5 Human-Centered Design Problems

4 min readNov 6, 2020

Human-Centred Design is a lens that designers can use when solving problems. It’s based on the premise that everyone is a designer by nature. Remember building a spaceship out of Lego when you were a kid? Well, that’s actually a valuable activity in the HCD process.

HCD is not limited to digital product design but can be applied to most problems we face on a personal, organizational, and systemic level. In this article, we’ll cover five human-centred design problems.

The Five Human-Centred Design Problems for any UX Designer are…


We all know a lack of education can hinder our career opportunities, especially if it means that you can’t read or write. Children in Brazil were facing this problem, so IDEO worked with a non-profit to design a digital literacy platform through education-based games. But that’s not all, the app could measure a student’s proficiency and adapt the game accordingly. The app would also generate data analytics to help teachers pinpoint where they could help improve the learning experience.


If there was ever a time to adopt a human-centred approach to healthcare, it’s now. Pandemics aside, as baby boomers age, we can anticipate a healthcare boom in the future, and with it, a need for a human-centric approach. Designers at the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago studied how patients could better manage their asthma at home. Through extensive engagement with caregivers, nurses, and patients themselves, the designers developed a new tool. Tested against the current solution, the team found that patients were more likely to take medications at home and schedule an office visit.


People often sneer when they hear the words public transportation. Commuters often have to take different busses and trains to get to their destination. This hodgepodge transportation system often requires people to buy multiple passes and tickets for a single journey. Here’s a case study that worked to solve that very problem. By following the HCD closely, including carrying out user interviews, the author was able to ideate new solutions and make a prototype, wireframes and all!


Too often, we are confronted with new technologies that want us to conform to their functionality. I won’t open the Pandora’s box of human behaviour (although, an essential skill for any designer!), but we should ask ourselves what we want out of virtual reality or AI assistants and how these technologies can meet our needs. IDEO did just that with the help from design prompts. Participants were asked to write a job description of a digital assistant, or they were given a scenario of visiting Mars, and asked how new tech like VR could fit within those contexts.


Have you ever pulled a door so hard, only to realize you were supposed to push? That’s a Norman Door. Named after the godfather of design, Don Norman, Norman Doors are poorly designed doors that give little real indication of whether you push or pull. Architecture is full of UX problems. When designing for people with dementia, an assisted-living facility in Ohio redesigned patients’ homes to look just like a typical suburban neighborhood. The reasoning is that these facilities are often sterile and impersonal environments, which may be disorienting to their patients. So, why not design an environment that aims to optimize patient functionality?


The list can go on, but this list should kickstart some ideas on how you can use Human-Centred Design in your own work.

Remember, context is key. It’s not useful for designers to huddle together and solve what they think is the problem. These human-centred design problems because they involve their stakeholders in the process. Most importantly, they didn’t simply ask what people wanted. More often than not, people can’t articulate what they want or why they want it. It’s the designer’s job to reveal that need.

Instead, ask about people’s values and priorities. Someone with heart disease will likely operate in a different context than someone with dementia. And the same is true for kids entering school and adults looking to higher education for a career shift. These people all have different needs.

There are countless tools and activities you could use in your HCD process, and these case studies employed a variety of them based on the needs of the project. Be sure to keep checking IterateUX for more content, because we’ll be diving deep into various UX methods in the future!




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