Uncovering Human-Centered Design with Harry West – Part 1

By Ed Bernardon

The essence of innovations is –
you don’t know what it is you’re doing.

In a beginner’s mind, there are endless possibilities – in an expert’s mind, there are few.

To create a great design, you have to keep an open mind. You must be fearless and approach the process from a user’s experience, not from the creator’s experience.

Some of the greatest innovations came from a genuine desire to solve the problems of the target users. They came from people who genuinely sought to understand what those people cared about and designed their products with that in mind.

That’s why ignoring design while innovating is ignoring the intended user.

In this episode, the first part of two, Ed Bernardon interviews Harry West, Professor of Practice at Columbia University and Principal at Invisible Design. He is the creator of the curriculum on Human-Centered Design and Design Justice. He’ll share with us the importance of human-centered design when innovating.

Some Questions I Ask:

  • What is design? (02:39)
  • What does it mean to be open during a design process? (07:38)
  • Where did the idea of Swiffer come from? (14:06)
  • How often do you rely on something that’s already invented while innovating? (26:20)
  • How does communication influence innovation? (28:15)

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • The meaning of human-centered design and the steps involved (04:57)
  • The purpose of human-centered design (11:05)
  • How to create a design that will still be desirable to a customer in the future (12:54)
  • How a Swiffer works (21:23)
  • The benefits of keeping an open mind when innovating (30:24)

Connect with Harry West: 

Connect with Ed Bernardon:


Ed Bernardon: Innovation and design are fundamental to creating all the products and the processes that make for a better life. But what exactly is design? How do we define and approach a problem?  Where do we get inspiration for the solution? And how do we determine the right problem to solve? With us today is Harry West. He’s a professor at Columbia and a designer. I’ve known Harry since we were back in grad school and collaborating on making robots for sewing clothes. Harry has gone on to invent all sorts of products, such as the Swiffer, and processes for companies all over the world. Now, he’s at Columbia and he’s created a curriculum on Human-Centered Design and Design Justice. He’s going to help us understand what design is, who should benefit from it, and what is the best approach to design globally in a changing world with diverse needs.

Ed Bernardon: Harry West was a design consultant for over twenty years and now he’s at Columbia. He’s building a human-centered design curriculum that teaches the next generation of designers how to strive for meaningful designs that fill the needs of consumers across the socio-economic spectrum, while still being profitable. In Part 1 of this two-part interview, Harry breaks down human-centered design into its four main steps, what the purpose of it is, and why it’s important now and in our future. He also walks us through the process behind the innovation that is Swiffer — an invention that he played an integral role in designing. We go on to talk about the ways in which social media has shifted the design process, and so much more! Join me, Ed Bernardon, on this episode of The Future Car as we take a look into what is design.

Ed Bernardon: Harry, you’ve been a designer all your life. But if you could come back and relive your life as any famous designer—it could be a fashion designer, car designer, an architect—who would you pick to come back as? 

Harry West: Oh, my Lord. 

Ed Bernardon: I’ve never seen you take so long to answer a question. This is a tough one.

Harry West: I think Leonardo. He was an amazing designer, artist, and extraordinary human being. Of course, we don’t know that much about him. But from what I know, yeah, Leonardo.

Ed Bernardon: He combines all the pieces. So you get a little bit of everything with him. 

Harry West:  Designer, engineer.

Ed Bernardon: Let’s start at the top. What is design, styling, engineering? How do all the pieces fit together? Give us your definition of what design actually is and its purpose.

Harry West: So, there’s a classic definition of design from Charles Eames, who’s one of the great American mid-century designers. He said, “Design is a the arrangement of elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose,” which is a definition I love because it is so broad that it gives us license as designers to do pretty much anything, and because of its emphasis on the word “purpose.” So, without a purpose, we can’t design. Design is to achieve a purpose. Today, I think I’ve broadened it a little bit. I would say it’s the specification of the total experience of the customer: all of the points of interaction, the products, the service, the environment, the human interaction, everything that makes up the experience for a particular purpose.

