Employees and employers alike increasingly value human-centered design, as it can drive innovation across a wide range of industries. With the growing interest in understanding human-centered design processes as they apply in different professions, there is a rising need to recognize the specific competencies necessary to perform these jobs well. Though there is a body of research on how people discover, create, and use design methods, there is a lack of understanding of what core competencies are necessary for people to apply these methods. Previous interactions with target users of theDesignExchange, an interactive community-driven portal to support design researchers and practitioners, have demonstrated a desire for increased awareness of the competencies required for employability and for successful design practice. This paper reports on a portion of an expansive competency-finding project aimed at identifying the core set of competencies that human-centered design practitioners need and employers seek.

In this paper, we present our lists of cultivated mindsets, specialized disciplinary skills, contextualized tasks, and basic skills in human-centered design. These lists represent a first pass at identifying the essential and underlying competencies a practicing or aspiring human-centered designer must have in order to perform their current or future design tasks. The work we present in this paper serves as a preliminary starting point for future research interviews with design practitioners and employers, as we seek to understand human-centered design competencies.

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