Be human-centred and don’t be magical

Alastair Somerville
2 min readFeb 25, 2017


A couple of design ideas came up in work this week which I just need to unload and explain my prejudices about.

Human centred design

Can we talk about human centred design and not user centred design or even person centred design?

I’ve done enough workshops on sensory/emotional design to know that meaning and usability is held between people. Individual people may have a specific meanings but the full meaning is held communally.

  • User centred design ignores the full aspect of the person.
  • Person centred design ignores the full context of the human.

Being human is not being an individual.

Human centred design is a way of accepting that a human may be an individual user at some times but it is their social and communal relationships that truly define them.

More importantly, it is the changes in those contexts that underlie why we are all different in different places and times.

We are all diverse as we are all human.

Magical design

I just finished writing a talk on designing for Awe and Transcendent Experiences. It’s for a conference is May.

One thing that I realised while writing a section about Wonder is how aggravating the Magical Design idea is.

I like the idea of Wonder. It is both a moment of joy and curiosity. An exclamation mark and a question mark.

Magic, however, is a trick.

Magic is a lie. A falsehood played upon the audience.

Perhaps they know it is a lie, perhaps they don’t.

To design a trick in a magic show is one thing. To design a trick in a product or service shows disrespect.

It’s lovely that designers want to create these micro-experiences. They are valuable.

Can you call it Wonder not Magic tho?

Be wonderful!



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX