Putting the H in HCD

In the late 1990s Palo Alto’s design powerhouse IDEO  - most famous for designing Apple’s first mouse - were enlisted to help a redesign a critical medical instrument used on heart patients during balloon angioplasty. 

The company sold the medical instrument the doctor uses to insert the tiny balloon through the femoral artery in the patient’s leg up into obstructed coronary artery – a key part of the complex surgery. Once it is in there, it is inflated, compressing the plaque and stretching the artery. 

"It's very easy to lose sight of the person who's actually using that product or service.” – Yom-Tov

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The team at IDEO were told the new inflation device - just like the existing one - had to be suitable for one-handed use.

When the team went into the operating room to observe the device being used in a real-life scenario - a key step in the process of human-centred design - that’s not what they saw. In actual practice, medical technicians almost always used two hands.

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Instead of designing a product which fought human instinct, IDEO designed a product where the technician could use the other hand to deflate the balloon. It was only through this process of observation they uncovered this natural human instinct at play.

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The team made one other key change to the design, Tom Kelly wrote in his book The Art of Innovation.

“There’s a critical moment in an angioplasty procedure when the surgeon instructs a technician to inflate the balloon,” he writes. “During the next sixty seconds or so, the balloon obstructs the artery, creating, in effect, a heart attack.

“At that point, with the patient still awake, the old device would make a loud clicking noise as it ratcheted into place. Our new design lost that scary ratcheting sound.”

In love with something you shouldn’t have fallen in love with

It’s easy for business to fall into the trap of falling in love with their products or services, Opher Yom-Tov, Chief Design Officer at ANZ says.

“We fixate about the features and the functionality and it's very easy to lose sight of the person who's actually using that product or service,” he says.  

It’s important to get back to the fundamentals and understand what people want - and therefore how your business fits in to that, Yom-Tov says.

He made the comments on video at a human-centred design session for ANZ graduates where they undertook an exercise from Stanford’s  You can watch the video below. 

“[We are] trying to in a very whimsical way to remind [our]people to not focus on our banking services but understand what people are trying to do in their lives,” he says.

“Develop ideas, bring them to life very quickly through prototypes and give customers an opportunity to provide feedback on what they think will work.”

“It's a common sense approach and it's not just an approach that banks are using.” 


So what’s all the ‘design’ buzz about? Just like ‘innovation’, ‘agile’, ‘disruption’ or ‘digitisation’, has the word ‘design’ become one of those words of which the meaning can be widely interpreted depending on who is listening? 

In a word, no. As ANZ chief design officer Opher Yom-Tov says, human-centred design is both an iterative process and a mindset which ultimately looks at the world and ignites new creative possibilities in order to make it a better place.

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“That's why we call it human-centered design,” he says. “It really is about people and what they need.”

Melissa Currie is visual production editor at bluenotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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