Ed Bernardon: So it’s not just the product itself, but how the product or the process creates an experience.

Harry West: From a human-centered point of view, that’s how I think about design. That’s a particular approach to design, which is grounded in the experience of the customer. I think how we think about design started off decades ago, centuries ago, around products and around physical goods. 

Ed Bernardon: That’s what most people think when they think of the design; they think about designing a product.

Harry West: Yeah. For most of our time as human beings, what we’ve created were physical goods, that’s all there was. But over the last 50 years or so, we found a broad perspective on what is design and what we can create. So, today, it includes things like services, experiences, and digital products like apps and websites. And to kind of reflect that broad understanding of what is design, we now talk about the total experience of the user.

Ed Bernardon: So, that’s really what human-centered design is all about. That’s one of your focuses at Columbia. So, tell us what human-centered design is.

Harry West: Human-centered design is the process of creating a new product or service. And strictly speaking, a product could include non-tangible things like apps and services. But in common language, we think of a product as being physical. So, human-centered design is a process for the creation of new products and services. That’s what it is. And the particular process that I teach, it’s got four basic steps. Step one, get open — just acknowledge that you don’t know the answer and be prepared for a solution that is outside your current frame of thinking. So, step one, get open. Step two, search for the answer by understanding your customer and other stakeholders. So, watch them, talk to them, think about their experience, and look for insight, some aha into their needs, wants, and aspirations that could be the spark of a better product or service. That is the key second step. And perhaps co-create, with your customer, the solution or also respect the solutions that your customer currently has, which you may or may not be able to commercialize. And then the third step is to then create solutions, use that insight to spark ideas, create a new solution, prototype it in the simplest possible way, take it back out to your customers, test it with them, get their feedback (what’s working and what’s not working about it), iterate through that process many times until the product or service is as good as it can be. And details matter because a great idea with small flaws may fail. And then the fourth step is how are you going to make it happen. To do that, you need to, all along the way, have brought along a team because none of us know enough, none of us can get anything done by ourselves, we have to work with a team. So, using your customer understanding to motivate and build passion in the team to get something done, looking for technologies that would enable that new innovation, and then trying to balance the consumer desirability, technical feasibility, and business viability. So you have something that not only works for consumers but also for the business and we can launch in a reasonable amount of time. That’s my four steps for getting something done.

Ed Bernardon: So, your third and fourth step: you create something, test it, and make sure it provides value. But your first step was to be open. It’d be great if you had this great team that’s designing this product, but how do you know what’s the right product? So, what do you mean by “be open”?

Harry West: I spent 25 years as a design consultant. And there’s this really common dynamic in most businesses where they would come to us saying, “Can you design this?” And we will go, “Okay, we can do that. But are you sure that’s the right idea?” The response being, “Well, yeah, because that’s the idea that we have a budget for.” 

Ed Bernardon: So, they already knew what they wanted? 

Harry West: They thought they knew what they wanted. We would say, “Well, we can see a bunch of potential issues with this idea. Should we perhaps step back and go back to the customer and make sure that we’re moving in the right direction before we invest the millions of dollars it’s going to take to develop and launch a new product?” And they go, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

Ed Bernardon: Did you ever find resistance at that point?

Harry West: Sometimes. Sometimes the product manager is absolutely convinced that they know the right idea. But generally, people acknowledge, particularly if you show them initial consumer reaction to their idea, generally people acknowledge that “Hmm, actually, we’re not quite sure. Let’s step back, let’s get open, and reconsider.” Now, why does this dynamic happen? Well, you can’t get anything done in a company without a budget, and you can’t get a budget unless you propose to do something. So, we go through this farce in many organizations, where we need a budget so we propose something specific knowing that that may or may not be exactly the right idea. Then once we get the budget, then if we have the confidence, we’ll step back and go, “Well, what really should we be doing with this money? What really is the right direction for us to go for this new innovation, this new product, this new service?” So, I just want to shortcut that and go, “Let’s just get open.” Let’s just acknowledge at the beginning, we don’t know, get open. And it should be much more acceptable, I think, in corporate America to go, “We need to do something, we don’t know what it is, let’s figure it out.”

