Human-centred Design.

The sweetspot at the middle of empaty and creativity

If we’re talking about a space for Umuzi recruits,  being human-centred, it makes sense to start with the recruits.  In April, we launched a workshop with our biggest recruit intake to date.  Their mandate- #MakeUmuziBetter.  

The workshop involves learning the process of Human Centered Design, practised with their umuzi peers to generate valuable insights in tackling the task of making Umuzi better. 

Recruits were divided into groups and tasked to look into specific topics of an Umuzi recruits day to day activity. These were summed up in four categories- 

  1. Making things
  2. Individual work
  3. Group work
  4. Free time.

They were required to unpack their topic through various tools such as mapping user journeys, surveys and interviews.  Through this process, they were able to identify positive and negative aspects of their topic and then produce a ‘how might we’ question to improve the user’s experience.

An example;
Statement- Umuzi recruits doing individual work are easily distracted due to the noisy environment.
Question- How might we create a quiet environment for umuzi recruits to do individual work so they may be less distracted?

The insights collected proved highly valuable in discovering what aspects of the Umuzi recruits’ day-to-day worked well and which needed some attention.  By applying an investigative lens, we were able to scope the interview questions in further iteration in order to establish which aspects were environmental factors (which spacial design may address) and factors which were social (that would spacial design would have limited impact).  

We then brainstormed potential means to address our finding, we built and modified various prototypes using principles of Agile. We developed full-scale Minimal Viable Products with cardboard and existing furniture.  Each prototype attempted to test a single aspect of the assumption in order to reduce variables and ambiguity in user feedback.




Assumption Test Feedback Insight
Umuzi recruits desire a ‘chill zone’ within the studio space. Corner off a space, make it comfortable and attract recruits to relax in it. Recruits and managers used the ‘chill zone’ as an informal meeting space. A relaxed environment for social gathering may contribute to group productivity.  

Providing games in the social space will improve the quality of rest.

Set up a variety of games to play in the existing social space. Recruits enjoyed the social interaction games created. Social interaction is important for some before returning to work.


Each team was able to improve an aspect of the User’s experience through their process of iterating their prototype. This occurred differently from group to group.  Some groups may have had to adapt (pivot) their interventions almost immediately based on feedback. Another group found their prototype did, in fact, address the issue and were able to refine their interventions. A third group discovered their intervention improved an aspect of the user experience that they had not expected it to,  providing further insight into their initial assumption.

The Prototyping and solutions investigation proved partially anecdotal because of the narrow scope of investigation, resources and time. However, we learned that introducing full scale design interventions with the ability to rapidly change and adapt based on user behaviour is infact a reasonable approach to spatial design generated by Human Centered and Agile principles.  This confirmed the working methodology in the design process going forward.