Post–Human-Centered Design: Evolving to a Societal Scale

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Instructor: JOHN PAYNE

carrie yury


This video presents the lecture portion of a half-day tutorial that included a series of participatory exercises.

Over the past few decades, human-centered design has been at the center of a design renaissance, providing a transparent framework that exposes our rationale and demystifies our process. But a focus on the "user," their "problems," and "needs" is not sufficient to understand how products operate at a societal scale. In the increasingly complex, interdependent technological environment we are called to design for, we need to imagine the implications of the products and services we design, as we work.

This tutorial reviews a variety of perspectives on this topic, provides a framework for understanding multiple levels of product impact, and covers some initial methods we can employ to work with empathy—not just for the "user," but for every participant in the system we seek to change. Topics include:

An overview of Maeda’s three categories of design and their shortfalls

  • Classical Design
  • Commerical Design
  • Computational Design

A framework to guide us from individual to societal scale, for example:

  • How to expand beyond the user to a social focus
  • Going beyond problems and needs to aspirations and impact
  • Developing empathy for every participant in the system

Principles and practices that can inform method and activity selection, for example:

  • Embracing the networked, augmented “post-human” subject
  • Design as participation in complex adaptive system
  • The integration of social theory and criticism

Discussion of when and how to apply these ideas, for example:

  • Project types that lend themselves to this perspective (and those that don’t)
  • Addressing organizational resistance


John Payne is Co-Founder and Managing Director at Moment, a digital product design consultancy. At Moment, John has worked on groundbreaking healthcare design projects for WellDoc, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Allscripts, Dr. Reddy's, Pfizer, and BD among others. A leader in the human-centered interaction design community for 15+ years, John has co-chaired and curated two international conferences—EPIC 2012, the premier international conference on ethnography in business and design, and Interaction 17, The Interaction Design Association's annual global conference. John has taught graduate-level design research and methodology courses at Parsons and NYU, and lectured at Institute of Design, SCAD, and Pratt. As a member of their Board of Directors, John advises Public Policy Lab, a non-profit service design consultancy on using human-centered design to create more helpful public services for low-income and disadvantaged Americans.