Ed Bernardon: But it sounds a little risky. So you go and you get money to do something with a specific idea in mind, and then you say, “Phew! We’ve got the money. Now, let’s take a step back and do it right.” But you don’t know what you’re going to be inventing. So, it is a little risky.

Harry West: Yeah. 

Ed Bernardon: Well, what if you go over budget, you pick something that’s going to cost too much?

Harry West: Everything goes over budget.

Ed Bernardon: But anyways, that’s the key.

Harry West: That’s the key. But if you knew exactly what you were doing, it wouldn’t be innovation. The essence of innovation is you don’t know what it is you’re doing. So let’s just acknowledge that upfront and accept and embrace the risk.

Ed Bernardon: Innovation doesn’t come without risk. Because if you were a magic innovator, it’d be 100% right on target every single time. And that’s probably a key to innovation is to try, I would imagine, and find out what is right, and reduce the risk that what you’re trying to do is not incorrect; you don’t want it to be incorrect.

Harry West: No, the whole purpose of the human-centered design process is not to guarantee success, but to greatly reduce the risk to focus the effort so that you maximize the probability of success.

Ed Bernardon: Tell us a little bit about what’s the process for being open. How do you do that? I’m designing a product, I want to be open, I’m open to new ideas, now what?

Harry West: So, to me, it’s just acknowledging that you don’t know and that it’s okay not to know. It is amazing how difficult it is for many people to say “I don’t know.” I always reward students who, when I ask them a question, say “I don’t know.” I go, “100%. You got it right. You don’t know.”

Ed Bernardon: “You’re on your way to becoming a great designer.” 

Harry West: You look at how most of us got to where we are. And from an early age, in high school and college, we were the kids who did know, we got the answer, that’s why we got promoted to the positions that we’re in. And then you are put in charge of leading innovation. And perhaps for the first time in your life, you have to say, “I don’t know.” And not only do I not know, but nobody knows. And all of the sources of authority that they might have gone to—the professor, the textbook, the expert—they don’t know either. And in fact, that authority is not going to come from an expert, it’s going to come from going out and talking to customers, just regular folk, because they don’t know but we can infer from them what it is that they would want.

Ed Bernardon: So the knowledge actually comes from interacting with the customer.

Harry West: Yeah, and thinking about it.

Ed Bernardon: Ah, thinking about it because they don’t come right out and say, “Oh, I need this,” and boom, you’re there. It’s more at looking at what they’re doing and trying to, I guess, put their shoes on and live their life a bit so that you can truly understand what they need.

Harry West: To empathize with them, to care about what they care about. There’s a common kind of criticism of Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design, which is that the customer is not going to tell you what they will want in the future. They can’t tell you that. But we’re not asking them to. We’re asking them to tell us what’s important to them in their lives, to give us insights into what’s working for them and what’s not working for them. And then it’s our job as designers to infer what they will want in the future. It’s not a question of taking orders from a customer; we’re not a waiter with a chef. We listen to our customers, and then we create something that they could not possibly have imagined themselves.

Ed Bernardon: So, they’re not ordering from the menu, they’re saying, “I want something savory with a touch of sweetness,” or whatever it might be, and you develop the dish.

Harry West: Yeah, exactly.

Ed Bernardon: So, let’s use a real example. One of the products you’re involved in: Swiffer. Tell us a little bit how that came about. That’s an interesting story because it really is, I think, a great example of how you interacted with people that had a need. I was really careful about how I chose my words there. There was a need that you discovered and it ultimately led to this product. How did that all come about from the very first time you interacted with your customer? What did they really want and how did it end up in this particular product?

