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Human-Centered Design

students collaborating in human centered design

Human-centered design (HCD) is a liberal arts discipline rooted in Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Behavioral Economics, Art, Improvisational Theater, and Engineering. Its core is the ability to empathize, define specific human needs, generate large numbers of ideas to meet those needs, create successive prototypes, and test the prototypes to learn more about what is really needed.

Human-centered designers fall in love with problems rather than solutions and expect to be wrong before they create something truly worthwhile.

Human-centered design teams navigate between the real and the abstract and between understanding and making. The practice requires collaboration between experts in multiple disciplines; it is sometimes referred to as design thinking and is best applied to ambiguous problems that do not have right answers.

The Hive has been teaching a full for credit class in human-centered design (Harvey Mudd Engineering 180) each semester for the past few years. Students enroll in roughly equal numbers from all five of The Claremont Colleges and work in groups comprised of various majors. They work on real-world challenges, which have ranged from redesigning the library experience to redesigning the disaster preparation experience for a marginalized group, (complete list of class projects below).

Whereas groups of engineers are likely to produce engineering solutions, and economists produce economic solutions, diverse teams have the greatest chance of producing breakthrough solutions. Collaborating in a diverse team and utilizing a human-centered mindset can be an extraordinary and valuable opportunity for students who desire to continue to work in diverse interdisciplinary teams across a wide range of fields after graduation.

Human-Centered Design Class Projects:

  • Redesign the library experience (sponsored by Honnold Mudd Library) – Spring ’17
  • Redesign the organ donation experience (sponsored by Organize) – Spring ’17
  • Redesign the personal grooming experience – Spring and Fall ’17, ’18
  • Redesign the campus waste experience (sponsored by the Hixon Center) – Fall ’17
  • Amplify an underrepresented voice (sponsored by the Amplifier Foundation) – Fall ’17
  • Redesign the major selection experience (sponsored by Pitzer Career Services) – Spring ’18
  • Redesign the education and tutoring experience (sponsored by Middletree) – Spring ’18
  • Redesign the solar panel acquisition experience (sponsored by CHERPS) – Fall ’18
  • Redesign the bias experience at Starbucks (sponsored by SYPartners) – Fall ’18
  • Redesign the inter-generational communication experience (in conjunction with Pilgrim Place) – Spring ’19, Fall ’19, Spring ’20
  • Redesign the language immersion experience (sponsored by the Oldenborg Center at Pomona) – Spring ’19
  • Redesign the disaster preparation, response, or recovery experience (sponsored by Field Innovation Team) – Spring ’19
  • Design mobility solutions for students in the Claremont Mile (sponsored by the Pomona Sustainability Office) – Fall ’19
  • Redesign the experience of sustainable and healthy eating for an extreme user or underrepresented community (in conjunction with Laura D’Asaro of Chirps) – Fall ’19
  • Redesign the museum-going experience with an emphasis on creating a more welcoming environment (in partnership with the new Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College) – Spring ’20
  • Redesign the distance learning experience – Spring ’20