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John Neuhoff

UX Researcher, Brand Experience

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As AI continues to redefine the boundaries of technology and experiences, Human-Centered Design (HCD) still stands as a guiding tool for crafting AI solutions that go beyond the machine, tapping into the heart of user needs and values. In this article, we’re getting real about the essentials and impact of HCD with our very own industry expert, John Neuhoff—exploring how this method helps pave the way for a more successful, people-first approach to AI innovation.

We sat down with John Neuhoff, a UX Researcher on Veracity’s Brand Experience team, to get real about HCD & AI.

What is Human-Centered Design, and how does it relate to AI?

John: “Human-Centered Design (HCD) is essentially putting people at the heart of the design process. It’s a way of thinking and working where you focus on understanding your users, their needs, contexts, and behaviors. When you apply this to AI, it’s like giving technology a human touch.

AI is incredibly smart but sometimes misses the mark on understanding human nuances. By incorporating HCD, we guide AI development to not only solve problems, but to solve them in ways that are truly meaningful and useful to people. It’s bridging the gap between human and machine intelligence. So, when AI is developed with a human-centered approach, it becomes more than just a smart tool; it becomes a tool that’s smart in a way that genuinely makes sense for the people using it.”

Why is it important to apply HCD principles to AI development?

John: “Applying Human-Centered Design (HCD) to AI development is essential for creating relevant, trustworthy, and inclusive technologies. HCD ensures that AI fits seamlessly into users’ lives by aligning with real-world needs. It also demystifies AI, fostering transparency and building trust- users are more likely to embrace technology they understand and find reliable. HCD also champions inclusivity, encouraging consideration of diverse user groups and preventing biases, making AI fairer and more equitable for everyone.”

Have you ever questioned the ethical implications of an AI decision or recommendation? How do you think incorporating Human-Centered Design can address ethical concerns and make AI systems more accountable?

John: “One of the most notable examples is Amazon’s experiment with AI recruitment. In 2014, they developed an AI system to streamline their hiring process. Unfortunately, they soon learned that their AI was biased against women. The problem occurred because the model was trained on a decade of historical resumes that predominantly came from male applicants, so the AI learned to favor male candidates. It even penalized resumes featuring terms like “women’s” or the names of women’s colleges. Inevitably, Amazon had to abandon the project.

But, there’s a silver lining here. Anyone willing to take risks sets the stage for progress. And despite the setback, Amazon learned valuable lessons from the experience. This underscores the importance of Human-Centered Design (HCD) and agile business practices. The ethos of “fail fast, learn fast, and move on” prevails. HCD becomes the linchpin for developing AI systems that are ethical. We use extensive user engagement, diverse perspectives, and vigilantly monitor data integrity to make HCD a critical ally in mitigating the risk of bias.”

Can you provide examples of how HCD is applied in real-world AI solutions?

John: “Inclusive Algorithms: Companies apply HCD to develop AI algorithms that consider diverse user profiles, preventing biases and discrimination.

Spotify’s hyper-personalization approach is a great example of HCD supporting AI. Their design team focuses on personalizing user experiences by connecting listeners with content in engaging, simple, and fun ways. This requires understanding both the technical aspects of machine learning and the human element of content consumption. For instance, features like Discover Weekly and Blend are results of this approach. The design team also created content-first experiences, ensuring recommendations feel simple and human. This approach highlights the importance of keeping user needs at the forefront, balancing technological complexity with human-centric design.”

How does HCD contribute to ethical AI development?

John: “HCD is essential for creating ethical AI. It’s about empathy, diversity, transparency, and being accountable. By collecting diverse viewpoints, HCD helps us avoid biases, making AI fair and inclusive for everyone. It’s putting ourselves in the users’ shoes to tackle big issues like privacy and misuse. And you know what?

Transparency can be organic when users are involved from the start. This builds trust and lets people understand how AI decisions are made. Plus, with HCD, we’re iteratively testing with real people, which means we can quickly correct any issues.

HCD helps keep AI on track with what’s ethical and what users need. It’s like HCD is the compass keeping AI honest, user-friendly, and in tune with human values.”

Consider the generational gap in technology usage. How might the application of Human-Centered Design principles bridge this gap and create AI interfaces that resonate with users of all ages? In what ways does HCD promote inclusivity in AI applications?

John: “HCD bridges generational tech gaps by focusing on inclusivity and adaptability. It tailors AI interfaces for different age groups: intuitive, advanced options for tech-savvy younger users and simpler, more accessible designs for users less familiar with technology. The approach makes AI user-friendly for everyone, regardless of digital literacy. By involving people from all age groups in the design process, HCD ensures diverse feedback shapes AI development, making technology inclusive and empathetic across generations.”