Harry West: This is an oldie but goodie. This is something that I worked on over 25 years ago, working with Procter and Gamble, in particular working with Craig Wynett, who was director for Corporate New Development at Procter and Gamble at the time. At P&G, they were trying to figure out how to grow their business. This was like 1994. So, all of the divisions were looking for ways to expand their product line or increase sales. Craig said, “There’s got to be a better way to clean the floor.” So, the original idea came from Craig Wynett or the original identification of the opportunity area. This is going to sound so sexist, and I apologize, but that was then. And even today, the fact of the matter is that most floor cleaning is done by the woman in the household. And that’s wrong, but that’s just the way it is. Anyway, he was watching his wife cleaning the floor and he said, “This sucks. There’s got to be a better way to do it.” So, he called me up and said, “Harry, can you put the team on it?” And what’s great about working with Craig is that he was just the most open guy. He didn’t say, “Design this.” He said, “Solve a problem, a generic problem.” We pulled a team together, and we began by just watching people clean floors. We watched about 18 people in Boston and Cincinnati for about an hour, we videoed them, we talked to them as they were doing it, and we watched how they clean the floor. I think there was an initial assumption at P&G that it was going to be all about the detergent. P&G was into the Mr. Clean business. I don’t know if you use Mr. Clean, but it’s a great floor detergent. And they were thinking, “Oh, we’ll have a better cap on Mr. Clean or a new shape for the bottle for Mr. Clean.” The superdetergent. And they had lots of PhDs on their staff, they knew everything about detergents. But when we actually watched people clean floors, what we noticed was they didn’t start off with a mop, they started off with a broom. So, that was completely outside P&G’s wheelhouse, they’d never done anything like that. And there was a lot of work, just getting the loose particles off the floor. So, that was “Huh, maybe there’s an opportunity there.” And then as we’re watching them clean, we kept on noticing that, whether they’re getting down on their hands and knees and using a cloth or using a sponge mop, they seem to be spending about as much time cleaning the mop as they were cleaning the floor. Why was that? And the experts on detergent didn’t really have an answer to that.

Ed Bernardon: Had these experts ever mopped a floor, do you think? 

Harry West: Probably, but they hadn’t thought about it deeply. And I think that’s one of the big lessons for me out of this particular project was that you can take the most mundane activity, something that we’ve all done. I’ve cleaned floors many a time, but I’ve never really thought about it until this project. So, this was the first time I 100% focused on how do you clean the floor. We noticed that when people were cleaning the floor and then cleaning the mop, and cleaning the mop seemed quite difficult. So we went back to the experts and said, “Can you explain this?” And they gave us lots of chemical engineering models for how detergents work, which didn’t explain it. So we looked more closely at it. Actually, I took a sponge to a scanning electron microscope at MIT because I used to be on the faculty there, and I looked at it to try to understand what was going on and realized that this detergent model for how the floor cleans was missing the point. It wasn’t about detergent, it was about the material on the mop. You clean the floor through adhesion; not through dissolving dirt but through sticking the dirt to the material of the mop. So, obviously, the better a mop is at sticking to dirt—so, pulling the dirt off the floor—the more difficult it’s going to be to clean the mop. And you’ve got a fundamental contradiction there and there’s nothing you can do about it. So, that’s an insight if you can solve that contradiction.

Ed Bernardon: It’s almost like you’re doing cleaning twice. You’re cleaning the floor, “Oh, now I’ve transferred the dirt to this device that was doing the cleaning. Now, I’ve got to clean that.”

Harry West: Exactly. The detergent helped with like fats on the floor. But for things like sugars and other dirt, it wasn’t doing anything, it was all in the material of the mop. So, that was an insight. And then a second insight was that we paid these people who were cleaning the floors. We were taking about an hour of their time, so we paid them something like $50 to do this. And on two occasions, we showed up at their house and they’d already cleaned the floor. So, I asked them, “Well, you know that we’re here to watch you clean the floor.” And they said, “Yeah, I know, but my floor was dirty and I didn’t want you coming into a dirty house. But I’ll clean the floor again for the 50 bucks.” So, what I took from that was, a complete stranger coming into your home, somebody you’re never going to see again the rest of your life, and you still care about the cleanliness of your home. So, cleanliness is a really high value for people. People care about the cleanliness of their body and their environment. And at that time, people were cleaning their floors on average about once a week. But it was probably worth more to them than that. Cleanliness was probably worth more than they were paying back in the 1990s. So, perhaps there was a business opportunity there because it was an unfulfilled need. It’s just that nobody had figured out a better solution. Now we know two things: we know that there’s a problem with floor cleaning and perhaps we can solve it, and there’s a need for cleanliness in the home, which is being unfulfilled, and perhaps we can satisfy that.

