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Human-centered design process tailored to DFA Studios meeting structure and team format.

DFA Process

Human-centered design process tailored to DFA Studios meeting structure and team format.


What is Design?

Human-centered design (HCD) is an approach to problem solving that emphasizes understanding people as a vital component to successful innovation. At Design for America, we practice a form of socially-driven HCD to solve problems in order to improve the lives of others.

If you would like a quick overview of the design process for your members you can download step one pagers here!

One pagers are a great way to:

  • give new members an idea of what the process entails.
  • support team leads in planning design activities.
  • support team leads in overcoming process roadblocks with suggested questions and activities.
  • support team leads in explaining the design process to team members.

Fundamentally, human-centered design is about having a sensitivity to the real needs of people, rather than just the trends of a marketplace. It is about understanding a problem’s context fully and having empathy for the people in that context. HCD is not about being a slave to the user and making changes to your project every time someone makes a comment. Instead, HCD is about considering what these comments might be before jumping to a solution based in the biases of designers. 

The Design for America process is a description of the different types of activities and goals that DFAers engage in when solving social problems through human-centered design. The process is organized into three general phases - Understand, Create, and Implement - with three goal-oriented steps each (see left). It is created as an aide to help designers conceptualize their process, and make good decisions about what to do. While the steps of the process do sequentially feed into each other, this does not mean that it is good design practice to always follow them in a linear fashion. Oftentimes multiple steps of the process occur at any one time and in different orders, as projects have multiple goals that they are trying to achieve.