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What is Human-Centred Design (HCD)?

Updated: Jul 3


Gunjan Nanchahal, Malika Vaidya, Vishwa Balani, Product Design, Industrial Design, Interface Design, User Experience Design, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Product, Interface, Industrial, Design, User, Experience, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad

Are you a ‘cereal first’ or ‘milk first’ person?


We are not here to start a heated debate about the best way to eat your cereal. But it is obviously cereal first! The point here, though, is the cereal. When we think of cereal, the first thing that comes to mind is Kellog’s. Kellogg’s has managed to stay in the game for so long that its name has become synonymous with breakfast cereal.


It all started in 1894 when W.K Kellogg set out to seek a more digestible breakfast alternative to bread for his brother’s hospital patients. One day he discovered that boiled softened wheat when rolled out and baked, produced a crispy flake. Trying the same technique on corn, he perfected the crunch of the cornflakes by experimenting with different formulas and testing them with his brother's patients. This is how Kellog’s cornflakes came to be. The beauty of these cornflakes is that they remain crunchy for a long time, even after milk is added to them. He achieved this careful balance by reaching an optimal level of crunchiness while keeping them soft to chew. His focus on understanding the patients’ needs and whether the solution addressed those needs effectively created a product centred around humans. His genius did not just lie in the invention of the food product but with his consumer-centric approach.

Gunjan Nanchahal, Malika Vaidya, Vishwa Balani, Product Design, Industrial Design, Interface Design, User Experience Design, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Product, Interface, Industrial, Design, User, Experience, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad

This philosophy that leads an individual or team to design products, services, systems, and experiences that address the core needs of the user is known as Human-Centred Design.


The rise in consumer electronics and a boom in manufacturing has flooded our built environment with numerous products. These products are everywhere, being designed with a focus on adding as many functions and features as possible. But they are increasingly failing at promoting their discoverability and understanding. As a result, everyday products are filled with jargon, unnecessary functions, and buttons that we hardly understand or use. This adds to our lack of comfort, and therefore use of the products. This lack of understanding and comfort leads to a poor emotional connection with the product.


Gunjan Nanchahal, Malika Vaidya, Vishwa Balani, Product Design, Industrial Design, Interface Design, User Experience Design, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Product, Interface, Industrial, Design, User, Experience, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad

The fault here is that the invention of new technologies is rapidly outpacing the advancement made in design understanding. We have indeed become significantly better at designing products and services and proliferating the fundamentals and practice of design. But the gap in technology and design understanding has resulted in the current generation’s unwillingness to accept the newer technology. It is also because a product is understood, refined and innovated over time through experience and experimentation. Then, it becomes or is made usable for the next generation. Human-Centred Design is the key to bridge the gap and accelerate the adoption of newer technologies. This design philosophy distinguishes itself from other problem-solving approaches because it puts human behaviour, responsiveness and ability as primary motives to design the technology. This results in a technology that addresses the capabilities and needs of the user.

Gunjan Nanchahal, Malika Vaidya, Vishwa Balani, Product Design, Industrial Design, Interface Design, User Experience Design, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Product, Interface, Industrial, Design, User, Experience, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad

What do you prefer reading - a hardcover book or an e-book? A physical newspaper or its digital form? Newspapers and books have always been the traditional forms of consuming written media. But the innovation of digital tools such as phones, computers and tablets, has made the media available to us in a digital format. This has led to most of us consuming the said media in some digital form. However, we still agree and believe that the joy and pleasure elicited by reading a crisply folded newspaper or a hardcover book is unmatched! While books, to some extent, are accepted in the form of e-books, the same cannot be said about newspapers. This is because a newspaper in a digital format fails to engage us. When we open a physical copy of a newspaper, all the articles appear to us at a glance. We can then choose the level of engagement we want with each. This layout uses both axes of manoeuvrability – the vertical and the horizontal, to increase engagement. The same newspaper when converted into its digital format becomes one dimensional and takes away our "right to choose.” It fails to take into account our behaviour and needs.


The 1843 magazine from The Economist Group has managed to overcome the shortcomings through Human-Centred Design. The magazine has integrated its content lines and created a layout that optimises it for various digital platforms while also using both axes of manoeuvrability. It focuses on understanding the psychology of the user in question and the specifications of the product being designed. The design enables good communication between us and the machine by clearly indicating what kind of interaction is possible while using the product.

Gunjan Nanchahal, Malika Vaidya, Vishwa Balani, Product Design, Industrial Design, Interface Design, User Experience Design, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Product, Interface, Industrial, Design, User, Experience, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad

Human-Centred Design understands the needs of the people and delivers through design. It focuses on designing machines for worst-case scenarios so that they can communicate with us when things go wrong. This can be as simple as a machine showing an error code. The logic here is that when things are going wrong, the machine should communicate with us and provide us with possible steps to correct, control, and solve the problem. Thus, it is not about achieving certain objectives and specifications but about iterations and approximations till the desired results are achieved.

Gunjan Nanchahal, Malika Vaidya, Vishwa Balani, Product Design, Industrial Design, Interface Design, User Experience Design, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Product, Interface, Industrial, Design, User, Experience, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad

Human-Centred Design is practised through rapid testing and modification where development cycles are short and frequent. Each test and feedback modify the way the product is approached and the way a problem is solved. But it also requires intense and robust infrastructure, human power and monetary foundations. Thus, it has its own constraints. It is a design philosophy that drives areas of industrial, experience, and interaction designs. Since it relies on observation, user experience and scientific principles, it can be considered as much a science as an art.


A survey conducted by Kellogg’s found that their consumers loved the 'crunch' sound of the cornflakes. For this very reason, they preferred Kellogg’s cornflakes over any other cereal. Kellogg’s then focused on perfecting the ‘art of the crunch,’ which led to people preferring this brand over any other brand in the market. A study and keen observation into how a person was using, experiencing, and reacting to their product gave them an optimal result. This focus on user experience and human-centred design resulted in a food product that was not just sold based on its taste, but the sound that it produced while being chewed! This is what Human-Centred Design is all about - using principles of art and science to find your product’s crunch!

Gunjan Nanchahal, Malika Vaidya, Vishwa Balani, Product Design, Industrial Design, Interface Design, User Experience Design, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Product, Interface, Industrial, Design, User, Experience, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad


About the Writer

Malika Vaidya is an architect and writer. She is the Co-Founder of Architecture Pulse, a blog that explores the intersection of architecture and society. She is a graduate of the Rachna Sansad’s Academy of Architecture (AoA), Mumbai. She has interned at One Habitat Studio and The Origin.


About the Editor

Vishwa Balani is an English Literature graduate from St. Xavier's College, Ahmedabad and MS University, Baroda. She has been associated with CEPT University for two and a half years now where she has taught writing to students across various courses. Her tryst with language began very early in life and it has continued no matter which field she chooses to work in. She likes experimental writing but also believes in grammar, and the Oxford comma.


About the Illustrator

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