Biz/TechHuman-centred design workshops gives profs lesson in empathy

ETC StaffOctober 15, 20195 min

Ryan Michael Wanzala, Biz/Tech Reporter

Curious attendees attempted to embrace their design thinking skills in the first of three human-centered design workshops at Humber’s North campus.

The boardroom for the Faculty of Applied Research and Engineering buzzed with activity when the lunch and learn workshop Wednesday afternoon explained empathy, one of the five stages of human-centred design and how it can help generate solutions to suit the needs of people.

“It pretty much focuses on the stages of human-centered design that would emphasize in empathy with the stakeholders involved in the process,” said Camila Perez Pena, project coordinator at the Department of Applied Research and Innovation. She also organized the lunch and learn workshops.

Humber Instructor Sandro Zaccolo (right) talks about the stages of design thinking with an attendee. (Ryan Michael Wanzala)

“Human-centred design helps them change their way they perceive their work, and how they can impact the world,” Pena said.

Interactive elements such as flowcharts were handed out to give attendees a deeper understanding about their experiences with education, and how that is tied with empathy in design thinking.

The workshop was spearheaded by Humber instructor Sandro Zaccolo from the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology, who was elated to share his knowledge about the intricacies of human-centred design.

“In a nutshell, design thinking is not necessarily designing for people, but designing with people,” he said. Various examples in design thinking were cited in the workshop, such as IDEO, a Californian company known for consumer products and experiences. The business was responsible for designing Apple’s first pointing peripheral, the “Apple Mouse,” which set the standard and established the computer mouse as a staple product for personal computers.

The workshop caught the attention of many Humber professors and instructors who hope to broaden their views on the philosophies surrounding design thinking. One of those instructors was Barath Roy Michel, a Humber project coordinator who was curious and signed up for the seminar.

“I did not know what was going to happen in the workshop. All I knew was that there was a lesson on empathy. I was curious about that, and I joined to see what it is,” he said.

Michel, who graduated from the University of Madras with a master’s degree in social work, praised the interactivity of the human-centred seminars. 

“There was no flowchart, or anything touched based on a reference point, and I felt that point was missing. I feel that this process, this empathy lab and this flowchart, would be that missing component which I would’ve wanted,” he said.

Scheduling the workshops were important for Pena, which was why she plans to establish the seminars as a training ground for faculty members with additional support provided by Ginger Grant, the Associate Dean at Humber College.

Together with human-centered design, Pena is planning to host workshops relating to data analytics, cybersecurity, and value-based leadership.