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What is human-centered design (HCD)? Contents of the qualification system and initiatives required of companies

Human-centered design (HCD) is design thinking that focuses on the user experience rather than the “thing.” In this article, we will introduce the definition, purpose, and history of human-centered design, as well as the qualification system that companies tend to encourage acquisition of. Get a complete picture of HCD and understand the business possibilities.

What is human-centered design (HCD)? Contents of the qualification system and initiatives required of companies

Table of contents

  1. What is human-centered design (HCD)?
  2. Also defined by the international standard ISO
  3. Difference with UX
  4. History of human-centered design
  5. Human Centered Design Certification
  6. human-centered design specialist
  7. human-centered design expert
  8. certified ergonomics expert
  9. Human-centered design process
  10. Human-centered design is the key to innovation
  11. summary

What is human-centered design (HCD)?

Human-centered design is a literal translation of “Human Centered Design,” and the abbreviation “HCD” is often used. This refers to a manufacturing philosophy based on products and services that emphasize comfort and safety that people can obtain, rather than conventional functionality and cost efficiency. Our goal is not only to improve the user experience, but also to create new appeal and experiences by creating products that satisfy needs that even users may not be aware of.

The six principles of human-centered design are expressed in the international standard ISO 9241-210. Let me briefly explain what these mean.

  1. Designing with a clear understanding of users, tasks, and environment. Designing
    with a clear understanding of who will use it, why, and under what circumstances.
  2. User participation in overall design and development
    Continuing development and improvement based on opinions and feedback from those who actually use the product.
  3. Implementation and refinement of design through user-centered evaluation
    It is important to remember that every step of the process is done from the user’s perspective, not the company’s intentions.
  4. It means repeating the process
    and continuing the PDCA cycle.
  5. Design that addresses the entire user experience (UX)
    is a condition that satisfies the user experience, including ease of use, comfort, and satisfaction.
  6. The design team consists of experts with interdisciplinary skills and perspectives necessary for the development of each product and service, as well as human resources who can gather user opinions.

Also defined by the international standard ISO

Human-centered design is also defined by the international standard ISO. The predecessor was “ISO13047” published by the International Organization for Standardization in 1999, and the revised version “ISO9241-210” was published in 2010. The six principles in the previous section have been established based on current thinking. In Japan, the Japanese Industrial Standard JIS “JIS Z 8530” defines design and design aimed at “making interactive systems more usable by applying knowledge and methods of ergonomics and usability.” It enacts the need for an approach to development.

Difference with UX

A term used with a similar meaning is “user experience (UX).” This means that customers who use a product or service find it “fun, easy to use, and efficient.” This refers not only to the feeling of using the product itself, but also to the “experience” at every point of contact with the company, such as the process up to the purchase of the product and after-sales follow-up.

Therefore, if your goal is to provide a user experience (UX) to your customers, human-centered design (HCD) is the means to achieve it.

History of human-centered design

The Industrial Revolution made mass production possible. After the Industrial Revolution, emphasis began to be placed on how products could be equipped with functions that differentiated them from competitors, and how they could increase corporate profits by adjusting costs and delivery times.

However, in the late 1990s, there was a growing movement to shift from a material-centered way of thinking to a people-centered way of thinking, including users. The earlier ISO was also defined around this time. In Japan, major manufacturers began to adopt the HCD concept in the 2000s, and departments were set up to pursue usability.

In the United States, venture companies that incorporate the idea of ​​HCD have a high success rate of development, so it is gradually attracting attention. Currently, giant companies such as Alphabet (Google) and GE are implementing HCD at the management level, and computer software-related companies such as IBM and SAP are also strategically adopting HCD design thinking.

Human Centered Design Certification

In order to increase the number of human-centered design experts, Japan is promoting a qualification certification system. Companies are also taking various initiatives to spread HCD, such as appointing qualified people as project leaders. Here we will discuss three certifications.

human-centered design specialist

Implementing organization: Human-Centered Design Promotion Organization (HCD-Net)
The application qualification is “having three or more practical examples that demonstrate competency as a human-centered design expert.” Additionally, candidates are required to have at least two years of practical experience as a human-centered design/usability worker. The qualification must be renewed once every three years, and it is necessary to earn points through activities related to HCD.

human-centered design expert

Implementing organization: Human-Centered Design Promotion Organization (HCD-Net)
This is an upper level qualification of “Human-Centered Design Specialist”. The candidate must have at least 5 years of practical experience as a human-centered design/usability worker. Additionally, in addition to practical experience, the qualifications include supervisory abilities such as management and organizational development, making the qualification even higher.

certified ergonomics expert

Implementing organization: Ergonomics Specialist Certification Organization
There are three certification exams conducted by the Ergonomics Specialist Certification Agency: Certified Ergonomics Specialist, Certified Ergonomics Associate Expert, and Certified Ergonomics Assistant. is the highest qualification. The purpose is to certify that ergonomics knowledge, technology, and problem-solving ability are above a certain level. To qualify for the exam, you must have at least 2 years of practical experience if you have received 3 or more years of specialized education in ergonomics at a university, or 7 years or more of practical experience if this is not the case. The exam includes a written exam, an essay, and an interview.

Human-centered design process

There is a certain process to achieve human-centered design. Here’s a quick guide to the four steps you need to take to meet your users’ true needs. Accuracy can be further improved by repeating this step.

  1. Understand usage status through
    surveysBased on surveys, interviews, customer databases, etc., we can determine what kind of users are using the product, when and where they are using the product, and what points they are satisfied with and what improvements we would like to see. Collect user feedback such as points.
  2. Analysis of User Requirements
    From the voices obtained through the survey in step 1, we identify what users are looking for, and from there we derive true needs that can be reflected in the product.
  3. We design solutions
    by considering how to incorporate needs and issues into product functionality and design.
  4. We will determine whether HCD is being realized by receiving evaluations from evaluation experts from an academic perspective, and having users participate in interviews and usability tests .

Human-centered design is the key to innovation

In Japan, ” Society 5.0 ” has been advocated as the future society that we should aim for. This is Society 4.0, which is not just a society where information is provided, but the purpose is to share all kinds of knowledge and information using technologies such as IoT and solve social issues. Even within this idea, there is a need to realize a human-centered society.

In addition, in promoting digital transformation (DX), there is a growing need to provide services that emphasize user experience (UX) and develop human resources, and HCD can be the key to all types of innovation. That is why it is desirable for each company to develop in a variety of fields based on the concept of human-centered design.


Human-centered design (HCD) is a way of thinking about manufacturing that emphasizes the user experience that people feel when using products and services. This idea is defined in the international standard ISO, and there is also a qualification system in Japan. HCD, which is closely related to future society such as IoT and DX, is a concept that cannot be taken lightly in any industry or company.


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