Consider your interactions with AI applications over time. Can you recall instances where you provided feedback that led to positive changes? How might the iterative nature of Human-Centered Design contribute to the continuous improvement of AI systems?

John: “HCD and AI are remarkably similar in how they process feedback. HCD is a cycle of constant learning and adapting. Whether it’s a minor glitch or a bigger usability issue, user feedback is gold for the next update. Training an AI model is a similar process. It learns based on feedback.

In the early days, AI voice assistants used to struggle with different accents and speech patterns. User feedback helped developers fine-tune their algorithms; now, they’re more inclusive and responsive. HCD makes AI more intelligent, more reliable, and user-friendly.”

Imagine a work scenario where AI systems seamlessly collaborated with you to enhance productivity. How would such a collaborative environment, shaped by Human-Centered Design, transform your work experience?

John: “I don’t just imagine the impact of AI; I live it daily. It’s astounding how AI transforms my HCD work. For tasks like summarizing notes and transcripts, AI efficiently distills key insights, freeing up time for deeper analysis. Its intuitive grasp of my needs turns complex data into clear, impactful narratives. In coding, design, and content creation, user-centric AI aligns with project demands, enhancing user experience. This synergy with AI in an HCD-driven environment boosts my productivity, letting me focus on creative and strategic work. It’s truly amazing to see AI revolutionize my workflow.”

Reflect on the accessibility features of your favorite AI tool. How do these features make technology more inclusive? In what ways can we encourage the widespread adoption of such inclusive design practices?

John: “Accessibility features in AI, like natural language voice commands and text-to-speech, are game-changers for users with mobility or visual impairments. At the same time, customizable interfaces help those with cognitive challenges. This makes technology a tool for everyone, not just a privilege for some. Awareness is crucial, though. Sharing success stories of accessible technology can motivate more developers to adopt similar practices. Involving diverse users in the design process brings invaluable insights, building empathy among designers. Plus, policies promoting accessibility in tech are key to making inclusivity a standard in design, not just an extra. It’s about making tech work for all.”

Close your eyes and picture a future where AI technologies seamlessly enhance various aspects of your life. How does this future, shaped by Human-Centered Design, align with your vision of a technology-integrated world?

John: “Imagine future AI tools that just ‘get you’ – managing your schedule, giving you health tips, or helping at work, all without being obtrusive. It’s AI that respects your privacy, behaves ethically, and adds value at every turn. It’s AI that enriches life subtly, balancing and enhancing your daily grind. Its an incredible technology shaped by Human-Centered Design. I can’t wait…”

After exploring the impact of HCD on AI with our industry expert, here’s our take on 10 reasons why you need to apply HCD principles to AI development:


Enhanced User Satisfaction

Applying Human-Centered Design (HCD) principles ensures that AI systems are crafted with a deep understanding of user needs and preferences, leading to enhanced user satisfaction.


Increased Adoption Rates

User-friendly interfaces and experiences developed through HCD make AI applications more accessible and appealing to a broader audience, leading to increased adoption rates.


Ethical Accountability

HCD promotes ethical AI development by prioritizing transparency, accountability, and fairness. It helps address ethical concerns related to biases, privacy, and responsible AI use.


Increased User Trust

Users are more likely to embrace AI technologies that align with their values and needs. HCD minimizes resistance by creating AI solutions that feel secure and considerate of user expectations.


Improved Usability

HCD emphasizes creating intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces, making AI applications more usable for individuals with varying levels of technical expertise.


Adaptive Personalization

Human-Centered AI systems, developed through HCD, can adapt and personalize experiences based on individual user preferences, providing tailored solutions that cater to diverse needs.


Strategic Competitive Advantage

Organizations that prioritize HCD in AI development gain a competitive advantage by delivering superior user experiences. This can lead to increased market share and customer loyalty.


Increased Collaboration and Productivity

HCD fosters collaboration between humans and AI systems, leading to improved productivity and efficiency. It ensures that AI complements human capabilities rather than replacing them.


Continuous Improvement

The iterative nature of HCD encourages continuous user feedback, allowing AI systems to evolve and improve over time. This adaptability ensures that AI remains relevant and effective in dynamic environments.


Inclusive Design

HCD promotes inclusive design practices, making AI technologies accessible to a diverse range of users, regardless of age, gender, ability, or background. This inclusivity contributes to a more equitable and beneficial technological landscape.

Start Your AI Journey With Veracity

Integrating Human-Centered Design with AI is an important step to crafting AI solutions that are not only responsible and user-friendly, but truly impactful. Curious to dive deeper into AI and see how Veracity can be your guide? Reach out today to get started.