How a Background in Design Translates to Operating a Human-Centered Business


If you’re new to what interaction design is, in very simple terms, it is the look and feel of the exchange between user and product; in my career, that was apps and websites. They are responsible for the perfect blend of form and function. A great interaction designer will also be an expert in human-centered design.

Designing interactions around those who will be experiencing them seems obvious, right? Well, human-centered design is just that. The term has increasingly become indexed under the top “buzz words” of recent years. Love the hype; now, let’s apply these principles beyond apps and digital products. 

Let’s let Wikipedia give us a brief refresher on the topic:

“Systems designed using human-centered methods improve quality, for example, by:

  • increasing the productivity of users and the operational efficiency of organizations
  • being easier to understand and use, thus reducing training and support costs
  • increasing usability for people with a wider range of capabilities and thus increasing accessibility
  • improving user experience
  • reducing discomfort and stress
  • providing a competitive advantage, for example, by improving brand image
  • contributing towards sustainability objectives.” 

User experience (where much of my career prior to Helen & Gertrude focused) is one tiny bullet in the grand scheme. Literally, by definition, human-centered design is about every aspect of how we operate our lives. These are practices you’d want to instill and execute across all business operations. Designing with your end user in mind not only creates a better experience for them but for your brand and business as a whole.

An example of a user flow

So how do we take these principles beyond a button click? Each time your consumer encounters your brand is an opportunity to provide a positive user and human experience. Interactive products are one piece of the puzzle. The amount of experiences a person has in a day is almost immeasurable, so don’t you want to make your moment with them as seamless as possible? 

Customers positively interact with a brand when it comes naturally or feels second nature to them. It should be as intuitive as possible. When it comes to design and user experience, we must know the needs of those engaging with our content. Beyond that, we need to consider the individual user and their entire journey in relation to the content. “What path did they take to get to our page?” “What are they possibly processing in their lives beyond this moment right now?” Think beyond your own branded materials and think about what may be surrounding their experience and how it affects their overall mindset and interaction with your brand. 

Human-centered design stretches across every aspect and touchpoint of a business. It should exist from ideation to execution and beyond. At Helen & Gertrude, this philosophy applies to every team, not just our creative services department. We conduct empathy interviews, similar to user interviews for a website, that collect user feedback and information so systems and content can be improved. We do social listening and map out customer journeys so we can deeper understand the minds of those who will be interacting with the given brand we are partnering with. Of course, we can not forget about our media strategy. Targeting is about human interactions — like choosing a customer journey and understanding the best way to reach them successfully. The end objective of your campaign will send your customer on a certain path depending on the goals you’re trying to accomplish. 

Then we get into the operational side of human-centered design, where my career lives now. Each touchpoint literally means every single one before your customer even interacts with your brand. The human experience begins with those creating the content. If your human experience is crappy from the beginning, your content will probably turn out crappy. Prioritizing human needs is crucial at every touchpoint, including those of your employees and those on your team. How are teammates encouraged to support one another? How are you building camaraderie and relationships? How are connections being built before the pen has even met paper?

Pull Quote: "How are connection being built before the pen has even met paper?"

As marketers, experts, and frankly, as human beings - it is our responsibility to push for the best user experience. We are constantly producing new and exciting projects through our brand partnerships that truly wouldn’t be successful without incorporating this mindset. Because providing the end user with a great experience doesn’t just come by guessing; it comes from careful consideration and thoughtful design. Support people in finding meaning - through the content they consume, the work they produce, and how they live their days. It doesn’t have to be grandiose - is the meaning to bring them joy? Education? Nostalgia? Inspiration? We can’t control the world around us, but we can provide more meaningful experiences, and that positive impact is pretty cool.

So while the concept is well-known, applying it to all areas of our businesses has left a lot to be desired. It all comes back to emotional intelligence and empathy. Whether it be through how a user interacts with a website or feels represented in an ad or how an employee feels when voicing their needs to their manager.

Becca Post
Co-founder + CEO

With a background in New Media Design, Becca has spent her career building world-class creative teams developing content for the world's most well-known brands, including Walmart, Starbucks, American Express, GE, and Jose Cuervo. On her off hours, she can be found tackling a home project, getting her hands dirty in the garden, or convincing her husband to adopt another dog.

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