HCD Chats Series

“HCD Chats…” is a series of candid discussions, led by Yoko Akama for the Masters of Design Futures (RMIT), that navigates through some of the challenging and contested dimensions of human-centred design. These podcasts have been recorded on the unneeded lands of the Woi Wurrung and Boon Wurrung groups of the eastern Kulin Nations, now called Melbourne, Australia. We pay our respects to their Ancestors as well as the current and long line of Elders for their wisdom, custodianship and storytelling. We extend this respect to the various Traditional Custodians of the lands where the guests and listeners of these podcasts are located. We thank them all for teaching us the importance of respect and responsibility in designing.


HCD Chats over cheese and wine

#1 Challenges and Evaluation

“The IDEOs have coined it as a skill set, when in fact HCD had a much more ethical, relational, very situated place of origin.… there’s no surprise that HCD is packaged product method. It concerns me though … In my work I’m spending a lot of time with government agencies and big industry and they really believe its a ‘thing’, which is fine if the people doing that work really know how to do it, but if they don’t, it’s not a thing’. Listen to the discussion between Liam Fennessy, Carolyn Barnes, Emma Blomkamp and Jess Corbett, the challenges and evaluation of HCD and why it has become so contested.

#2 Ethics

“Ethics is the manifestation of your values through your actions, so as you do things in the world, you are acting ethically, and the way that your actions affect other people or effect the world is the expression of your ethics”. We go philosophical to grapple with what we hear towards the end of the podcast — the literal focus on humans or individual users to the exclusion of others; Kirsty Moegerlein’s concern for the ecological well-being; Tania Ivanka’s concern for healthcare’s emphasis of patient-centredness; Reuben Stanton’s critique that HCD tends to address symptoms and not systemic causes and Bonnie Abbott’s point about not being able to live better with problems.

#3 Gender and Diversity

NOTE: There is strong language in this podcast that listeners might find offensive

Design, historically, has been (or continues to be) a masculine profession. The emergence of HCD (through strong influences in feminism) attempts to broaden this field and practice to re-orientate design towards plurality. Listen to a candid and sometimes humorous conversation between Julia Birks, Judith Glover and Kate McEntee, who are a lively mix of teachers, researchers and practitioners in HCD.

#4 Tensions and trade offs

“The normal way to go about doing business is all about trade offs, so it’s the quality-cost-time trade off triangle and it’s a fundamental kind of operating system in the background when we do business. Then we tend to show up as human-centred designers and we have this stance that … actually you can’t just blindly assume that you can trade off on things, and what if we didn’t trade off on anything, what does that then mean?” Listen to Melis Senova and Jeremy Yuille share their experiences of leading their teams, company and industry to champion HCD.

#5 ‘more than human worlds’

NOTE: There is strong language in this podcast that listeners might find offensive

“How does design consider more-than-human worlds? … there are critiques around human-centred being interpreted or practiced as an anthropocentric way of seeing world — humans are the only ones that matter where the world is revolving around … so how do we broaden this notion out?” Listen to Andrea Botero and Abby Melick Lopes share their wealth of knowledge and experiences on this theme.

#6: Transitions in theory and practice

This live podcast took place as part of Service Design Melbourne event in October 2018 that brought together Dr Melisa Duque Hurtado (Digital Ethnography Research Centre, RMIT), Dr Stefanie Di Russo (Principal Designer at NAB), Dr Chris Marmo (Co-founder and Research Director, Papergiant) and Prof. Cameron Tonkinwise (UTS).

This impressive panel have dexterous practices in design, business, research, anthropology and philosophy, and were brought together to discuss transitions in theory and practice, using an emerging and somewhat contested movement of Transition Design as a fulcrum and catalyst.

“At its crudest, Transition Design aspires to rekindle the large-scale ambitions that surrounded the formalization of design in the first place, at the beginning of the 20th century. The crises that are symptomatic of the unsustainability of how our societies are currently organized demands radical and immediate structural change. We need to completely redesign not only how we resource our everyday lives but also the very values that motivate those ways of living… This is why the top compass point of the Transition Design model is visions. However, the total design project of modernism was part of the problem. Early designers on either side of the Atlantic had strong visions that they often managed to impose with procrustean force. Because these visions were universalist, the designers paid no attention to local specificity, whether cultural or bioregional. The resulting displacement cleared the way for the commodity flows of globalization.

Transition Design therefore tries to qualify its reinvocation of rapid, ambitious structural change. Transition Design asks that those visions motivating change be context-specific and modifiable to all that happens as change is implemented. To do this, designers need more sophisticated theories of change than to materialize the vision. They need to understand, at the level of practice expertise, what it means to try to enable structural change in complexes of living systems and sociotechnical systems.” (Tonkinwise 2019 in ‘Design’s (Dis)orders: Mediating Systems-Level Transition Design‘)

For more reading on Transition Design please go to:

The Emerging Transition Design Approach. The Need for a New Design-Led Approach

Transition Design Workshop Toolkit

Transition Design at Carnegie Mellon University

#7: The Dark Side of HCD — Dangers of Empathy, Trauma and Altruism

This was a live panel discussion by Ash Alluri, Sasha Abram and Penny Hagen during SDNow3 symposium to grapple with the darker dimensions of human-centred design.


HCD Chat over sushi and sake

Questions of responsibility and possibilities in the banking sector

The Royal Commission in the banking sector revealed significant mal-practices, risking designers who work in this sector being tainted with the same brush. Listen to Owen Hodda, Louise Long and Stefanie Di Russo speak candidly about HCD approaches they take. What do you hear are the main challenges and opportunities for designers towards changing organisational cultures? Where does a designer’s responsibility start and end in such large ecosystem?

How does time and relationship matter?

This live podcast brings together friends from North America — Shana Agid (Parsons School of Design New York), Sean Donahue (Art Centre College of Design, Pasadena) and Myriam Doremy Diatta (Mind-Matter Studio, NY). [YA1] The experienced panel of designers and scholars have rich practices of crossing borders in many ways and visited Melbourne to debate about relationships and temporality as a much-needed focus for human-centred design.


HCD chat — IP with tea

Culture and plurality

Josina Vink, Duan Zhipeng and Sean Hua are my zoom guests to grapple with the slippery notion of ‘culture’. It is a fascinating topic, normally studied by anthropologists and cultural theorists, which may be why it has a paradoxical place in Design. Design materialises culture and creates new cultures, while having its own dominant culture, inscripted by the west. As designers, we also bring our own positionalities that are imbibed by many cultures, that then materialises as designing. Listen to how the guests follow many tendrils and see what your take on this might be?





Lead, RMIT Master of Design Futures — emergent design practices & the impact of design in the world

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Marius Foley

Marius Foley

Lead, RMIT Master of Design Futures — emergent design practices & the impact of design in the world