Ed Bernardon: I was going to say it’s “Oh, I want my floors to be clean all the time. If I had a magic thing that could clean them constantly or if it was super easy for me to do it, I wouldn’t mind doing it.”

Harry West: Yeah, exactly. We knew that people would do that because they were cleaning their kitchen counters once a day. I don’t know about your home, but in my home, I clean the kitchen counter actually many times a day because I’m a little bit obsessed with that.

Ed Bernardon: Everybody hates crumbs on the counter.

Harry West: Everybody hates crumbs on the counter. But those crumbs get on the floor too, but it’s a little farther away and people don’t pay as much attention to it. So, we thought, if we can get people to pay as much attention to the floor as the kitchen counter, that’s a big business opportunity. So, once you’re armed with those insights, then actually the ideation and the invention process is pretty straightforward. And we came up with a whole bunch of ways to do that, and it was pretty obvious in retrospect: instead of cleaning the material that cleans the floor, you make it disposable. So, you just wipe the floor once, then you throw it away. And you design that material so it sticks to dirt really well, but you never have to clean that material. And that’s going to make it easier for the consumer, it’s going to make it cleaner for the consumer, and it’s a repeat business for P&G. So, it’s a win-win-win. And that basically is Swiffer. So, we took that idea, just as a sketch, to a bunch of different customers and said, “Well, what do you think?” And they said, “Nah, never going to use it.” 

Ed Bernardon: Why? 

Harry West: They said, “There’s no way it’s going to clean the floor as well as me getting down on my hands and knees.” 

Ed Bernardon: Not like that big ol’ wet mop? 

Harry West: No, they didn’t believe it. They said, “I’m not going to pay 25 cents every time I clean my floor. You’re crazy. And what about the environment? I’m putting more stuff into the environment.” At that point, an inexperienced team would have just given up. But we’ve been around the block a few times, and Craig Wynett is a brilliant leader and he said, “Let’s push ahead. Let’s build the model that actually tests the experience.” So, we went to Home Depot, we bought a bunch of parts, we hacked them together, it took about a day, and we built the first Swiffer. And then we took it out to people in Boston, Cincinnati, and had them just use it. And once they’d used it, it completely changed their mind. They said, “Wow! This cleans the floor. I didn’t believe it at first but it really works. And I wouldn’t mind paying 25 cents every time I use this. This is fun. And the environment? It’s okay.” They completely changed their mind once they had an opportunity to experience what it was like to use it.

Ed Bernardon: So, if you think about how this came about, you walk into your customer and they say, “I want to make cleaning floors easier. I’ve got all my detergent people here. They’re going to help us design a super duper detergent.” But in the end, what you designed, what really made this thing possible was you designed a material that’s disposable, that’s very sticky to dirt, it’s super easy to use, and it’s about as far as from a new detergent as you can get. But it solved the problem. I want to give you a problem almost on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to mundane, but it’s solved in exactly the same way, and it was something that actually you and I worked on many years ago. I mentioned earlier that we worked on robots for clothes and we took that capability of robotically moving these flexible materials and used it for composites — carbon fiber. And in this particular case, a company—it was actually Dow United Technologies—wanted us to apply one of our– It was a forming machine that could shape very complex shapes. And they said, “Oh, we want this to automate our line.” And we said, “Well, can we just hang out on the line and see what’s going on?” And we found this one station, where they were taking pieces of this material—Kevlar, very tough material—and they were forming it into a cube. And in order to form this sheet of material into a cube, they had to cut these little darts or these slits in the material. And what we found was that the scissors they were using would get dull after two or three cuts. They were spending all their time moving back and forth and getting all these different scissors, and it was the same thing. “Wow If we could solve this scissor problem, we could save them a lot of time.” That was their goal. I actually talked to my mom, who was a seamstress, and I said, “Hey, what’s the best thing for cutting really tough fabric?” And she says, “Oh, it’s pinking shears.” Those are the scissors that have little triangles on them. And sure enough, pinking shears will cut Kevlar forever, it seems like. So, what was going to be a very super expensive forming machine ended up being a pair of pinking shears that you could buy at your local hobby shop. But the idea of being open and experience what the customer wants, exactly the same thing that you went through when you watch the people do the mopping.

