Human-Centered Design: Building Purpose in Your Job

· by Caitlin Cullen

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“We’re all looking for purpose.  Most of us feel that we’ve never found it, we’ve lost it, or in some way we’re falling short.”

Maybe your job is simply a way to pay the bills and feed your family. You’ve lost any sense of fulfillment and the bigger picture fades from your mind with each passing day. But here’s the thing, “…purpose is a thing you build, not a thing you find.”

From the very beginning of my career as an artist and designer, my goal has been to make a difference. 

Even if I could positively impact a single individual, I’d be thrilled.  As a Graphic Designer for a staffing and recruiting company, that goal is harder to realize than you might think.  I’ve always been envious of other roles within my organization, because I don’t always feel that I make an impact on people directly in the way that others do.  I don’t get to say, “I am helping that person get a job and now they can provide for their family and have a better life.”  I’m not a recruiter.  I don’t see applicants on a daily basis and place them into jobs.  I’m not an Account Manager.  I don’t have relationships with clients or employees, and I don’t get to watch them grow in their careers.  And I certainly will never be given the reigns on getting people paid – math is not my thing. Idealistic, I know.  But I crave something I can grasp!

As a designer, it can be challenging to realize my purpose and the tangible impact I have on people, especially in a field that can be so subjective.  Vince Frost, a seasoned and internationally accredited designer, talks about his process for creating an impact by being focused on “human-centered design”.

He talks about maintaining focus on your audience and begs for design to be intentional and purposeful. Who or what is this for?  What does the affected person do?  What is most important to this group or individual?  Questions like this drive everything that I do and everything that my team does on a daily basis.  When a job order comes into my queue, these questions begin the design process before anything “creative” happens.  Crafting intentional design that appeals and is relevant to your audience dictates, in part, the success of that design.

So how do I measure the success of my work?  How do I know if it’s “working” or impacting anyone in a positive way?  Is it “human-centered”?  Am I throwing up something that looks “pretty” really quickly or am I thinking through the purpose of my design?  Well…I can tell you – I’m thinking it through!  Humans are incredibly complex, so shouldn’t an advertisement that focuses on them be too?

The idea of human-centered design is rooted in HTI’s core – take a look at the brand mark of our logo, for example:

HTI logo

Individuality • Human-Centric • High-Touch Approach

 The human fingerprint is the single most unique characteristic on the body. Incredibly intricate and complex, the thumbprint defines individuality and uniqueness. We’ve chosen this as a representation of our business because people are at the core of what we do. Each person, fantastically distinct, drives our business and sets HTI apart from the rest – we aren’t like anyone else.

At HTI, individuals design custom solutions for distinctive circumstances through creativity, innovation and a high-touch approach.

“…People are at the core of what we do…” – period.

This concept spans across all creative approaches to problem solving.  See for yourself here in this short video.

I’m not interacting with employees all day or talking with clients about how HTI can help them.  BUT, I AM creating intentional, purposeful, HUMAN-CENTERED designs that impact people every day.  As designers, and public servants in general, it’s imperative to never lose sight of our purpose.  As Frost mentions, “recognition and awards are still important, but they are not everything.”

Cutting edge creatives and snazzy design work should never cloud the reason why we are all here – our people!

“Success in design is not a mystery; it’s that you need to truly care about getting it as right as possible. You should never stop until you find a solution that goes above and beyond.” – Vince Frost

“Designers are evolving into problem solvers, rather than aesthetic applicators.”  There is SO much more to good design than a nice color palette and fun fonts. “We never design it to be lovely; we design it for the effect it has.”  Never lose sight of your work’s purpose or who’s receiving it (regardless of your job title).  The impact will far exceed anything you could imagine, and you will know your purpose without question.