What is Human-Centered Design?

Human Centered-Design (HCD) is a way of thinking that places the people you're trying to serve and other important stakeholders at the center of the design, innovation and implementation process. The HCD approach to problem-solving is iterative, measurable and results-driven.

HCD process


Social impact and development face significant hurdles that stem from the difficulty in changing user and stakeholder behaviors, the barriers to scaling compelling solutions and the challenge of measuring impact. Human-centered design and its sibling design thinking are well suited to tackling these issues.

Human-centered design delivers value to programs by actively engaging end users, providers and other constituencies throughout the development process to ensure that their needs and expectations inform decisions.

Despite the appeal of human-centered design, organizations often struggle to integrate design methods and outputs. Our integrated approach brings together rigorous analytical approaches with creative, empathetic and participatory methods to inspire better solutions and plans.

Read more: Making the Case for Design in Development Sector

Download our poster: The HCD Process

Read more: Making the Case for Design in Development Sector


When you let people participate in the design process, you find that they often have ingenious ideas about what would really help them. And it’s not a one time thing; it’s an iterative process.  - Melinda Gates


Service Design




Service design helps maintain a cohesive picture of various touch-points with users and stakeholders so they can better coordinate their activities to deliver value on a consistent basis over time.



Creative Facilitation



Creative Facilitation

Creative and collaborative methods help engage stakeholders and users, map out new opportunity spaces and align around new agendas, ideas and strategies.




System Mapping



Systems Thinking

System mapping helps visualize dynamic systems that reflect a common understanding of key stakeholders, relationships and feedback loops. This is critical in identifying leverage points and opportunities for collaboration.







Participatory Research

We use on-site research methods that involve observations and deep-dive interviews, taking place in the contexts and locations in which users (and other stakeholders) live, work and interact.






Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping accelerates the process for testing assumptions and iterating new product, program or delivery models. It removes risk and increases certainty by engaging users and stakeholders early and often.



Pilot Implementation



Pilot Implementation

Pilot testing and implementation validates propositions and lowers the risk of failure for a proposed solution. Supported by the right business strategy and incentive models, pilots are an ideal way to measure business impact through small-scale experimentation.




“The easy and the simple are not identical. To discover what is really simple and to act upon the discovery is an exceedingly difficult task. After the artificial and complex is once institutionally established and ingrained in custom and routine, it is easier to walk in the paths that have been beaten than it is, after taking a new point of view, to work out what is practically involved in the new point of view.”

 — John Dewey, Experience and Education


The Design Process The Design Ecosystem

Human centered design provides a robust framework for integrating user needs throughout the program design and implementation process. But it can be a challenge to determine when and where to best apply design to your work, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the broad range of design capabilities in the market. This simple guide will get you started.

Download Poster

Despite the increased interest in design most development organizations find it difficult to tap local design resources in key markets. We offer a comprehensive framework for strengthening the design ecosystem, identifying key market failures and opportunities to align capacity building with market needs. 

Download Poster