Trends x innovation: a shift from human-centred to life-centred design

Solely focusing on users is no longer enough. To truly come up with innovative solutions, businesses need to take a more holistic, long-term perspective.


Scott Lee

29 February 2024

4 min read


I always look forward to the arrival of trend reports as a new year begins. While we can’t predict the future, these reports signal broad cultural shifts that shape emerging human behaviour. They’re a ‘must read’ for any insight professional – and beyond. This year, I’ve chosen a different approach to delve into these reports. Since 2022, we have been creating our very own trend reports at Human8. With the launch of our 2024 What Matters report, I found myself pausing to reflect on the changes over the past five years. What has happened across these pandemic years? How has this impacted people’s needs, values and expectations towards brands? And how is this linked to trends and innovation? Join me on a trip down memory lane.


A trip down the pandemic memory lane

Reflecting on the tough Covid years, it’s astonishing how much we’ve already forgotten. Remember the rush for toilet paper, the Zoom birthday parties or the extended periods of homeschooling?

Despite the hardships, this period taught us invaluable lessons in human resilience and hope. This is also shown in the themes of our reports such as ‘Rebound and balance’, adjusting to ongoing uncertainty to ‘A year of transition’, reflecting on what really matters and seeking more meaning in life. From feeling utterly powerless, we transitioned to a state of self-reliance and resilience. Consider how individuals embarked on DIY projects, acquired new skills and expanded their knowledge with the support of platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning or TED. Despite enduring prolonged periods of isolation, solidarity and compassion flourished. People increasingly supported their local community and showed solidarity towards frontline workers, such as healthcare professionals. And also brands did their part, think about how Dove donated soap, sanitizer, bleach and food to hospitals and health centres. Amidst the pervasive sense of loss – as life as we knew it slipped away – the pandemic also enabled us to see our lives, society and the environment with a fresh pair of eyes. We began to reflect on what’s important in life, rediscover the beauty of nature and rethink how we can better support the more vulnerable groups in society.

While some aspects of sustainability may have temporarily taken a backseat during the pandemic due to the surge in single-use plastic items for protection, the importance of taking care for people and the planet never truly vanished. On the contrary, it seems that ‘the great pause’ only increased awareness of its significance with people rediscovering nature around them. In fact, despite ongoing economic and health concerns, over 8 out of 10 people worldwide remain deeply concerned about the future of our planet for the next generations. This brings us to 2024 where regenerative sustainability emerged as the central theme of our 2024 What Matters report. Globally, 78% of people agree that focusing on ‘sustainability’ is no longer enough; we need to go beyond ‘sustaining’ the planet into ‘reversing the damage’ we have done. It’s about changing our mindset and starting to think in regenerative ways to actively restore and reimagine our societal communities and ecological systems. People are turning to brands for action, with 85% globally believing that brands need to take responsibility to help safeguard the future of our planet.


Life-centred design to innovate for regeneration

When rallying around business challenges, many organizations adopt a design-thinking approach. It’s a method to align stakeholders around an empathy for users’ frictions; essentially, it’s a human-centred problem-solving approach. Human-centric design thus has a strong focus on users, company stakeholders and fulfilling traditional consumer needs and wants. But now that we are aware of how people’s outlook on life and society changes over time, the question arises: is human-focused design enough when thinking about today’s challenges?

The answer is no. To truly come up with innovative solutions in the space of regeneration, businesses need to take a more holistic, long-term perspective, considering the broader ecological and societal impacts of design decisions. In comes life-centred design (LCD). UX/UI designer, Damien Lutz, defines LCD as: “a regenerative and globally-inclusive framework syncing responsible businesses and designers with global goals to design products and services that re-nourish the planet and foster fair and diverse ways of being.” It’s about aligning your projects, team and business with global goals such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to create more regenerative and socially just products. It expands human-centred design to also include principles of sustainability, environmental responsibility and social equity into the design process. LCD aims to create products and services that not only meet human needs but also contribute positively to the well-being of the planet and society as a whole. It considers the long-term consequences of design choices on ecosystems, communities, and future generations.

As LCD is still emerging, awareness is low and practices vary strongly. Yet, global brands are already adopting LCD practices. Fashion brand, Filipa K, for instance, transformed their circular process into specific life-centred goals. They’ve formulated these goals with short-term milestones and ambitious long-term targets. They include achieving complete traceability, enhancing the durability of garments and promoting practices like reselling, remaking and recycling to minimize waste. Additionally, they’re dedicated to ensuring fair, safe and non-exploitative working conditions.


So, what does this mean for your brand? Rather than only putting users and internal stakeholders central, it’s about broadening your view including everyone that is somehow involved in or impacted by your product lifecycle, including the planet and society. Check out our 8 trends for a regenerative future to get inspired on how you can create more regenerative and socially just products and services.


What Matters 2024

The 2024 edition of our What Matters report has arrived. The report takes a clear stance for change driven by a call for urgency, as new research reports 8 out 10 people worldwide are worried about the future and feel brands need to take responsibility.

Get your free download