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8 October 2021

Hippo at Leeds Digital Festival: An Introduction to Human-Centred Design


As part of the Leeds Digital Festival, Hippo held an online workshop introducing people to human-centred design concepts.

HCD involves methods and tools that put the user at the forefront of product design and development, making sure what will be created works for real people, rather than just the assumptions of those who design them. It is the foundation of what we do here at Hippo, and every day we work towards developing services and products that put the user first.

For two hours, participants were presented with a scenario and equipped with the tools to design a way to solve a fictional problem. Attendees ranged from students considering a career in design to those in the public and private sector working alongside designers and learning more about their practice.

We gave the participants a fictional problem of focusing on a town’s choice to invest a government grant into a cycle hire scheme similar to those seen on the streets of major cities. The workshop participants — now the town’s designers — were tasked with designing a way for more tourists to engage with the service.

Image shows the problem statement of the fictional town, and why the design team has been brought in

First, we focused on identifying user needs, why the tourists (our users) want to use the service and how they think, feel, act and talk about the cycle hire. From empathy mapping, we then moved on to understanding the journey a user would take whilst accessing the service; this helped us to identify the pain points felt by users. These pain points were both online, through the app that supported a user trying to hire a bike, and offline — how the service was advertised, the location of the bikes and the wider infrastructure that supported the scheme.

A Journey map of a users experience of accessing the cycle scheme service
Journey Mapping

The creation of hypotheses then led to a rapid prototyping activity called ‘Crazy 8s’ where designs could be quickly created that looked to improve the service and address the problem statements developed from the hypotheses. At the end of the two hours, participants had undertaken a rapid induction and exploration of what it means to be a designer and key tools we use in our work here at Hippo.

Participants holding up their rapid prototyping to computer screen
A selection of the rapid prototyping

The joy of design is that there will never be one ‘right’ way to view a situation. We might find solutions that work for the majority, but there will always be users, customers, citizens who need different ways to solve an issue. There is no set route to practising human-centred design. Other voices will always make sure that we empathise, be clear with outputs, and create accessible and inclusive products.

The workshop became a space where these principles were actioned, and although an introduction to the topic, the participants demonstrated that the future of HCD is in safe hands.

We will be running the ‘Designing for humans: An introduction to Human-Centred Design’ workshop again in the future, so keep an eye out for future Hippo events.