Harry West: That’s a great example. And I love the way that you found an existing solution. You respected an existing solution. The pinking shears that your mom was using—I hate to say this—that many women would have known about, but probably the guys in the plant at Dow hadn’t used them. So, you brought technology from one environment to another environment.

Ed Bernardon: If you look back on your career, doing design, how often do you think you draw on something that’s already been invented? Although, fundamentally, it’s innovative and it’s a new way of doing things, but it drew on things that already existed how. What percent of the time do you think that’s the case?

Harry West: Probably 100% of the time. I may not have known of the other invention or the other technology. But there are theories out there that actually most new innovation is just the combination of existing ideas. And that’s an innovation in and of itself. You take an idea from one domain, another idea from a second domain, and you can combine them to create a new solution in a third domain. That can be innovation. And at the beginning of my career, often we would not know about those other innovations because it was difficult to find out what’s going on. I don’t know if you remember, Ed, but when we first started out, we didn’t have internet search, we didn’t have social media, so you had to phone your mom to find out about the pinking shears. But today, you can do that, and somebody out there has already solved that problem. They may not be a big manufacturer, but somebody has probably solved that problem. Today, a lot of what innovation is about is exploring existing solutions out there and learning from them to help you solve your problem.

Ed Bernardon: And communication, though, I don’t know if you want to call it a double-edged sword or not, certainly can help you innovate, but it also drives the need for innovation. You can see all these products that are out there. What’s the impact on the fact that it’s so easy to communicate and get information now? How is that influencing the need to be able to innovate more quickly in order to stay ahead of all the expectations that people have out there for products and processes? 

Harry West: New communication technology—the internet and social media—has completely transformed how we think about designing products and services today. So, 20-30 years ago, if a product didn’t work well, then you, the user, would have that problem. And often the attitude was “Well, it was your problem. You didn’t use it right. You didn’t read the instruction manual.” But today, if something doesn’t work for you, for many people, the first response is to go onto social media and go, “This damn product. It failed, it broke after one week. Complete waste of money. If there was a zero star button. Ah, I can only give it one star.” Looking for the zero-star button. You slammed the product. So, today, if there’s a problem with a product, or a problem with usability, or a misunderstanding of how to use it, or the problem is used in an inappropriate way, it’s not your problem as the user, the customer, the consumer; it’s the manufacturer’s problem and they have to take responsibility for that. Because if they don’t, they’re going to get negative reviews, they’re going to get low ratings, and they’re going to go out of business. So, there’s now a relentless drive for quality, which we as consumers, customers, citizens are benefiting from enormously. You can buy a product today and it will probably work the first time flawlessly — very, very comfortable consumer experience, very simply explained. And that’s great for us as consumers and it’s great for us as designers because designers are the people who make sure that the products and services work flawlessly.

Ed Bernardon: Well, it’s great for you as a designer if you do design in the right way because if you think your product is perfect and you haven’t interacted with the customer, you throw it out there into the public domain now, you might be right for those one star reviews. On the other hand, if you think about it, when you are interacting with the people with the mop or even the case I gave with the scissors, you’re going to get some negative feedback if you come up with thoughts or ideas but it’s really during the development process, in private, so that ultimately when it gets out there, it’s a better chance that it’s going to be the right thing. And it seems to me that that’s the big benefit of being open and interacting with the customer.

