expert team has developed a series of interactive training workshops which incorporate engaging activities to understand the benefits. 

We would love to support your teams development.