Human-Centered Design: A Perspective From Fredonia

In this blog post, a member of the project team (Kara Hall) reflects on human-centered design and her educational path. Kara is a senior Psychology major at SUNY Fredonia in Chautauqua County. 

It is the fall semester, of senior year at SUNY Fredonia; the time of year to acknowledge the end of four great years and plan for the beginning of many more.  Throughout college we all can recall those significant moments that helped answer the unavoidable question of “what’s next?” 

I am a psychology major; which means that most people assume that I will be a counselor when I graduate. This is not true.  I find the cognitive processes of our human brains much too interesting to not take part in the evolution of our knowledge on them. Given this information, I do not enjoy the tedious side of lab work and the limited time spent with real world people.

I wanted a mix of both worlds; and in that I found the field of human centered design.

Human-Centered Design at the Graduate level can come in several formats including Engineering Psychology, Human factors, Cognitive Science or by its given name Human-Centered Design. The difference between the areas of study is what the focus of each is on, although they all adhere to the ultimate goal of designing a product to fit the needs of the user.  In a world where technology has given designers the freedom to imagine an endless array of possible outcomes there needs to be someone in place to make sure the people still have a voice. 

There are many places in our country today where the “voice” of individuals seems to be muted. Human-Centered Design and the Aging by Design initiative will hopefully help drive a new era in which individuals are heard for the wisdom they have to give rather than the problem they are recognized for.  

I am originally from Genesee County but I reside in Chautauqua County, specifically Fredonia/Dunkirk, for most of the year.  From my short time living in each county I have heard only some of the individual stories that make up these amazing communities.

Aging By Design will allow the individuals an active voice in the evolution of their communities. Many of whom have lived in these towns their whole lives. The wisdom they have to offer is generations old and inconceivably insightful. The conclusions the team will draw from the data collected will be much more than a qualitative analysis - a history of the older adults of western New York. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with and learn from older adults across Western and Central New York over the next few months. 

Webinar: Identifying Needs & Insights

Click here to register

Needs & Insights Webinar
Thursday, November 10, 2 - 3 pm
Webinar ID: 509-780-419

We hope you've all been busy having incredible conversations with the people you serve (VOAs and caregivers) using the empathy maps and postcards we discussed at the Design Days! 

Throughout your engagement, you may have found that the prompts were ‘too vague’ or conversely there was not enough space on the page. Both circumstances mean that you were collecting the right information. Overlap will help you understand the frameworks and processes involved in this type of research during the Needs & Insights webinar.

What is the purpose of this webinar?

Think of this webinar as a way to help your organization build capacity and further understand the upcoming processes involved in the Aging By Design project. Overlap will walk you through the process of creating need statements from the empathy maps and postcards, and show how these need statements are used to identify themes and insights.

Using examples of these tools Overlap will walk you through the experience of identifying key conversation points, identifying need statements (that describe the explicit and implicit needs of those you serve), and clustering these needs until they reveal larger themes and insights. By illustrating what Overlap has uncovered in other projects we will help you see how complex insights can lead to powerful solutions.

Am I expected to analyze all the data my organization collected?

No--Aging By Design is not relying on organizations to analyze the data they've collected. Instead, this webinar is meant to provide an opportunity to learn more about the design research process. 

This is also a great opportunity to identify themes and insights from the local data you have collected using the empathy maps and postcards. We hope that in the future you can use these methods and continue your own research using these or similar tools.  

What do I need to bring?

We recommend you have a highlighter, pen and printed out versions of the empathy map and postcard examples found here. You might find it most useful if you have a few empathy maps and postcards with you that your organization has collected to-date.

See you then!

Design Days: A Facilitator's Reflection

Facilitating Design Days was an absolute blast! We connected with some amazing participants who truly wanted to learn new ways to engage with vulnerable older adults and caregivers. I could feel their passion for the work they do and the people they support. 

The Transformation

One of the things I love most about facilitating this type of workshop is getting to watch participants transform as the day goes on. At first, most participants are skeptical and not convinced the process is going to work. Then they start trying a few activities and that's when the transformation begins.

Prototyping & Testing

Once we hit the prototype building work (where play doh and pipecleaners come out) people started to really get into making their ideas come to life. I also love all the laughter that comes with building ideas. It's contagious!

By the end of the day we had some fantastic ideas of how we might improve an experience. Seeing what people were able to make never gets old for me. There is always a solution that I've never seen before, which I find inspiring. A gentle reminder that there are many ways to solve a problem. 

Trust the Process

I know design thinking isn't everyone's thing, and that's OK. What I truly appreciated from the participants was their willingness to try something new, even when the path forward wasn't as neat and clear as they are used to. That's courage in action, and that's how better becomes possible.