Harry West: Absolutely. Getting that feedback early and often before you launch. Although there’s a whole spectrum there as well. So, if we’re doing a high capital good—and Swiffer, believe it or not, it’s high capital goods, you have to build a factory to make the Swiffers so that you can sell them—you need to get the design perfect before you launch. But on the other hand, and more recently, most of my work has been in the digital domain, in many digital areas, you can launch a minimal viable product, an incomplete design, and you can get feedback from it in the moment from the customer, either directly they tell you it sucks or indirectly—because you can follow them online—you notice they’re stumbling over this particular aspect of the product, and then you can fix that almost immediately if it’s a digital product, and then you can iterate in the wild. So, in its simplistic model, it really depends on the capital cost of launching the product. So, if it’s a car, high capital, you’ve got to get that right; if it’s an app, low capital, you can iterate in the market. And it also depends on the cost of failure. So, if it’s a consumer product, cost of failure is low. If it’s a medical device, cost of failure is high. You can’t iterate in the market with a medical product; you’ve got to get that right. In the case of many consumer products, if it’s digital, we accept the fact that actually it’s been iterated constantly as we use them. I don’t know if know this but every time you go to Facebook, Google, or Spotify, there are things in the interaction that are slowly changing from year to year. That is those companies experimenting with us, trying to figure out what makes it work better for us, what makes us buy more.

Ed Bernardon: Or when your new operating system comes out for your mobile phone, you say, “Oh, I’m gonna wait a month or so and let those people figure out all the problems, then I’m gonna download it.” But we don’t have that tolerance, say, for a new car. Now, there are a lot of software aspects to cars, but certainly, there is no tolerance; “Oh, I’m sure the brakes will be better a month from now,” when they give me those new brake pads, that doesn’t work. And the Swiffer or physical products are certainly in that category.

Harry West: I think the cars are a super interesting example there because a big cost of the car is steel, aluminum, engines, etc. That’s physical high capital. The capital cost of launching a new engine is incredibly high, billions of dollars. But also, a lot of the cost of a car today is in electronics and software. And in particular, the software, we can iterate over time, so we can update that. But of course, when it comes to functions like braking or vehicle detection, then that’s a combination of hardware and software, and so it becomes tricky to decide how often can you do an online update on a vehicle? How confident are you there’s going to be no interaction between the software and the hardware?

Ed Bernardon: You’re actually in a car. You’re not in Google when you’re using it, so if it messes up, so what? I’ll just do it later when they fix the problem. 

Ed Bernardon: That’s part 1 with Harry West, join us on our next episode when we’ll continue our talk on Human-Centered Design and then expand our discussion to include Design for Justice. And as always, for more information about Siemens Digital Industries Software, make sure to visit us at plm.automation.siemens.com. And until next time, I’m Ed Bernardon, and this has been The Future Car podcast.

Harry West - Guest, Professor of Practice at Columbia University and Principal at Invisible Design

Harry West – Guest, Professor of Practice at Columbia University and Principal at Invisible Design

Harry West is building a human-centered design and innovation curriculum at Columbia and working at the intersection of design, data and behavior change. He is also the Principal of Invisible Design which develops design and innovation solutions to particularly difficult business problems. Harry was formerly the CEO of frog, Senior Partner at Prophet, and CEO at Continuum and has contributed to the design of products and services with ongoing sales of several billion dollars a year and which have won many design awards. Prior to working in design consulting, Harry was an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT where he taught kinematics and engineering design. Harry received his BA in Engineering from Cambridge University in 1980, an MS in Technology and Policy from MIT in 1984, and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 1986.

Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Intiatives - Host

Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Intiatives – Host

Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership including hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011.  Ed holds an M.S.M.E. from MIT, B.S.M.E. from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/podcasts/the-future-car/uncovering-human-centered-design-with-harry-west-part-1/