A Melbourne Design Week panel on Wednesday 20 March will explore a new wave of human-centred design that promises powerful social and economic benefits.

Presented by Communications Collective as part of its Collectivity Talks series, the panel titled Collectivity Talks: Human-Centred Design brings together designers, data analysts and architects to debate what it means to place the user at the centre of every step of the problem-solving and design process. 

“Human-centred design is about empathy with the user’s needs, and it’s a critical strategy that informs good design today. For example, a workplace that is designed through user consultation will provide ongoing efficiency and, not least, create value and enjoyment,” says Communications Collective director Genevieve Brannigan. 

Panellist Martin Heide, a design lead at NH Architecture and studio leader at RMIT University, has been working with his students on urban design projects looking at how people interact with our cities.  He says digital technologies and data have become a key tool for understanding how people use their built environment.

“We’ve got quite a bit of data now coming through, with beacons that allow us to track people by their mobile phones. You can track pedestrian movement, for example in big train stations, so we’re using that a lot for public projects. The information we have from those programs and technologies now feeds into the design process but then there’s that point where you need to innovate, and innovation only happens if you challenge the results.”

Samantha Simpson, data analyst from People & Culture Consulting at Schiavello, applies human-centred design to workplace design, one of the other important areas for its use.

Simpson describes a three-stage data collection process. The first is executive briefing: talking to organisational leaders about the current workplace and what they want from a new workplace strategy. The second is observational studies including head counts to track utilisation and behaviours throughout the workplace. The third part of the process involves a workspace-needs survey, asking employees what’s important to them in their organisation and its workspace. 

“We can identify trends in the workspace or perhaps some values might be uncovered. For example, we might reveal that a client’s employees are passionate about wellbeing and having a workspace that supports their wellbeing, is important” she says.

“In terms of making sure it’s a human-centred design, by taking that three-pronged approach you’re making sure that everyone’s voice is heard to then respond accordingly with a strategy that informs the design.”

Event details

Collectivity Talks: Human-Centred Design
Wednesday 20 March 2019
NH Architecture Level 7 Cannons House
12-20 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia
Cost: $20, bookings essential.

Panellists are Travis Dean, Martin Heide, Samantha Simpson and Liam Wallis.