Human-Centered Design as a Qualitative Research Methodology in the Area of Public Health

Publication Year: 2022
Contributing Organisation: The European Conference on Arts Design and Education 2022
Learning Themes: Measurement & Evaluation

This paper builds a deeper understanding of human-centered design (HCD) as a qualitative research approach in the pursuit of generating proper solutions in the area of public health. This study draws similarities and discrepancies between human-centered design methodology and the qualitative research approach. HCD largely emphasizes ethnography, which is inherently qualitative. HCD relies on the effort to perceive the problem from the point of view of the target user just as the qualitative approach frames an issue as they are understood by the people themselves. Both HCD and qualitative approaches are fundamentally ‘bottom-up’ by framing a problem as it is phenomenologically situated. However, qualitative research does present several discrepancies with the HCD approach when applied in the field of public health, especially regarding the methods of implementation of their respective solutions. Whereas solutions in the area of public health are typically enforced by ‘hard power’, in the field of design, solutions are commonly implemented by the use of ‘soft power’. This is because public health is commonly perceived to be a ‘public good’ and therefore not commonly considered an area wherein the market can have a role. In the design discipline, however, solutions are normally crafted to compete freely in the market. By examining how several past solutions provided by the design discipline as well as observing how well received our solution was, it goes on to prove that HCD can truly be a boon when addressing public health issues.

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