As more companies turn to human-centered design (HCD) when conceiving product ideas, the realization that we should prioritize users' needs over easing development and manufacturing processes is becoming increasingly apparent. A key example of a company that tends to its audience's needs over any other factor, is Molekule, the award-winning specialists behind photo electrochemical oxidation (PECO) air-purification technology. Driven by the human need for clean air, Molekule embraces HCD principles when designing air purification devices, filters, technology, aesthetics, and user interfaces.
What Is Human-Centered Design?
Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving in which a team pinpoints an audience's specific need and designs a solution to explicitly fulfill that need. Also referred to as "design thinking," HCD embraces the belief that all problems - even the most difficult ones - can be solved and that the people who are struggling with these problems hold the answers. HCD is not a linear process; each project has its own contours, and you're unlikely to find solutions if you always know exactly where you're going. The process opens a breadth of possibilities and avenues to learn from others, which is why no two HCD projects are the same.
HCD follows a three-phase framework: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. The inspiration phase helps companies understand their target groups' needs by learning about the market, defining their audience, and immersing themselves in their audience's problem. Then, the ideation phase allows teams to brainstorm opportunities, build prototypes, and test these prototypes. Finally, the implementation process enables teams to pilot their ideas, measure success, and continue to improve their solutions.
Sometimes, organizations label HCD as a "new" approach. However, though the methodology has only been widely conceptualized recently, the principle itself has existed for thousands of years.
The Human-Centered Mindset
It can be helpful to visualize human-centered design as a mindset as well as a process; the mindset allows you to explore and uncover the philosophy behind creative problem solving and arrive at impactful solutions. There are seven core components of a human-centered mindset:
1) Creative Confidence
Creative confidence is a quality that relies on trusting intuition and chasing solutions that aren't yet fully realized. It's important to think about creativity as a way of approaching problems instead of a capacity to construct.
Making something is usually a good place to start when building a solution; constructing an idea reveals more opportunities and complexities than theory can. "Making" isn't about achieving beautiful results; it's about conveying ideas to seek feedback and consistently improve. Without actionable feedback, we would never be able to push our ideas forward.
3) Learn From Failure
Failure is a powerful tool for overcoming problems. We can only reach solutions by rebuilding and refining when we fail. HCD starts from a place of not knowing - and identifying what doesn't work is an important part of identifying what will.
Empathy is the ability to understand someone's problem and feel it as though it's your problem. We have to understand the people that we serve if we are to meet their needs well. Empathy allows you to immerse yourself in someone's world, step away from preconceived ideas, and understand the context and complexity of their situation.
Embracing ambiguity means embracing the freedom that you need to explore multiple possibilities until the right one becomes apparent. Pursuing lots of ideas allows you to be creative - and there are always more ideas to be had. HCD isn't about finding the best idea first; it's about trying lots of angles to explore various creative possibilities.
HCD is about focusing on the possibilities instead of the obstacles. Optimism injects your design journey with the energy that you need to navigate even the most difficult paths. When viewed optimistically, constraints can even push designers toward unexpected solutions.
Iterating is important because we will never get a design "right" the first time around. By improving a creation in several passes, the creation will gradually grow into a solution. Iterative processes allow us to unlock more ideas until we reach the most successful solutions.
How Does Molekule Use Human-Centered Design?
Molekule adopts human-centered design not just as the only effective design method but also as a standard to adhere to. With this philosophy in place, each of Molekule's air purifiers respond to a slightly different audience, spanning from allergy sufferers and vulnerable patients in medical settings to those who are regularly subjected to poor air quality in offices and domestic settings.
Molekule Review: Human-Centered Technology
Peter Riering-Czekalla, Molekule's vice president of product and design, formerly worked for IDEO, the first design agency to apply HCD to technological developments. Peter builds on his IDEO experience, leading Molekule's design team in its ongoing mission to overcome specific consumer problems.
During one of Molekule's HCD inspiration phases, Peter visited allergy sufferers in their homes to identify why traditional air purifiers weren't meeting their need for cleaner air. The problem was that many users weren't changing their air purifier filters. They didn't know when they needed to replace the filters, where to buy the right replacements, or how much they would need to spend on filters. As users weren't replacing their filters, their air purifiers weren't effectively cleaning the air or preventing allergy flare-ups.
Molekule overcame the problem by creating a personal account system that provides users with all of the necessary information. When you buy a Molekule air purifier, you can sign up for a system that will tell you when you need a new filter, predict the annual cost of filter replacements, and deliver correct replacements to your house.
"Human-centered design means that you don't just give people new tech; you give them tech they can use," says Riering-Czekalla. "Engineering teams can develop great tech but it will miss their mark if it doesn't fit in people's lives. ."
Molekule Review: Human-Centered Aesthetics
Human-centered design is as important for aesthetics as it is for product functionality. Having clean air shouldn't compromise having an aesthetically pleasing space, which is why Molekule carefully reviews the visual impact of each air purifier during the design phase.
"People don't want big plastic boxes," says Riering-Czekalla. "They want to dress their home in things they feel content with. We created a form for that tech."
Molekule air purifiers enrich functionality with aesthetics by combining features such as:
● Non-invasive, sleek designs.
● A cord that stays neatly concealed beneath each device.
● Minimal use of paint to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
● Advanced PECO technology to destroy bacteria, mold, viruses, allergens, and VOCs.
● Adjustable fan speed.
● Particle level sensors.
● "Auto Protect" mode for enhanced performance.
● Entirely recyclable packaging that doesn't use glue or plastic.
"I think PECO technology gets rid of most of the pollutants," says one of Molekule's customers Eduardo, a digital UX designer. "A lot of the air filter systems out there are just a filter, and that's going to capture those pollutants, but the PECO technology is going to destroy it, and that's one of the biggest differentiators. I don't want something that's just going to trap everything; I want something that's going to get rid of everything... I [also] appreciate simplicity in design. We love objects that have a good aesthetic but also have functionality. One of the principles of UX design is to be beautiful but also be functional. So that was one of the things that was very attractive to us - the design itself and the purpose of the device."
Support and user-friendliness are core to Molekule's human-centered designs, which is why Molekule has introduced an app that allows users to control their air-purification devices from anywhere. Plus, Molekule raises awareness about air pollution and the importance of air quality on its informative blog.
With consumers at the root of Molekule's HCD processes, the leading air-purification experts are consistently developing their product portfolio to improve user experience, develop PECO technology, and deliver aesthetically pleasing air purifiers.
To get more insight on how Molekule utilizes Human-Centered design philosophy visit their latest blog on Molekule.Science. You can also explore Molekule's range of PECO technology air purifiers at https://molekule.com