User-Centered Design: Creating Better Solutions for Global Challenges

User-Centered Design: Creating Better Solutions for Global Challenges


Megha Hegde
Research Associate
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA

Lesson Feedback


This hands-on, activity-based lesson will introduce students to design thinking and to MIT D-Lab's User-Centered Design process - a framework that develops solutions to problems by involving the user perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.  User-Centered Design is an iterative process through which we try to understand the user, challenge assumptions and redefine problems to identify alternative strategies and solutions. Through this lesson, students will learn an approach to problem solving. While the lesson may or may not inspire students to pursue engineering or product design careers, it will certainly equip them with skills to critically analyze the problems around them and come up with creative, realistic, and useful solutions. There are no formal prerequisites for this lesson, and any high school or advanced middle school student can participate in and benefit from it. This lesson and all the activities in it can be completed in a regular 50-minute class. It is useful to have some basic classroom supplies such as paper, pens, pencils, post-its and markers which will come in handy for the in-class activities that include interviewing, brainstorming, and prototyping.

Instructor Biography

Megha Hegde is a Research Associate at MIT’s D-Lab. She creates and implements user research studies such as needs assessments, technology evaluations, user-centered design and behavior change interventions in developing countries. Read more about her here:

Additional Online Resources

Design Kit
This is a short introductory video on Human-Centered Design pesented by

Idea Sandbox
This is the “Idea Sandbox” site where you can find problem-solving articles and creative tools to use with the User-Centered Design process.

This is a guide to help individuals and organizations effectively plan and conduct qualitative research in the field. It is probably too advanced for high school students, but teachers can take a look and adapt it to the classroom as they see fit.

This free, online course by MIT EdEx teaches how to gather information from people using interviewing techniques that are effective and respectful.

Catapult Design
Hosted by catapult deasign, this site presents a comprehensive article on how to develop prototypes.