Designing From The Heart

I have been reading quite a few books on design, but none have actually been designed with the elegance of this human: how to be the person designing for other people by Melis Senova, PhD.  I did not want to finish reading it because I was enjoying the content and layout so much. Luckily, it’s the kind of book that serves as an ongoing reference, which means I will have the pleasure of rereading portions of it many times over the next few years.

this human book page

this human book spread. Photo from:

Senova has an interesting background. Not only is she a pioneer in human-centered design, but she is also educated in both neuroscience and engineering. Oh, and a PhD in design! How’s that for multi-faceted? It’s this diverse perspective, I believe, that equips her with the insight to dig into the HUMAN piece of human-centered design. In other words, how can you design for others if you don’t understand “what it takes to be the human who is doing the designing?” (p. viii).

Senova’s book provides perspective and tangible exercises to help the designer understand the human experience through his/her own personal human experiences. It’s not about empathy mapping and ideating as much as it is about understanding personal biases, creating genuine human connections and designing from the heart.

What’s really awesome is that you don’t even have to be a designer to appreciate this book. There are so many parallels to the work educators do designing experiences for students that I could easily purchase this book for all my teacher friends (except that I’m broke so can you all just go buy your own copy?).

When designing lessons, it’s easy to assume that our view of reality is our students’ reality. The result of this assumption can be manifested in comments like, “I don’t know why they didn’t get it. I TAUGHT it!” or “Not doing homework is a sign of laziness.” However, if we are to design for positive impact, which is the ultimate goal of human-centered designers, than Senova reminds readers that “it is their truth that is important, not yours” (p.3).

With this tenet in mind, it is important that we set aside biases, open communication channels, and truly design from the heart, regardless of whether we are designing temporary housing for flood victims, a can opener for people with arthritis, or a unit to teach students about the role of the Bill of Rights in today’s society. As educators, we should all be human-centered designers every day. This book will help you do so.


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