A South African take on human-centred design

12 December 2017
12 December 2017 Tenaka

Human-centred design works well with the notion of finding uniquely African solutions to African challenges. Even the seemingly insurmountable challenges such as water shortages, sanitation and poverty might have viable solutions. And most importantly, the solutions to these problems could more than likely come from those who face them on a daily basis.

A list of the most powerful brands in the world will unsurprisingly contain global heavyweights like Google, Snapchat, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. I wonder how many of these brand’s products began their life with the human-centred design approach?

Human-centred design intends to arrive at solutions that are desired, possible, and practical. Starting by looking at the people we are aiming to help with these solutions, we examine their wants, needs, tribulations and fears. Once we’ve determined a range of solutions that could appeal to the community we’re looking to serve, we establish what can feasibly be implemented. It’s a balancing act, but one that’s absolutely crucial to designing solutions that are successful, profitable and sustainable.

Realising the endless potential that human-centred design holds for our clients and their customers, Tenaka’s Tribe has revolutionised its creative process as a digital design agency and leverages the power of human-centred design to design solutions to problems with people as our inspiration.

While some of the biggest global agencies in the world serve as a strong foundation in pioneering this approach, we wanted to break away from what’s been done before, develop the concept further and place a uniquely African spin on the process. Our aim has been to adapt the existing framework to meet the needs of African people, businesses and everyone in between.

This way of thinking has seen major players in key industries, including banking and financial services, recruit Tenaka’s Tribe to implement a human-centred-design approach to developing solutions that help them appeal to consumers by thinking in a more consumer-focused way. Through the localised approach we’ve adopted, we help them find tangible solutions to real-world problems that are impacting their service delivery, product development, brand reach, and ultimately what they’re conveying to their target markets.

The approach we take aims to adopt the best of existing human-centred design methodologies while introducing some key aspects that help differentiate Tenaka’s Tribe. With simplicity in mind we designed our process around three key phases: Find out, Get ideas and Make it real.

Find out

The ‘Find out’ phase revolves around gaining valuable insights by engaging with people directly, whether through focus groups or interacting with them on the ground, and finding out what they need. A solution must not be based on assumptions and guesswork about what people need; instead, we interact with people to understand their hopes, fears and desires and use these insights to define the problem we’re solving.

Through the information we gather during this process, we can develop in-depth insights that can help us and our clients get a better understanding of their customers’ desires. Tenaka’s goal is to deliver on what the consumer needs – not what we assume they want.

Get ideas

This leads to the next phase: ‘Get ideas’. Insights are only useful if you make the most out of them, and that’s where the ideation phase shines. Using our collective expertise, combined with the knowledge we’ve gained so far, we brainstorm ideas (nothing is too far-fetched) to come up with potential solutions to the problems we uncovered in the ‘Find out’ phase.

During this phase we’re looking for that one idea – the game changer – which we take into rapid prototyping, testing and iterating, bringing it closer to something desirable, feasible and sustainable.

Make it real

Finally, the ‘Make it real’ phase is all about building the solution and taking it to market. It’s essential to have taken the solution through enough testing and iteration in the Get ideas phase that when the time comes to make it real, changes are few.

In this phase, we make functional prototypes and test them out in real-world scenarios in an effort to gauge the reactions of the target market and whether we’ve addressed the challenge that was raised in the ‘Find out’ phase. We look at whether the process has provided a desirable solution, and, if not, we review and iterate further.

At Tenaka’s Tribe we believe that only the best is good enough – iteration is a learning process that helps us refine our human-centred design approach further to deliver that game-changing concept that will result in a leading product or service.