What are the different stages in the HCD process?

We speak about human-centred design (HCD) sometimes without fully defining the process. Knowing that sometimes people call different stages by different names, what are the key stages/phases in the HCD process?

The Human Centred Design approach is a problem solving approach that keeps the needs of the humans being designed for at the centre of the solutions being developed. The key phases of the HCD process ensure that solutions are designed with the users, and deliberately keeping their needs and aspirations at the core of the solution development process. The main phases of the HCD process are:

:eye_in_speech_bubble: The inspiration/discovery phase: This marks the beginning of the HCD process where the design team immerses themselves in the users context to empathise and understand. Based on some pre defined learning objectives the design team embarks on a process of learning about the users, their needs and challenges, their ecosystems, their socio-cultural contexts, and what influences their decision making etc. From these findings emerge insights that form the foundation of the solution development process.

:thought_balloon: The ideation/design phase: Based on the insights from the inspiration/discovery phase, the ideation/design phase involves identifying opportunities in the users context that can inform concepts of solutions. Through the use of some HCD tools (like journey maps, ecosystem maps, personas, scenarios etc) different stakeholders identify opportunities and early solution concepts. In some cases the design team may opt to do co-creation sessions with the users of the solutions to develop early concepts with the users themselves.

:pencil2: The prototyping and testing phase: While this phase may sometime be clubbed with the ideation and design phase for the purposes of ease of understanding it has been separately defined here. This phase involves the creation of rough and quick versions of the solution concepts (called prototypes) defined in the ideation/design phase. These prototypes are taken back to the users for testing and feedback. Users provide input on the solutions and suggest tweaks based on what they think will work for them. The design team then iterates on the prototype to create another version based on the feedback provided to them by the users. This phase can involve a number of rounds of prototype creation and testing depending on the resources that are available to the design team, and until the team is satisfied that they have a solution that is accepted and defined by the users and any other stakeholders involved in implementing the solution.

:gear: The implementation phase: This phase involves making the solution live and implementing it in the context of the user. At this phase the team continues to receive feedback and inputs on the solution. Tweaks and iterations are made based on this feedback to constantly improve the solution and make sure it stays relevant to the audience it has been designed for.

While this post provides a very quick overview of the HCD design phases, we look forward to seeing you on the 29th of June at 4:30 pm EAT for our HCD+ASRH Basics workshop that will go deeper into the first phase of the HCD process and provide you with a flavour and some tools on how to get started! Look forward to seeing you there!


Merci pour cette mise à jour. Mais je pense qu’il est très capital de faire des partages de connaissances et mise à jour aux acteurs intervenants dans le domaine de la santé sexuelle et reproductive des adolescents et jeunes en Afrique de l’Ouest francophone.

1 Like

Thank you so much @Rimjhim for sharing the key stages/phases in the Human Centred Design (HCD) process. I’d like to add that there are certain variations to the terminology defining the HCD phases that you’ve defined above. For example, we have IDEO and the Double Diamond HCD process design phases.

Lets start with IDEO design phases:
According to IDEO, HCD is a creative approach to problem solving; one that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions tailored to meet their needs. IDEOs premise is that when you understand the people you are trying to reach and then design from their perspective, not only will you arrive at unexpected answers but you’ll come up with ideas that they’ll embrace. Therefore, HCD is a process that consists of 3 phases: Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation.

In the Inspiration Phase you’ll learn directly from the people you’re designing for as you immerse yourself in their lives and come to deeply understand their needs. In the Ideation Phase you’ll make sense of what you learned, identify opportunities for design, and prototype possible solutions. And in the Implementation Phase you’ll bring your solution to life, and eventually, to market.

IDEO Design Phases Explained on YouTube


Another variation of the HCD Phases is the Double Diamond developed and popularised by the British Design Council in 2004.

The two diamonds represent a process of exploring an issue more widely or deeply (divergent thinking) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking). It suggests that the design process should have four phases:

  1. Discover - The process starts by questioning the challenge and quickly leads to research to identify user needs.
  2. Define - The second phase is to make sense of the findings, understanding how user needs and the problem align. The result is to create a design brief which clearly defines the challenge based on these insights.
  3. Develop - The third phase concentrates on developing, testing and refining multiple potential solutions.
  4. Deliver - The final phase involves selecting a single solution that works and preparing it for launch.

A few things to bear in mind about the Double Diamond HCD process:

  1. This process is not linear
    This process is not linear in any way. In fact, creative people are encouraged to go back and forth between these stages in order to fully understand the problem and how they can either solve it or improve on an existing solution. For example, according to the design council, there might be instances when you might be in the second diamond and, through testing something, you reveal a much deeper issue that requires you to ‘go back to the beginning (discover phase)’.

  2. It’s not just a toolkit but a mindset
    According to the design council, a toolkit does not equal designing a good solution to the right problem. It is as much about the mindsets as the tools (e.g. being humble and open to idea coming from everywhere and changing as a result of feedback, curious about what’s really going on and how things are working or not and working as teams rather than as a lone genius).

  3. Using design to solve problems requires enabling conditions
    Again, according to the design council, “enabling conditions” include leadership that permits teams to try new things (and not always get it right but learn from the process), procurement set up for buying the end goal rather than a prescribed and rigid means, and good partnership working so that you can follow where the problem takes you.