Tuesday, 21 February 2012

21st Century Human Centred Design

  It is clear that "things are going to be different" - hopefully with a move towards "betterness". How will ergonomics contribute to this change, and what will it look like?
Somewhere Steve Pheasant said that ergonomics usually begins with some sort of task analysis, and ends with some sort of a user trial. In 'Ergonomics- standards and guidelines for designers' he wrote:
The bulk of the substantive content of the discipline revolves around two key issues—human adaptability and human variability, both of which are measurable and both of which are amenable to standardization at least with respect to their limits."

The principles of Human-Centred Design are:
  • A clear and explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
  • The involvement of users throughout design and development.
  • Iteration.
  • Designing for the user experience.
  • User centred evaluation.
  • Multi- disciplinary skills and perspectives.
Let us take the above to be fixed i.e. that the core of the discipline doesn't change, but that its application changes in response to a changing world (i.e. ergonomics practitioners will face  a changing 'context of use'). If ergonomics can adapt to the changed context, the future is very promising.  The shift in emphasis looks like the following:

From:  Drug labelling, incident analysis, CHFG, MiniMe
To:   Empowered patients, individual differences with 'quantified self', application of functional medicine, community tool design, wellness support, recognition of 'healthcare' limitations


From: Classroom furniture
To: Personal Learning Environments

Hazardous industries

From: Safety management, alarms, control room design
To: Resilience, governance

Work design

From: Factory and workplace design
To:   Enabling home and community resources e.g. hackerspaces  (home office design, the dangers of sitting etc. will have been done by others)


From: Equipment design
To: Facilitating Open Source Warfare

Consumer goods, work equipment

From: Product design
To:   Tools for co-creation; design, assessment, certification, of products/services (where the distinction has become unimportant). Input to open source design.

Suggestions welcome in the comments.


  1. I'd have been tempted to write the 'characteristics' of human centred design are...

    have a look at this publication for principles: Universal Principles of Design : http://bit.ly/GZwhhz

    1. Thanks for the comment. 'Characteristics' is a word I like - usually when discussing the 3P's of product, performance, process characteristics.
      The principles of HCD listed are those from ISO 9241-210:2010 Ergonomics of human-system interaction -- Part 210: Human-centred design for interactive systems.
      I guess that they chose principles because people can assess against principles e.g. the Safety Assessment Principles from the Office for Nuclear Regulation, or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
      Guidance/principles for design layout such as in Lidwell et al, are set out elsewhere in ISO 9241.